When thinking about Catalan wine regions that chiefly produce red wines and the grape varieites that grow within those borders, the mind will almost certainly turn first to Priorat and next to Penedes and then to Montsant with regard to the growing zones, and in terms of the grapes, to the native vines like Garnatxa and Carinyena, and then the copious acreage of “International” (read “French”) grapes like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that have been plated in Catalan vineyards beginning about 30 years ago or so. What we have here on the table this evening is none of those places or grape types, but rather a more obscure region and its just as obscure signature grape, namely Conca de Barbera` and Trepat.
The Conca de Barbera` region lies adjacent to and just “behind” (inland) Penedes and Montsant, both of which front on the Mediterranean Sea. This region, due to its distance from the sea and its elevation (many of the vineyards rest at over 1,500 feet above sea level) makes this region a bit more extreme than the coastal growing zones, with both hotter days and colder nights. That said, Conca de Barbera` is not so far from the sea that it doesn’t benefit in turns from the moderating breezes that blow in off of the water.
Unbeknownst to most, the lion’s share of the produce of the Conca de Barbera` are the white grape varieties (Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo) used to produce the sparkling wine Cava. What is even less well known is that rose` Cava also exists, and this pink bubbly is almost always made from the the pale red Trepat grape. Relatively recently, a few innovation-minded producers decided to try their hands at producing still, red (albeit fairly pale) wines from Trepat, and the results were decidedly positive, and as a result, quite a few other producers soon followed suit.
As already stated, in the glass Trepat shows a pale red color (some would call it a very dark rose`) with characteristic aromas of berries, citrus, underbrush, and sweet brown spices, and an overall easy-going, pretty and distinctly lithe and feminine body. Again, still, red Trepat is not the easiest bottle of wine to put ones hands on, but for chicken, duck, turkey and meatier fish dishes – especially ones that include some fruit component – it’s well worth seeking out.
So in keeping with these guidelines, I served this suave little red with a first course of bacalao and potato fritters flavored with lemon peel and nutmeg, followed by a main course of chunks of chicken cooked with raisins, prunes, tomato, pine nuts et al. with a side of white rice cooked with turnip tops.
Jordi Miro’ Canto’ El Petit Carlania Trepat Conca de Barbera` 2012
Uncharacteristically deep purple/garnet color. Complex nose of black cherry, blueberry, cranberry sauce, roasted chestnuts, damp earth, juniper berries, wet straw and licorice. The palate is medium-full in weight with a chewy texture and a good tart acid/dry tannin balance that frames flavors of blackberry, strawberry jam, blood orange and allspice. Finishes with powerful and slightly bitter cocoa and dried rose petal flavors.