Oriol Artigas is a very fascinating guy. I met him during the weekend of the Third Coast Soif, we had a fascinating conversation. Working with wine professionally has encouraged me to learn little tidbits of a lot of different sciences; the chemistry of fermentation, cellular biology of yeast and bacteria, botany of the vines, geology of the vineyards, all the way to meteorology and geography. We all love to drink wine, and for temperaments like mine these facets add to the experience.
Oriol brought up the fact that the story of wine extends well beyond the “hard” sciences. History, politics, sociology, anthropology, and economics have a profound impact on the wines we drink – affecting everything from availability to farming practices and stylistic trends. When you start to see this big picture of wine, as a product of culture, I personally find it awe inspiring.
Oriol is a native of the small town Vilassar de Dalt in the Catalonian region Alella. In the words of his importer Jose Pastor: “Located just 15 kilometers north of Barcelona, Alella is a lesser-known region but has one of those familiar stories: A vineyard area that dates back to Roman times, once renowned for producing exceptional wines, and now, thanks to the appetite for sea-side real estate, has been whittled down to very little vineyard land. At just 220 hectares, Alella is one of Spain’s smallest D.O.’s. But the proximity to the Mediterranean, granite soils called Sauló, and a plethora of native (read old) vines has inspired a cadre of growers to set up shop here and work to protect this area from extinction. There is no doubt that the quiet revolutionary Oriol Artigas is at the vanguard of this movement.”
He started his professional life as a chemist, before studying oenology and eventually teaching. After making wine for personal consumption, he had the fortune to share his passion with the rest of the world. He farms 18.5 acres of old vines around Vilassar de Dalt. With one exception, his wines are based on the grapes planted in each individual vineyard – if there are white grapes the wine is white, red for red wine, if both then rosé.
Our friend Mark Lindzy of Jose Pastor Selections will be presenting four of Señor Artigas' wines.
La Rumbera 15 - $25 “Comprised of 80% Pansa Blanca and 20% Garnatxa Blanca from 5 southeast and northwest-facing parcels planted on granitic soils. The wine is fermented with wild yeasts in 80% stainless steel and 20% old 300 liter barrels, with 2 hours to 2 days skin contact, depending on the maturation of the grape. The wine is then raised on the lees in steel vat for 6 months before being bottled without fining or filtration. This is a white wine that combines power and delicacy with a distinct marine character, making it ideal to pair with a wide variety of seafood, especially grilled head-on prawns.”
La Prats 15 - $43 “A single-vineyard field blend with southeast exposition, located 1-2km from the Mediterranean Sea, and some vines are over 100 years old. The grapes are co- fermented with wild yeasts in stainless steel vat with 12 hours skin contact, then raised on the lees in vat for 6 months before being bottled without fining or filtration. A superbly mineral rosat with pretty citrus fruits, crystalline texture, and mouthwatering acidity and palate coating intensity. Superb to pair with pan con tomate and lighter summer fare.”
Vinya d’en Mundu 15 - $53 “Made with old vine Pansa Blanca from a steep, single vineyard planted on granite with northwest exposition. The grapes see 72 hours of skin maceration in tank, then gently pressed and wild yeast fermented in old 500L barrels, and raised on lees in the same barrels for 10 months before being bottled without fining or filtration. A distinctive and age-worthy, single vineyard Vi Blanc which aromas and flavors remind us of the nearby Mediterranean Sea.”
Peça d’en Blanch Negre 15 - $53 “An old vine red blend of Garnacha and Pansa Blanca from a single vineyard planted on granitic soils with east exposition, located 1 km from the Mediterranean Sea. The wine is fermented with wild yeasts in stainless steel vat with 11 days of skin maceration. The wine is raised in used French oak barriques for 10 months before being bottled without fining or filtration. It is profoundly earthy and deep Vi Negre with lively red fruits and notes of dusty granite, subtle spice, and long savory flavors. A meditative wine to pair with roast lamb with rosemary.”
These wines are thrilling and completely unique. Please don’t miss the opportunity to taste them tomorrow from 2-5pm.
-Paul Courtright *Text borrowed from Red & White Wines 1861 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647