Hailing from Vilassar de Dalt in the heart of the Alella appellation, Oriol Artigas actually came to winegrowing serendipitously. He originally wanted to be a chemist (ala Jules Chauvet), but after working a harvest in Penedes, Oriol realized that a career in a laboratory wasn’t for him and enrolled in an enology program soon after. He then worked at several wineries across Catalonia, which led him to teaching enology at the local university. Landing a steady job enabled Oriol to explore his true passion – a project revitalizing old coastal Alella vineyards and making supremely transparent, non-interventionist wines that evoke the nearby Mediterranean – wines laced with garrigue and sea salt.
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.
Oriol began making wine solely to enjoy with friends, but started this most current project with the 2011 vintage. His over-arching philosophy is to “cultivate the vineyards in the most natural and least interventionist way possible, to allow the grapes to express in the most intense way the landscape from which it comes.” He works 7.5 hectare in total, with the majority of the vineyards being planted en vaso, very old, and located around his hometown of Vilassar de Dalt. He allows vegetation to grow between the vines, prunes very little, and works the vineyards primarily along the lunar calendar. In the winery, fermentations are completely spontaneous (no pied cuve is used), he does not work the must, aging is in steel vat, neutral French oak, or amphora, and sulfur is only added at bottling, if the wine demands it. The wines are not fined, filtered, or cold stabilized. He makes a wide variety of wines – white, rosé, and red- the color of the wine is defined by what grapes grow in the vineyard. Except for La Rumbera, all of the wines are co-fermented by vineyard site,and in the case of the wine La Prats (The Meadows), there are as many as 50 different red and white grape varieties that make up the cuvee, resulting in a rosé color. Oriol relies on the wisdom of the folks that originally planted these wild vineyards to make his cuvees. The sensibility of Oriol’s wines are delicacy and natural qualities without sacrificing impact of flavor and delineated terroir expression.
La Rumbera is 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 is 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 is 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 Blanc is an old vine white blend of Pansa Blanca and Pansa Rosada from a single vineyard planted on granitic soils with southeast exposition, located close to the ocean. The wine is fermented with wild yeasts in stainless steel vat with 2 days of skin maceration, then raised on fine lees in vat for 1o months before being bottled without fining or filtration. It is a profoundly concentrated Vi Blanc with an intensely marine personality, rich yet delicate texture, and laser-like acid spine. One of the great white wines of Catalunya to be paired with the finest ocean creatures available.
Peça d’en Blanch Taronga is an old vine white blend of Pansa Rosada and Pansa Blanca from a single vineyard with southeast exposition. The grapes are wild yeast fermented without temperature control in 200L amphora with 11 days of skin maceration, gently pressed and raised on lees in same amphora for 4 months before being bottled without fining or filtration. This is an old-world traditional “orange” wine (Taronga translates to orange in Catalan) with expressive aromatics, texture and body. Peça d’en Blanch Negre is 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.