2022 Anna Espelt, Pla de Gates Blanc, Grenache Blanc/Grenache Gris, DO Empordà, Catalunya, Spain.
Anna Espelt, the skilled winemaker behind her family’s Espelt Viticultors, does a personal set of limited offerings and for the first time I got a chance to try her fabulous Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris white “Pla de Gates” that I really loved, it’s a very distinctive effort coming from organic vines on granite, sand and clay based soils. Pla de Gates is a blend of Lledoner Blanc and Roig (80% Grenache Blanc and 20% Grenache Gris) that Anna Espelt grows in her organic coastal Mas Marés vineyard. This bright gold hued 2022 is beautifully clean and crisp with tangy white peach, racy lemony citrus, unripe apple and quince fruits, along with wet flint, chalky stones, minty herbs, almond and lime flower accents in a vibrant medium bodied wine. Having gained experience with these varieties further inland, her importer Eric Solomon explains, where the climate is warmer, Anna has discovered that they really shine a bit closer to the Mediterranean Sea, where nearly constant winds result in smaller clusters, berries, thicker skins, and fresher acidity, providing excitement, balance and complexity, as seen here. The naturally indigenous yeast fermented Pla de Gates grapes cooled overnight after harvesting by hand, are partially de-stemmed, and gets a short skin maceration before a long gentle pressing, that Anna says, captures all the aromatic and phenolic potential of these two varieties. Formerly this wine was aged in large neutral oak, but now sees 6 months in cement eggs on the lees, which makes it all that much more compelling and transparent. This sunny white is a great way to celebrate women winemakers and Women’s History Month, bravo Anna on this lovely Spanish wine that is brilliant with sea foods.

I’ve been a fan of this winery for many years and have enjoyed their whites and reds, which are savvy buys, especially the basic Côtes du Rhône style Garnatxa Negra that sells for under 15 bucks and comes from all organic estate vines ranging from 30 to over 100 years old. The Espelt family, who for centuries have grown grapes in the Empordà area the sunny tourist beaches of the Costa Brava in the Catalunya, not too far away from the Capital Barcelona. In the early 2000s they built a cellar and began bottling wines under their own name, Espelt Viticultors, they are led now by winemaker Anna Espelt, who’s proved to be a talent in her own right and a true leader in the area. As the family’s inheritor of generations of grape growers in Empordà, Anna has been overseeing the farming too, which is 100% certified organic, and uses holistic and biodynamic methods in the vineyards, not only because it makes better wines, as the winery points out, but because the vineyards are located around several nature preserves in the area and there’s a true love of the environment and a commitment to preserving it. The Indigenous varieties, that Espelt specializes in and which Anna uses in her own label wines, including all the Grenache family, known locally as Lledoner, and Clairette Blanche, known strangely as Picapolla natively. While the main Espelt vines, mostly the reds, like Garnatxa Negra and Carinyena (in Catalan) are grown on the inland mix of sandy granite, limestone and slate, a complex set of soils that give the wines there freshness of detail, mineral intensity and ripe depth of flavors, aided by the warm sunny Mediterranean climate, benefited by cool breezes and nighttime temperatures. These wines, both the regular Espelt and Anna’s own bottlings are wonderful expressions of place and stellar values, I highly recommend them all.
($27 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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