Parès Baltà Calcari Xarel-lo 2010
One thing you should know about me is that, generally speaking, I prefer reds to whites. But let’s be clear: I like whites too, and frankly it doesn’t seem fair that, to date, I’ve reviewed nothing but reds for PA Vine Co.
So I set out with a mission: buy a white wine, drink it, review it. Unfortunately, I was thwarted by the fact that the day I chose to do this also happened to be the Fourth of July, meaning not a single state store would be able to accommodate my humble request. This left me alone with my meager cellar — really more of a wine fridge — and little recourse but to drink another red.
But no, I said. No! I must stay strong. And so it was that I found myself back at my local Wine and Spirits the following day, where I triumphantly browsed the aisles until I chanced upon something that caught my eye: the Parès Baltà Calcari Xarel-lo 2010, from the Penedès region in Catalonia, Spain.
Xarel-lo is already fairly unique in that not many grapes start with the letter “X,” but beyond that, it’s notable as one of the three grapes most often used to make Cava, the best-known sparkling wine from Spain (and a great alternative to Champagne if you’re looking to save a few dozen bucks). This particular wine, however, didn’t sparkle — my first point of interest, as varietal Xarel-lo in still form is somewhat rare, though you can probably find it if you’re looking.
This wine was also interesting in that it was heavily discounted (from $17 to $12), yet NOT a part of the Chairman’s Selection program, which is generally where the better bargains in Pennsylvania come from (most regular PLCB sales are only for a buck or two), which got me wondering why the store was so desperate to get rid of it. Still, my decision was made.
At five years of age, this wine is perhaps slightly old for a white, but not glaringly so. Upon pouring it was a strikingly dark shade of gold, to the point that I’m wondering why I didn’t snap a picture of it. The nose, too, suggested a wine that was heavily oxidized: aromas were more sherry-like than vinous, with toasted nut and caramel notes overwhelming anything else that might have been there. The discount started to make even more sense.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I tasted the wine and found it to be a different experience entirely: that of a relatively unblemished white, with some nice acidity and notes of green apple and quince. There were some nutty, caramel undertones too, but nothing like what I was expecting from the aromatics. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a wine whose nose and palate were so far removed from each other.
The best pairing for this turned out to be some dry roasted peanuts, which together with the wine made me feel as though I were eating a caramel apple. But the real question is whether the wine was technically flawed or not. That would certainly explain the discount, but in the end I must stress that this Xarel-lo was quite drinkable, if a bit confusing.
I’m not sure I’d recommend this from a quality standpoint, but if you’re looking to befuddle a friend or two, or you really like caramel apples, pick up a bottle before they’re all sold (or more likely, thrown) out!