Close to Barcelona, only 18 kilometres away, we can find the smallest D.O. in Spain: Alella. Tucked between the glittering Mediterranean sea and the grassy slopes surrounding the vineyards it is a beautiful area to discover, thanks to its proximity to the city. There are only 8 wineries in this area, and we decided to visit Alta Alella, a winery nestled in a natural park. Not surprisingly, considering its location, only organic and biodynamic wines are produced here. Alta Alella is the only winery in Spain that is located inside a natural park, and the location is useful for the organic processes in the vineyard. There are plenty of bees and butterflies, and the birds help in fighting against pests.
The soil in the Alella area is very particular. The area faces challenges when it comes to weather: it does not rain often, but when it does it pours down. The soil is very porous with a high sand content. This allows the vines to grow roots that go very deep, where they can secure access to water. On the other hand when it rains, usually very heavily, the soil allows the water to drain rapidly so that no damage due to flooding is caused. The soil is very rich in minerals too, and this can be detected in several of Alta Alella’s wines and Cava’s. Some of them have a very pronounced minerality and this adds to the character of their products.
From the vineyard you can see the Mediterranean sea that is just a few hundred meters away. In addition to the beautiful landscape it provides the breeze from the sea which also helps to lower the humidity and the temperature, and prevents damaging fungi to develop. The breeze also brings minerals with it that enriches the soil, and adds an interesting salinity to the wine. Weeds grow between the vines until they reach about 30 centimeters, when it is cut and the residue is left on the ground. This is also done during pruning, all means in which to avoid chemical fertilizers.
At the Alta Alella vineyard, more than 70% of the production consists of Cava. The harvest, all done by hand, begins in late August for the Chardonnay for the Cava production, and from September onwards for the still wines. October is dedicated to the harvest for sweet wines. The wines are aged in French oak barrels. They are not aged for very long in order to maintain the local characteristics. The Cava however is aged longer in bottles, up to 30 months. Also worth mentioning is the beautiful shape the Cava bottles have, they are in fact patented by Alta Alella.
There are several wines and cavas from Alta Alella that are worthwhile tasting. The Tallarol is a bold, fresh white wine made in clay amphora’s and with a very pronounced minerality. The wine is made with Pansa Blanca which is a local variety. The cava Mirgin Opus Evolutium is a beautiful Cava, also with a marked minerality and salinity that are characteristic of the area. The Orbus, a red blend, is also worth mentioning: a dense, purple wine with espresso, plum with roasted and charred aromas of burnt toast.
About the Author: By Maria, founder of Barcelona Food Experience, an online resource for discovering the best restaurants and bars in Barcelona. Maria loves to eat and is always looking for the most interesting food experiences in Barcelona and beyond. She is also passionate about food photography.