Celler de Les Aus ‘Aus’ Pet-Nat, Alella, Spain 2020 €27
Celler de les Aus began its life as a side project of Alta Alella, the family run, organically farmed Cava producer in Alella, just north of Barcelona. The intention with Celler de les Aus was to take that commitment to organics and environment to another level, to obtain the purest grapes and produce wines with minimum intervention and no added sulphites. Their ever-expanding range now includes several natural whites, reds, rosés and Cavas. We’re very keen on quite a few of them, but our current pick is Aus, a wonderfully refreshing Pet-Nat.
Pet-Nat is a type of sparkling wine, less fizzy and a little cloudier than the likes or regular Cava or Champagne. The process here is much simpler - most sparkling wines, like the aforementioned pair, are produced by a second fermentation in the bottle to create the CO2. A Pet-Nat - or Pétillant Naturel to give it its full name- is bottled before the first fermentation is complete, so any CO2 produced after the bottling remains in the wine. It also means that the lees are present in the finished wine, hence the slight cloudiness. Aus is produced from Pansa Blanca, the local name for the Xarel-lo variety, more commonly associated with Cava. The grapes are biodynamically grown, and there are no added sulphites. It is wonderfully crisp and refreshing, with a core of green apple and pear fruit, a gentle fizz and long, dry finish. It is also just 11.5% alcohol, so it is perfect for picnics, lunches, bbq’s, early evening aperitifs… actually, it’s an anytime kind of wine.
Zarate Albarino, Val do Salnes, Rias Baixas, Spain 2018 €33
The history of the winery dates back to 1707, but its current form took shape in the 1920’s under the guidance of Ernesto Zarate, and today the winery is run by his grandson Eulogio Pomares. Eulogio didn’t change too much in terms of winemaking, the Zarate style has always been about the fresher, more focused side of Albarino. But he did invest his time and energy into the vineyards, converting everything initially to organic, and now to what he describes as “natural care”. No chemicals or unnatural fertilizers, he uses ground sea shells to provide the vineyard with minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and seaweed as compost.
It’s fair to say that Zarate’s wines have little in common with much of what passes for Albarino these days. Where some commercial styles of Albarino can seem overly ripe and tropical, Zarate’s wines are just the opposite – precise, mineral and taut, drawing on the salty character of the Atlantic coast to give the wines a remarkable freshness and sapidity. From the Zarate Albarino through to the single vineyard and old vine wines, they have more in common with the great acid and mineral dominated whites – Chablis, Pouilly Fume, great German Riesling -than they do with other wines from the same variety.
Tras da Vina, a more serious version of the original Albarino, sourced from a single site of 50yr old vines, grown on granite soils. It begins with fruit -grapefruit and ripe peach, followed by wonderful acidity and a distinctly saline, minerally palate. There is great concentration of flavour without any heaviness, and the finish is long, tangy and immensely satisfying.