Enric Soler 2017 Penedès Improvisacio Xarello


A great wine should send you shivers across your body and give you a rush of excitement. This criteria is what makes the cut between something good and divine.

You problably have heard of Xarel-lo, right?. This is one of the principal grapes  used to make Cava in Catalunya. It gives power, degree and acidity;reason enough to be called the white lady of Barcelona’s Vineyards. I have tried a few ones available at the SAQ  but nothing trascendental. Most of the commercial available Xarel-Lo available in Quebec comes from young vineyards and the wine it yields is not that interesting. Dont get me wrong, they are good whites but they could pass for a passe partout.

However, Xarel-lo gets interesting  when you have very old vines in the hands of a skilled winemaker. This is the case of Enric Soler: the master of Xarel-lo. Recently I had the chance to taste his improvisacio and it blew me away. His old  vines ( 45 to 65 years old) are cultivated according to the principles of biodynamic agriculture. The wine is aged on a mix of French foudres and cement eggs.

The wine had a profound minerality and deep floral notes that accentuate as you let the wine breath with time. This minerality could be described as something silex-chalky like. Ripe and tense on the palate, it brought memories of drinking an incredible Grand Cru Burgundy but with a smaller price tag.


I had to pair it with seared halibut with vegetable couscous and fiddleheads. It was a success. The 2017 retails for $53.20 in Quebec as a private import ( 6 pack case). For more information, you can contact its importer Wino import

Hasta luego











Partida Creus-love at the first sip

It was love at the first sip…

Last fall I was part of a judging panel to taste a selection of still whites and sparkling wines natural style under $40 for the Raspipav wine fair 2017.  Among the selections, there was a cloudy, yellowish-orange wine that caught my attention. It was very enticing visually, the pleasant sensation  similar to the first time that I contemplated the painting Children of the Sea by Joaquin Sorolla, a Spanish Impressionist painter.


Children of the sea-Joaquin Sorolla. Source: Fine Art America

That cloudy wine was the Vinel-lo Blanco 2016 from Partida Creus. This is the project of Piedmontese couple Massimo Marchiori and Antonella Gerosa who set up roots  in Penedes in Catalonia and began restoring parcels of old and mostly indigenous vines to make natural, vibrant wines with only native yeasts, no filtration and nothing added, including sulfites. The VN cuvee is a field blend of seven white grapes usually used for cava but vinified dry: That wine was vibrant and full of life and left a very positive traumatic experience. After the tasting, I tried getting some but it was sold out.

However this year, I was able to get my hands on the white and the red. The white  2017 vintage is a blend of Garnacha blanca, Macabeu, Moscatell, Vinyater, Xarel·lo, Parsé, Parelleda. Honestly, I can’t recall tasting a profound Spanish white for a long time. It was just a polyphonic song: filled with  modulations, inflections, facets, volumes and different  heights. An extraordinary ability to vary the characteristics of the type of “sound” produced and overlapping differently with  distinct notes: (this is the secret of polyphony) ancient resins and marine wind, lemon and salt, peach and fresh flowers, grasses and limestone rocks. Vibrant freshness, intense flavor, prolonged pleasure. An absolute success.

The red 2017 is a blend of Trepat, Sumoll, Garrut, Queixal de Llop, Ull de Perdiu, Garnatxa and Samsó.  A wine that emanates perfection, it combine flowers and limestone, grass and clay, roots and pomegranate, in a wonderful, subtle and expressive interpretation of the Catalan territory. To achieve this result there is no need for filtrations, clarifications and additions of any kind or mischief. Just so much love, commitment and sacrifice in the vineyard.

Natural wine Reflection

If you are an art lover, you will understand the following reflection on natural wines.

Natural wines are much alike the impressionist art movement. Impressionism can be described as  the first distinctly modern movement in painting. Developed in Paris in the 1860s, its influence spread throughout Europe and eventually the United States. Its founders  were artists who rejected the official, government-sanctioned exhibitions, or salons, and were consequently rejected by powerful academic art institutions. Leaving away the fine finish and detail to which most artists of their day aspired, the Impressionists aimed to capture the momentary, sensory effect of a scene – the impression objects made on the eye in a fleeting instant. To achieve this effect, many Impressionist artists moved from the studio to the streets and countryside, painting en plein air. ( Source: The Art Story-Modern Art Insight)

The Impressionists aimed to be painters of the real world: They aimed to extend the possible subjects for paintings and they abandoned  depictions of idealized forms and perfect symmetry, but rather focusing on the world as they saw it, imperfect in a myriad of ways.

Much like an Impressionists painting, a natural wine is just the opposite of a conventional wine. Although perfect in all angles, a conventional wine miss out on the real aspect of a wine. In the long term, you start getting tired of too much stylized forms and look for the beauty of the imperfections or something else. I cant explain un words but every time I drink a natural wine, Sophia Loren comes to mind: Here is an interesting quote on an article that I read on her: The making of an icon: Sophia Loren says she was ‘never beautiful‘ by Hannah Furness

Image result for sophia loren beauty philosophy

“Beauty is not important,” she said. “You have to be interesting, someone who is different to other people.

“Otherwise you just turn up and look beautiful, and there’s nothing more to you.

“I have never been beautiful. I’ve never been a beautiful doll. In fact when I started, people didn’t want to hire me because I wasn’t photogenic.

“People thought my mouth was too big, they wanted me to make my nose shorter, to have straighter teeth.


The wines of Partida Creus are available in Quebec in the Private import market. For more information, you may contact Linda Susnik, the sales rep of Vinealis, their Quebec Importer ( ls@sublimevins.ca)

Hasta Luego!!!

Tasting the new Spanish arrivals from the Espace Cellier

This week I have been tasting some of the  Spanish wines from the latest Cellier offering at the SAQ. All perfect for the last weeks of summer.

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Marques de Caceres Verdejo Rueda 2015. SAQ #12861609. $14.00

This monovarietal Verdejo  is the new venture  of the prestigious Marques de Caceres in Rueda.  The grapes were picked at night to preserve the freshness of the wine. Very fragrant with exotic and tropical fruit ( grapefruit) aromas and pleasant herbaceous undertones. Delicious and aromatic on the mouth with an acidity that brings freshness to the wine. Pleasant bitter almond final typical of the variety.  Perfect for salads or seafood pastas. 90/100


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Celler Credo Miranius 2013. SAQ #  12866557. $19.80

Miranius is the name of a fox that lurks around the vineyards and become intoxicated with the aromas of the grapes. Celler Credo is the first producer that adopted biodynamic practices in the region of Penedes.  Made mostly with Xarelo and the rest Macabeo, this wine has an entincing perfume of golden apples with citric fruits, bay leaf and nuances of white stones. On the mouth, it is creamy with an excellent freshness. It perfumes your palate from beginning to end.  Could go well with poultry-based dishes such as grilled chicken breast with Mediterranean spices on the BBQ. 90/100

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Finca del Marquesado Rioja Crianza 2010. SAQ # 12859103. $15.95

From the well-known Riojan producer Valdemar, this Tempranillo is grown on the Rioja Alta from the Briones in the Rioja Alta. On the nose, reminiscent of black cherry, pipe tobacco and subtle earthy notes. On the mouth, it has a generous fruit structure with subtle tannins. Perfect for every day bbq read meats with an excellent price. 93/100

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Castillo de Ulver Bierzo 2013. SAQ # 12865829. $18.50

Made under the direction of Raul Perez, this Mencia displays aromas of perfumed blackberries, licorice with a hint of smoke and licorice. On the mouth, it is polished and long with subtle tannins and a long finale. 93/100. Great with BBQ burgers.


Loxarel Amaltea 2014

The Can Mayol estate is located in the Penedes region, just south west of Barcelona just outside Vilafranca del Penedes. This a medium size  winery practicing organic and biodynamic viticulture. Loxarel is the brand name of the wines that they produce. The project is the brainchild of the Mitjans family, specially Josep who lead the transformation of the family business from bulk to quality bottling production. He also lead the way for the estate from conventional viticulture to ecological and biodynamic one. Loxarel produces a range of wines from red wines to natural and amphora styles of wines. They also specialize in the production of Cavas.

The history of the Amaltea wine is a colorful one. When Zeus (the Ancient Greek father of Gods and men) fought the Titans he crafted himself a leather “égida” which is a type of shield. The name of this wine, Amaltea, refers to  the goat that Zeus chose for his armor, but not the shield.

Amaltea red 2012

Amaltea de Loxarel is an organic and biodynamic red wine that has been produced from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. The vineyards from  where these grapes are born employ zero pesticides  and herbicides in the production o.These grapes are then harvested by hand and transported  in oxygenated boxes. The grapes are then destemmed and transferred into stainless steel vats where they receive a maceration at 50 ºF (10 ºC) before the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes are fermented separately for 15 days at temperatures between 68-77 ºF (20-25 ºF). The grape musts are then transferred into Hungarian oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and a ten month ageing process. After the ageing process, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines are coupaged together to realize the final coupage of Loxarel Amaltea and the wine is bottled in Bordeaux style bottles.

On the nose, this wine displays notes that bring to mind chinese plums, currants with bell pepper jelly. On the mouth, the wine is full body and structured. Complex notes of cassis and dark chocolate complement the fine tannins of the wine. Oak is secondary in the background not interfering with the complex aromatic sensations in the palate. This is a wine built for the medium term. Good to drink now but will benefit in careful cellar conditions for the next 5-7 years. Have it with beef braised with soya sauce and red peppers. 92\100 

Amaltea is represented in Quebec by the agency Ward & Associes. The wine is available privately in case of 12 bottles for 19.42$. At that it is a steal for the quality that delivers. The wine was on their display at the latest Raspipav 2015 in Montreal, Quebec.

Think Cava!, Drink the Cavas of Pares Balta


Pares Balta is a very familiar name among the Cavas listed on the SAQ. I have been buying from this producer for a few years and never been deceived. If i had to do a reccomend a producer, it will be this one.

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Their brut bottling is a steal at $17.45. It Brut is soft yellow-green in color with fine bubbles. It has a beautiful bouquet that brings to mind  white peaches, apples, pears, cantaloupe and grated zest lime. Crisp and bright, dry with medium body, this cava  has savoury flavors of apple, honeydew, peach with racy mineral notes. Fruity and nicely balanced, it has clean flavors of tropical fruits.


Their agent in Quebec, Trialto is about to release their pink version in the Quebec market. Available in private importation by the case of 12, at a very modest price between 19-20$, it is a steal. With the holidays coming around the corner, it is a good idea to stock up by buying a case or two.


Elaborated using the traditional method developed in Champagne, this terrific pink Cava from Parés Baltà is quite amazing, and so far the best one in the category. This modern blend replaces the traditional Xarel.lo component of their white version with 38% Garnatxa, alongside with 32% Parellada and 30% Macabeu.


Lovely perfume of raspberries, strawberries with intriguing floral nuances. On the mouth, fresh and balanced. Delicate texture with an almost feminine quality. Long and racy with the perfect amount of residual sugar. Very fresh finale. It will be the perfect partner for an elegant lobster salad dressed with cherry tomatoes, basil and cubes of watermelon.


On the left. Etienne Bezard from Trialto and Joan Cusine Carol from Pares Balta

Joan Cusine Carol, the director of Pares Balta passed in Montreal this week to present and talk about this new pink cava offering in the Quebec market. A very affable person, he reminds me of everything that is elegant from Barcelona and Catalan culture. I had a pleasant exchange of words with him. We talked about familly, the gastronomical traditions of Catalunya and Pares Balta. I was very surprised to learn that Pares Balta is the largest organic producer in the region.


I and a small group of journalists enjoyed this cava with the elegant canapes of tommy restaurant in the old montreal. Some included salmon tartarte with wasabi, beets with walnut with parmesan cheese. It was a very intimate setting along with the staff of Trialto.


Patrick Desy from Les Mechants Raisins talking with Joan

In another tasting at the Trialto offices, I had a chance to taste their Cuisine bottling 2009. This is an exclusivity of SAQ signature. They only 38 cases available in both Montreal and Quebec. It is also an amazing bottle, showing more depth and complexity than their standard bottling.

On the nose this cava displays lemon pie notes with verbena leaf and plain yogurt. Medium acidity. Full body and rich with halzenut and butter flavours. Very long. Should be perfect with seared scallops.

A succulent Spanish tradition: Tapas and Wine

For those of you that do not know , a tapa, the miniature cuisine from Spain, is a finger food eaten between the meals. In Spanish culture, tapa means “cover or appetizer”. The Real Academia Española de la Lengua defines a tapa as “any portion of solid food able to accompany a drink”.  In Spain, you can choose from four types of tapas: cold, fried, sauce based and warm. The fried tapas available in Madrid, like boquerones, calamares, croquets, fritters and sausages, are the most popular. The tapas served with salads can even replace a complete lunch. Tapas are made from both animal-based and agricultural products: anchovies, beef, cheeses, cocktail onions, dry nuts, meat, mackerel, sardines, squid, tuna, and vegetables. However, no tapa will be complete without olives.

In ancient times, many taverns covered sherry glasses with bread or meat slices to prevent dust particles and flies from falling in the drink. In fact, salty chorizo or ham pieces stimulated thirst, increasing alcohol consumption. Taverns, as a consequence, recorded an increase in sales of alcohol, the slices and other related snacks, which were known as tapas. And tavern owners became more creative in offering snacks to accompany the drinks. This tradition of special snacks continues, but in a different form. The main purpose of contemporary “tapeo”, the art of eating tapas, is bringing people together for a conversation instead of focusing on meals.  In Spain tapas are generally eaten standing and in small quantities like birds. Another reason to nibble tapas between meals is the Spanish custom to have dinner very late (9-11 p.m.). Tapas are also a good choice for afternoon socializing on weekends.

If you want to learn to make tapas, there are a few places in Montreal and its surroundings offering courses on Spanish cuisine. These are: La Guilde Culinaire and La Academie Culinaire. La Guilde Culinaire offers a 3h 30 min course for a cool $129. You get 2 glasses of wine.  On the other hand, La Academie offers you a 3 h course for a $109. There is also in Montreal south shore, Atelier Culinaire, offering a 3 hour block of tapas and Spanish cuisine for $104. But if I were you, I will keep my 100 bucks or so and get the recipes from the internet. There are many  terrific sites such as Foods and Wines from Spain  with authentic recipes. Keep your money to buy the food and the wine.

5 All time favorite Spanish wines to accompany home-made tapas that wont break your bank account:

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Parès Baltà Calcari Xarel-Lo 2013. SAQ Code: 11377225. $19.25. D.O Penedes.

The roots of Parés Baltà goes all the way back to the 18th century. Parés Baltà produces a wide range of high quality wines and cavas that has been both nationally and internationally acclaimed. In addition, their vineyards are biological.  Pale yellow color with green nuances. Clear and transparent with medium intensity on the nose that brings  to  mind pear and banana. In the mouth it is fresh with a good acidity and balance.  90\100.

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Ijalba Maturana Blanca 2013. SAQ Code: 11383596. $23.35. D.O Rioja.

This is, in case you were wondering, the only Maturana Blanca in the world. Ijalba has taken upon themselves a mission to resurrect this almost extinct variety, fostering the world’s only known vineyard of it – just a bit over two hectares, which is almost peanuts. And yet, it is the grape variety with the oldest known citation in all of Rioja – a written reference dating back to 1622. On the nose, the wine display beautiful citrus and peachy notes. On the mouth, it is round and velvety with a zippy acidity. Beautiful balance displaying tropical fruit notes. 91\100.

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Bo Bobal Unico. $16.75. SAQ Code:  11676680Utiel-Requena

Bobal  is the second most widely planted vine in Spain, after Tempranillo, and it gives its best expression in the D.O. Utiel-Requena (high elevation, short and dry summers). Actually, the variety is native to Utiel-Requena region. On the nose, this wine presents intense aromas of dark cherry with notes of toasty oak and licorice. In the mouth, full body with a medium to high acidity and fleshy tannins. Smooth with a balanced with a flavorful finish. 92\100.

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Marques De Grinon Caliza Syrah / Petit Verdot 2011. SAQ Code: 11194980. $21.45 Pago Dominio de Valdepusa.

Dominio de Valdepusa is a Denominación de Origen (DO) de Pago in the comunity of Castilla-La Mancha. Dominio de Valdepusa has been in the family of the Marqués de Griñón Carlos Falcó since 1292. The family has played an integral part in Spanish wine culture for centuries. Dominio de Valdepusa produces red wines only, whose primary grape varieties are Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Graciano, and Merlot.

On the nose, this wine shows intense and complex fruit aromas that bring to mind fieldberries and ripe black cherry. In addition, subtle notes of minerality and spearmint.  On the mouth, this is an ample wine with silky tannins and great structure. Fleshy and balanced with a persistent aftertaste. 92\100

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Alejandro Fernàndez El Vinculo Crianza 2009. SAQ Code: 11896691. $26.30. D.O La Mancha.

Like all proyects that Alejandro Fernández embarkes on, his enthusiasm  elevated this Tempranillo from the hot plains of central Spain into a classy wine that goes byeond its rustic origins. In 1999 the discovery in La Mancha of oldTempranillo vineyards convinced Fernández, of t Tinto Pesquera and Condado de Haza in Ribera del Duero, to undertake one last wine proyect. A deep  black cherry color in the glass, El Vínculo Crianza explodes with deep, brooding aromas of plums, cherries, blood oranges, vanilla and tobacco. Velvety and supple on the palate, the wine adds layers of blackberries, dried herbs, dusty soil and dark leather. Fine, silky tannins emerge on the back-palate that leads i to a long, powerful finish and a long aftertaste of vanilla, tobacco and tar. 94\100