"...under a sky swept back, with undertow in quick retreat, the sweep of sweetened firecracker smoke mingles with the warming charcoal ribs beset with capers, cod and other sea-skin treats; further afield, the surrounding sand is seeded with skinned tangerines and bathed in sun swept seat seething in the brisk tidal breeze where the succulence turns towards a sour lemon tease for the sea's appease..."
Back in August of 2014 I was lucky enough to join the team on a trip to Portugal and Spain. I wrote up a fairly lengthy and detailed entry on our adventure through Portugal but I never got around to doing the same for Spain. It was mostly timing with work and time spent on seriously sitting down to document the Portugal side of the trip - sorry Spain I didn't mean to neglect you!
But Spain was equally amazing, visiting Galicia, Monterrei, Rias Baixas and Ribeira Sacra - the landscapes and scenery just as impressive as Portugal, at times it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began. To keep this entry relatively brief I'll focus on Rias Baixas where Xangall hails from.
Rias Baixas is located in the northwestern part of Spain in that little area resting above Portugal beside the Vinho Verde region. It's so named for the low inlets that dot the region (low rias) and has been producing wines from the Albarino grape since at least the twelfth century. Being a neighbor of Vinho Verde, whose name literally means "green wine" but is known for those very young light fizzy wines we plan our summers around, it's not a leap to see the same climatic forces at work just over the boarder - the landscape is similarly lush with vegetation, a veritable enchanted garden dominated by Atlantic influences that gives the region's wines their notable salinity. At times it's like walking through brisk moisture after a light rain and continuously refreshing, not choking where you feel like you took a bath. The region in singularly known for Albarino but grows a few other whites and very little reds.
The estate of Adegas Xangall is small, centered around a quaint family home with a wonderfully minimalist cellar beneath. The house is surrounded by neatly kept gardens - plots and pots of herbs, flowers, and vegetable with local flora and flora intermixing as chickens peck beneath the enclosed pergola of grapevines on one side of the house and on the other side, another plot of Albarino where we could be found chatting with Maria Begona Troncoso Fernandez the head winegrower.
Beneath the grapevines Maria's demeanor is very at home in the work that she does, passionate about treating the land with respect to keep everything in harmony, and speaking very succinctly and candidly about how they treat their environment - from the start of this trip one is immediately convinced that these winegrowers are concerned more with their natural environs than the actual making of the wine, or rather the wine making is the reward of the direct expression of an ecosystem left to its devices allowing it to show what beautiful returns are possible. In contrast she explained that just over the road her neighbors aren't practicing biodynamic or organic but are instead using more commercial treatments which visibly worries her as it should, the spill over can potentially have an effect on your own production and, I believe, compromise an estate's certification.
After descending a gradual ramp from the garage doors, smoothed concrete and stone walls (in the eyes of some stone is blissful) narrow you towards the stairs which immediately puts you into a space that lifts your gaze upwards: a one-and-a-half story room showcasing at least six steel tanks with a wooden one fashioned specifically for them (if memory serves me correctly).
As we were treated to a plate of meats and cheeses we were given tastes of their next batch of Xangall and their Lar Dos Sonos - a plot of Albarino picked from the center of a larger plot where they felt the grapes were farthest from influence of their neighbors and then sees some time in wood. Personally I was more into the Xangall than the Lar Dos Sonos, the wood treatment seemed to impress itself too much and even overwhelm the natural characteristics of the Albarino akin to how Chardonnay reacts. Maybe with some time this will prove to be a great experiment, it's not exactly unheard of...
The Xangall was lightly decanted before us and I recall loving the freshness on the palate and the intriguing notes on the nose. I recently had a moment to return to this wine and found myself shy of comparison with others of its type; it's not that I haven't tasted wines of this varietal in the past or even on our great journey, but any detailed memories of previous experiences of taste profiles, brand names or makers are so far in the past that it's not even worth trying to salvage. I generally know what to expect: robust fruit, some salinity, a rounder mouthfeel with prominent acidity. (Coincidentally I've been eyeing an all Albarino entry, comparing at least three to really capture a picture of what the grape and the region encompass - coming soon!). To be honest I almost feel like I've been playing a little of bit of catch-up since starting this blog. Though I read wine articles and blogs now, much of my earlier years were taken up with a range of interests and hobbies not all entirely wine related, income in the big city tends to take over one's attention and I just didn't have the outlets or the focus to understand the wines I was meant to sell and discuss.
So to follow that up with the Xangall Albarino in hand, I almost had to take a step back: the nose was completely unexpected and dare I say unique, it starts off with almost smoked butterscotch-like notes that are quite powerful and will certainly raise an eyebrow and no doubt comes from its two months on skins. As I let it air out to unfold its layers, this dominating scent turns more and more towards a smokiness reminiscent of someones attempt at using slate chips to start some sparks or maybe had been cooking with slate panels over an open fire, the immediate scent of burnt stone rather than smoke acting as a screen to the warm plush fruit and flowers beneath; an attempt to weed the determined from the detracted. This might be why when we were at the estate, the wine was decanted, a practice that I'm told people don't do as often as they should especially with their white wines. But once through, every return to the glass was like visiting a sweet summer cookout where the perfumes of flowers, of ripened fruit, and of freshness were alive in the banter that further enlivened the air. This is not a subtle or light wine, certainly medium bodied but almost tiptoeing the boundary of being full, with a smooth texture and whose delivery is constantly giving.
Winery: Adegas Xangall
Distributor: Savio Soares Selections
PoP: Gifted - $23.99