19 January 2009

2007 Albet i Noya Xarel-Lo

It's time for a lovely little Spanish white: this is the 2007 Albet i Noya Xarel-Lo. $14, 12% abv. Grapefruit and apricot aromas, with just a little earth and overripe bananas. This has big, strong acidity, with heavy grapefruit peel flavors. Oh please, give me some garlicky shellfish to go with this wine. Or just take me to a beach and give me a sharp rock, I'll find something salty and edible.

I love this wine but this name/grape combination might as well be Chinese for most folks. For the benefit of Google searches, I'm going to break it down in excruciating detail. Let's start with the grape part. Unlike Chardonnay and Chablis, you'll probably never encounter a stripper with the stage name Xarel-Lo.

How do you pronounce Xarel-Lo? This varies a bit depending on the specific town you're from in Northeast Spain, but either sha-REL-lo or cha-REL-lo works. Want something easier? Remember that your friend Cheryl Lowe recommended it to you. It's a light white grape that's used to make the sparkling wine Cava as well as still wines like this example. That high acid serves as a good clue: fine Champagnes are so high in acidity as to be virtually undrinkable before the second fermentation. This wine is nowhere near that acidic, but it's obvious the grape has the potential, and sometimes that tart flavor is perfect. After all, one night you want the vanilla ice cream, another night you want the lemon sorbet.

So what's up with the name Albet i Noya? First off, it's not "Albert i Noya", there's no r in there.

I know that sometimes royals place the regnal ordinal between two names. For instance, His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf is the current King of Sweden*. Sometimes that number comes before the nickname, as in France with Pepin III the Short, Charles II the Bald, and Eudes I the Insane. However, the regnal ordinal is always a capital Roman numeral. So a few hours of tracing the family tree of Spanish monarchs went down the drain.

Albet i Noya is the family name connected with the winery, but what about that little i? The answer lies in one of the many delightful Romance languages that aren't well known outside of their regions. In this case, it's Northeast Spain's Català (Catalan). In Català the copulative conjunction and is i instead of y as in Castellano or standard Spanish. And then you just follow the rules of the particle y Spanish naming custom that became popular in the 16th century. Mystery solved!

I'm pretty impressed with Spanish wine websites. Many are trilingual, in English, Spanish, and the regional language. I even saw one in Galego (Galician) recently. You don't see this much with Italy and France; I'd love to see a website published in Saintongeais, Occitan, or Friulian.

*He gave her things that she was needin'.


fredric koeppel said...

I love the wines from Albert. and thanks for the linguistics and history lessons.

Anonymous said...

Where does one find a wine like this?

Benito said...


That little i was driving me nuts. It took a while to track down the answer.


Here in Memphis it's available at several shops, and I think I got it at the wine shop beside Costco at Winchester/Hacks Cross. In other parts of the country I don't have any specific answer.

TWC said...

There is an excellent Oz site that specializes in Spanish wine.

You're not likely to get a response from him to an email but the blog is pretty well done.

Click my name.

Ramblin' Wino said...

Good review! The winery isn't that far from Barcelona - seafood would be great. I visited the winery with the importer a few years back and had lunch with the owner at his home. As I recall,it was a country house and had a large grassy area with big trees. There was a tree swing, and the lawn sloped down a couple of hundred feet to the vineyards below. A beautiful view! After lunch we sat in chairs out on the lawn. A Perfect day!

Ramblin' Wino said...

Oh -and we drank wine!

Benito said...

Ramblin' Wino,

That's awesome, I'm sure it was a fun trip. Thanks for contributing!