Enric Soler is known for making some of the best white wines in Catalonia. Produced in very small quantities (7-8,000 bottles per year), his wines are critically acclaimed. During a recent visit to Barcelona, I visited Enric to hear about his project. I had the chance to discover his beautiful white wines.
When his grandfather passed away in 2003, Enric Soler inherited a small xarel-lo vineyard in the village of Sabanells en Font Rubi in the Pénédés appellation. This professor of sommellerie in Barcelona decided to start producing wines.
The land on which Enric’s vineyard is located was an airport used by the revolutionary troops during the Spanish Civil War. At the end of the war in 1945, vines were replanted. The old xarel-lo vines that Enric inherited from his grandfather are therefore about 70 years old.
Converting the vineyard to biodynamic farming
When he took over the family vineyard of 0.89 hectares, the vines were programmed to produce a lot of grapes and the soil was saturated with pesticides. In 2004, Enric Soler decided to convert the vineyard to biodynamics. Enric refutes the marketing aspect that leads many estates to convert to biodynamics. If he made this choice, it is above all to readapt his vines to a less intensive agriculture. Moreover, during difficult years, he noticed that his vineyard suffered less than those of his neighbors, because the vine was better adapted to the climatic hazards.
In 2011, Enric Soler planted an additional hectare of xarel-lo on clay soils at 400 meters above sea level. Everyone told him that xarel-ho would not grow well at such an altitude. Nevertheless, he planted it and succeeded brilliantly in proving the contrary. All the grapes from this young vineyard are used to make his Espanyalluchs cuvée.
Un seul cépage en vedette : le xarel-lo
The Catalan region of Pénédès is a plateau enclosed between the mountains of Montserrat to the north, the Cordillera prelitoral, the Sierra Litoral and the Mediterranean Sea. It is, in surface, the largest denomination of Catalonia. Its altitude varies between 250 and 800 meters. The climate is Mediterranean with 500 to 600 millimeters of rainfall per year..
The Pénédès is best known for the production of cava, the famous Spanish sparkling wine. Of the 28,000 hectares of vineyards in the appellation, 22,000 are dedicated to the production of cava. Enric’s almost two hectares of vines appear almost anecdotal in a region where the average property has between 20 and 30 hectares of vines..
“The interesting thing about xarel-lo is that, depending on the producer and the soil in which it grows, it can give very different wines” – Enric Soler, winegrower
Xarel-lo is usually blended with other grape varieties such as Parrellada, Macabeu and sometimes Chardonnay and Malvasia. Xarel-lo is increasingly being vinified on its own for the production of still white wines.
When worked at low yields, Xarel-Lo can give exceptional expressions of fruit and minerality. It often develops aromas of white flowers, almond, citrus and quince. It is also well suited to aging in oak barrels..
In the cellar, Enric Soler works in the most natural way possible. All the wines are aged in barrels for 8 to 9 months. However, Enric uses barrels of different ages to give very different profiles to his wines. His goal is to make the terroir speak for itself in each of his wines.
Enric produces three 100% xarel-lo wines:
- Improvisació: the entry level of the estate. Fermented in concrete eggs and then aged in oak barrels (one, two, three and four years of use). No stirring. Enric advises to drink the Improvisació with oriental or Asian food. Its refreshing acidity will make it the ideal companion for sushi or ceviche. 23 euros.
- Espenyalluchs: made only from the young vines planted by Enric. Fermented and aged in oak barrels of 4 and 5 years of use. Nice nose of honey and white flowers. Nice acidity. In the mouth, superb minerality and long finish. A very very nice wine. When you consider that the vines are barely 5 years old…. Blind, you wouldn’t think of a Mediterranean wine. What freshness! To drink alone as an aperitif just to enjoy! Or to accompany whatever you want, because the wine is very versatile! A wine of great purity! 35 euros.
- Nun: the most recognized cuvee of the domain. Its name is a reference to ancient Egypt, where nun means “the beginning of everything”. Fermentation and maturation take place in French oak barrels (50% new barrels, 50% one year old barrels). Made from old vines and using indigenous yeasts. The nun is undoubtedly the most “Burgundian” vintage of Enric. Very nice nose on butter and toast. An almost creamy wine in the mouth. A great wine, elegant and complex. Enough to make several great Burgundy wines pale with envy! Bravo! 40 euros.
I have excellent memories of my visit to Enric. An ultra-sympathetic person and a passionate winemaker. And above all, white wines of incredible purity and finesse. Thank you again Enric for your warm welcome! And I look forward to coming back to visit you soon!