Not Paris ! Barcelona ! To mitigate the drop in readership that occurs whenever I begin talking about cities other than Paris, I've gotten into the habit of spacing out such posts with Paris coverage. But this has the unfortunate effect of exacerbating what is already a journalistically unfathomable delay between travel experiences and blogging about them...
Anyway, in Barcelona last November on the recommendation of my friend César from Terroir Santo Domingo Imports I visited L'Anima del Vi, Barcelona's only natural wine shop (as far as I know), founded and run since 2006 by Benoît Valée, a Frenchman who hails - if I remember correctly - from the south-west somewhere.
The shop is a pleasantly scrappy space, painted green and red, furnished with cinderblocks and boxes. The ceiling descends over the register area, an unfortunate architectural feature that has the effect of making anyone positioned there seem to be lurking or brooding. Weirdly, when R and I passed by, there was just one other customer, and by enormous coincidence she happened to be another Unspecified International Wine Industry Media Person. I got self-conscious - it felt redundant to ask a round of semi-standard blogger-questions that the person standing next to me had presumably just asked. So R and I just nosed around, got a couple reccommendations, and before we left for lunch I bought a few treasures to lug back for the Native Companion, most notably a zero-sulfur artisanal vermouth by Casa Pardet in the Costers del Segre DO.
The Native Companion runs a cocktail bar, so it seemed appropriate. I also suspected vermouth would be more likely to withstand a plane flight than a lot of the inexpensive natural Spanish wines on offer. Overall, the selection at L'Anima del Vi is terrific - if fate ever places me Barcelona for an extended period of time, I'll have no shortage of the Puzelat, De Moor, or Fanny Sabre bottles to which I've grown so accustomed in Paris.
I couldn't help observing, though, that if one wanted to splash out on a bottle of Spanish natural wine, it would necessarily have to be a heavy red. Whites and lighter reds - where my own tastes lay - were largely confined to the under-ten euros market segment.
This isn't entirely a complaint - it's just a concatenation of climate, market preference, and possibly winemaking skill, all interrelated issues - but it limited my choice for take-home bottles.
Valée offered us tastes of a searingly acidic Xarel lo, like an alarm clock in a glass, that was in fact the base wine for a cava he also carried by Julia Bernet. Like an idiot, I took no photos of this wine, not then and not later, at home in Paris with the dirt-cheap bottle, where, as I'd feared, it had lost all fangs in baggage check. ("I swear, this formerly had such killer acid," I found myself explaining to my friend J.)
Casa Pardet's vermouth, happily, arrived home intact. Given it's a red vermouth, I was surprised to learn it's made from Chardonnay - the colouration presumably derives from its 9-15 month maceration with various bitters, as well as, presumably, from some degree of oxidation from the absence of sulfuring. Stylistically, the flavour profile was decidedly Italianate, amaro-toned. But a freshness and tamarind-like juiciness distinguished it from conventional Italian vermouths, which latter are - at least for a non-afficionado like myself - stylistically indissociable from a certain not-necessarily-unpleasant industrial taste.
Casa Pardet, founded in 1993, also produces a range of biodynamic wines from Chardonnay, Tempranillo, and Cabernet, as well as various fruits and vinegars. Haven't seen them in France, so will presumably have to wait for the next trip to Spain to taste through them.
Happily, I've just learned I may have the chance to get there next month, provided I can find a reasonable flight to Bilbao that does not involve a ten-hour layover in Brussels. (Why do airlines even bother to offer such itineraries? Are there people who enjoy airports, and spending time in them?)
* A side note: more sparkling wine producers ought to release bottles of their base wines. It's like sommelier catnip - jolting, palate-awakening stuff. For instance, the most interesting thing I tasted at Le Salon Les Penitantes in Angers this past January was Champagne producer Emmanuel Lassaigne's base wine, which he'd brought in an unmarked bottle and which he was doling out to favored (mostly female) wine buyers, some of whom I fortunately happened to be standing near at the time.
L'Anima del Vi
Mariana Pineda, 3
Tel: +34 933 683 612
A nice 2012 post on L'Anima del Vi @ BrunellosHaveMoreFun (a blog done by a former coworker from Los Angeles - hi Whitney !)
A 2010 mention of Casa Pardet's sparkling Chardonnay @ LeBlogd'Olif