Sweetness: Alta Alella – Blanc de Neu 2016 & Mataró 2015

Dessert wines are decidedly not sexy in this day and age. A right pity that is given they definitely have their place in a meal to cleanse and close the palate at the end and leave a melodic note singing on the tongue as one leaves the table.

Personally, I had little use for them myself but that was more due to those produced in the US, and especially California, being these cloyingly-sweet syrups with no acidity, balance, nor poise. Chardonnay does not make a fine dessert wine, at least not in California. Upon arriving to Spain that all changed through my being introduced to the dessert wines of DO Empordà where they work with Muscat for the whites and Grenache for the reds. You’ll find it no bit of unshocking that just across the hills in Roussillon, they do much the same although the sweet Grenaches of Banyuls and Maury as well as the Muscats of Rivesaltes have garnered far more fame than anything humbly-produced in Catalunya, let alone Spain save the sweet Sherries of Andalusia.

This is what makes these two wines I’ve tasted here something of a novelty. First, they’re from DO Alella which I’m sure is as rare to find as someone not white at a Trump rally. But, just 30 minutes up the coast from Barcelona sits this tiny little region of eight cellars, the leading light of which being Alta Alella. In these two dessert wines, they’ve made them not of Muscat and Grenache but of Xarel·lo and Mataró (Mourvèdre). While Mourvèdre can be found as a dessert wine, I can only name a small handful where Xarel·lo has been used including the “ice wine” produced by Gramona wherein they manually freeze the grapes. It’s not a grape I’d associate with having a softness for dessert wines as it generally forms the spine in any Cava worth aging but maybe that will change?

Alta Alella has been working on these wines for several years and I feel that with these most recent vintages, they’ve really got the style down quite well. If you happen to be in that rare space where you’re searching out dessert wines and want something a bit out of the ordinary, I’d highly recommend them. Also, making a visit to Alta Alella if in Barcelona should be high on your list as well not just as it’s exceedingly close, but because the wines are top notch, especially their Cava.

Blanc de Neu 2016
Light yellow peach, melon skin, acacia blossoms, touch of toasted nutty notes of almonds, small pinch of granitic mineral notes. Ripe, lovely yellow fruit of peach and golden apple on the palate, very well-balanced acidity that gives a delicious, lingering finish.
100% Xarel·lo 13.5% 16€
** 92

Dolç de Mataró 2015
Cured dark cherries with a light, yet driving molasses syrup undertone, buttery currant notes, light touches of Mediterranean herbs, very fresh despite sweet fruit notes. Big, lovely dark fruits on the palate, dollops of boysenberry and ripe blackberry with well-balanced acidity pushing the wine into a lingering finish that flirts with high sweetness at points.
100% Mourvèdre 15% 17€
** 91