02-10-2015

The evolution of Espelt

This is the full-length version of my October column (here as well) and forms a small introduction to an eventually much larger article about the last eight years of Espelt.

In 2007, Espelt was one of the first wineries I got to know well in the northern DO Empordà region that borders France. Wine has been made there since the Greeks but the 20th century saw large cooperatives dominate the scene with a rather squalid bulk production. Towards the end of the 1990s, many smaller wineries opened that were run by local families of which Espelt is one.

While definitely the largest of this new wave of cellars, they are able to produce unique, singular wines. Their young wines are an excellent value but it’s in the upper range where Director, Anna Espelt (whose family have been viticulturists in the region for generations) has been pushing a new agenda. Taking over the winery fully in 2012, she has been adamantly pursuing a true Empordà character to her wines.

For those who don’t know Empordà and especially the area of the Albares foothills, it’s a rugged, windy country. While the wines can carry power like those further south, the best will always have this fresh tinge of windswept herbs and salty breeze. Based upon what I’ve been tasting of recent vintages I think that Anna has captured this exceeding well although she continues to push herself and her team to do even more.

Sol i Vent 2014
The “fruit of the mountain” as Anna calls it. A blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah that has perfumed red fruits, cumin and a full feel on the palate. Bramble, very open, honest, and true Empordà character.

Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah 14% 9.50€
**

Terres Negres 2013
Mostly Carignan with a little bit of Grenache, it shows rich, ripe red berries and notes of cigar, tea leaf, and orange peel on the nose as well as light slate minerality. Full in the body, it fills out the mouth elegantly, while still allowing its wild side to show just under its collar.

Carignan, Grenache 13.5% 14.50€
**

WINES

Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014 95
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
95 3 Stars

Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015 94
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
94 3 Stars

Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015 93
Ruby with minor garnet rim. Rich red fruits with an underpinning of ripe plum, orange peel, licorice, cocoa. Broad, round tannins with a touch of toast and sweet cocoa in a long finish. Manages to stay very light on the palate despite the higher alcohol.
50% Grenache 50% Carignan · 15% · 25EUR
93 2 Stars

Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014 93
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL
93+ 3 Stars

Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016 93
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
93 2 Stars

AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012 93
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
93 2 Stars

Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015 93
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
93 2 Stars

Clos Henri - Petit Clos Pinot Noir 2016 92
Earthy, red cherries, young, crisp cranberry, light herbal notes, leafy, minor chalk. Medium tannins and medium plus acidity as well as length. Light sweetness on the palate but with a very pleasant, lingering structure and lightness to it.
100% Pinot Noir · 13.5% · 16.50EUR
92 2 Stars

Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Rouge 2015 92
Medium ruby. Fresh red cherry, raspberry, and young strawberry, lifted and breathy, saline tinge along with light stoniness and rosemary and garrigue. Fresh red fruit on the palate, medium acidity but still light on the palate, fresh, and while the alcohol sticks out a little, holds and excellent, long finish.
Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre · 14.5% · 20EUR
92 2 Stars

Domaine Fontanel - Prieuré 2014 92
Dense ruby with brick flecks. Crisp red fruits, lifted by a waft of volatility making for a light nose with a spicy licorice and leather component. Crisp and lively with red cherry fruit in the mouth and a nudge over medium acidity. Nice, lingering finish.
50% Syrah 25% Grenache 25% Mourvèdre · 14.5%
92 2 Stars