The novel approach of Clos Lentiscus
Since fully moving to Priorat, I’ve ironically been spending a good deal of time in Penedès. First was for the “Rebels of Penedès” article on Harpers and then for the Clàssic Penedès article that’s up at the Guild of Sommeliers. Despite Clos Lentiscus being mentioned in both of these articles, there wasn’t the space to talk about them or their wines in much detail so I’m now going to make up for that.
Clos Lentiscus is a relatively new project that was started up 2002 by Manel Avinyo after his father died. Like many in the region, they had been selling the grapes from their old vines up to that point but wanted to do something a bit more special with them. Located near the small town of Sant Pere de Ribes, they have a climate that’s most definitely coastal but their being just back in from the sea a bit affords them more temperature variability with their vineyards. So much so that Manel says they exist in a rare pocket that never sees hail. Lord, how Burgundy winemakers would envy them these days…
In 2004 they planted some new vineyards and started working on rebuilding their 14th century farmhouse, Can Ramon, which had fallen in to disrepair over the years. They’ve been working as certified organic for some time but are ultimately de facto biodynamic.
This is where it starts to get interesting as all their wines are produced via natural, ambient yeast fermentation. There are many cellars doing this these days but I was very curious how they accomplish this with sparkling wines as when you do the secondary fermentation to gas up the wine by adding a mixture of sugar and yeast, they would in theory have to add cultivated yeasts. To get around this, after primary fermentation, they apparently harvest the ambient yeasts left in the tanks and then instead of sugar, they use honey from their own bees.
If this seems complicated, that’s because it is and I’ve never encountered another sparkling producer doing it. In addition to being more difficult, I assume it would be hard to control although of what I tasted, their wines aren’t all over the place and it’s only the Xarel·lo Domaine (a still wine) that I would peg as being more typical of “natural” wines because at no point do they add sulfites.
Curious wines in a very nice winery that’s worth visiting (they are indeed open for visits) and quite near to Sitges if you happen to be passing through. And now, some wines:
Blanc de blancs 2012
Honey, white blossoms, fresh lemon zest, melon, medium plus acidity, bright and lively.
100% Malvasia 12% 10€
Rosé N 41 15,656” E 1 45,086” 2010
Red amber in color. Ripe plums, chalk, nutmeg, fruit driven nose, floral lift. Crisp red fruits in the body, bounty of medium plus acidity, lingering, wafting finish.
100% Carignan 12% 10.50€
Sumoll Blanc de Negre 2009
Slightly herbal and vegetal in the nose. Medium plus, lively acidity, lingering finish. Light bubbles in the sample I had for some reason.
100% Sumoll 12% 13€
Xarel·lo Xpressió 2010
Lightly sweet nose, almond blossom, vanilla cream, light salinity, full mouth, good, lingering acidity, downplayed citric notes.
100% Xarel·lo 12.5% 29€
Perill Blanc 2014
Cantaloupe, white peach, sandy, and light salinity, very light pine, and tropical notes. Medium in body and acidity but balance and rich on the palate with a crisp finish.
100% Xarel·lo 12.5% 13€
Xarel·lo Domaine 2014
Root vegetable, green apple, light hit of butteriness. Medium in the bottle, vegetal notes more prevalent, medium acidity. Overall holistic, exciting, and lively although with “cider” notes often found in “natural” Xarel·lo wines. If you like those, you’ll adore this.
100% Xarel·lo 12.5% 35€
Álvaro Palacios - L’Ermita 2016
Very light red cherry, raspberry, tea leaves, dried fennel, light touch of anise, bay leaf, dried flowers, touch of fig compote, truffle. Exceptionally light and delicate on the palate, very very fine red fruits, integrated tannins, plush with a slightly buttery, velvety aspect, very long finish.
85% Grenache 14% Carignan 1% "Others" · 15% · 1160EUR
Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014
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
Álvaro Palacios - Les Aubaguetes 2016
Linear plum and dark cherry notes, powdery cocoa, orange peel and blossom, raspberry at the base along with minor vanilla and dark spice touches. Delicate on the palate, light touches of dark fruit, good wealth of tannins yet held in check, medium plus acidity, very long finish. Needs much more time in the bottle.
77% Grenache 21% Carignan 1% Grenache Blanc 1% Macabeu · 14.5% · 455EUR
Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015
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
AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012
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
Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015
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
Terroir Sense Fronteres - Guix Vermell 2017
Crisp red cherry fruit, touch of spice, flecks of pepper, baking spice, compacted, wet earth. Delicate on the palate, stays fresh, surprising high wealth of tannins, long finish.
100% Grenache · 13% · 250EUR
Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014
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
Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015
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
Aquila del Torre - Primaluce 2015
Bruised yellow apple, bit of fig compote, chalky mineral notes, and hazelnut. Light oxidized touches that work to embellish the wine. Rich palate that carries lovely texture with the age of the wine.
100% Sauvignon Blanc · 13.5%