CastellRoig Xarel-Lo Penedès 2005
Catalonian names may often be a chore to pronounce, but that may change as the region, led
by the great city of Barcelona, continues to express itself on the world stage. Penedès, just
west of the city, is this wine's Denominación de Origen; if you pronounce the “d” in
Penedès like the “th” in the English word “there” you'll get close. Winemaker CastellRoig is
pronounced kas-tel-roych. The grape, Xarel-Lo, is pronounced cha-REL-lo. Xarel-Lo is a
mainstay in much of the region's cava, its strong flavors giving many of these sparkling wines
a truly distinctive aroma and taste.
The CastellRoig Xarel-Lo is technically a still wine, though not the type to actually sit still and behave for long. A light gold, the $14 wine has some spritz to it and a mouth-filling foaminess to boot.
My first sense on the nose with this Xarel-Lo was warm baked apple, honey, fig and baking spice; the apple tart is in the oven as we speak, and I get a good whiff of a little caramelized sugar as it bakes. An additional aromatic note is orange blossom, with some citrus peel for depth. Another abiding note, which fits in with the others where it might otherwise fight, is a mixture of resin and tar. Sweetness is the element that ties these disparate currents together. It all balances well.
The spritz, foam and confident acidity in the wine play in the mouth, where a touch of sweetness keeps it all interesting. The fruit notes predominate on the palate: grapefruit, lemon, peach, backed by orange blossom and citrus peel, with the aromatic mineral and spice elements taking up the rear.
The excellent body of the wine supports the other elements at every stage, leading to a finish
that is particularly enjoyable. Grapefruit peel bitterness takes its time in extending the
fadeout; at the end I am left with a sensation of quinine and the last of the fruit acidity. It
looks like I really liked the wine, since it has already told me adéu (the elegant
Catalonian equivalent for the phrase “your bottle is now empty; time to buy some more.”)
Verdict: A Lot of Wine
The Xarel-Lo aromatic profile is unique. I want to experience this grape again.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman