Enric Soler: xarel-lo for making great white wines

Enric Soler is known for making some of the best white wines in Catalonia. Produced in very small quantities (from 7 to 8,000 bottles a year), his wines are praised by critics. During a recent stay in Barcelona, I visited Enric to talk about his project. I had the chance to discover his magnificent white wines.
On the death of his grandfather in 2003, Enric Soler inherited a small vineyard of xarel-lo in the village of Sabanells Font Rubi in the appellation Pénédés. This sommelier professor in Barcelona decided to start producing wines.
The land on which the Enric vineyard is located was an airport used by the revolutionary troops during the Spanish Civil War. At the end of the war in 1945, vineyards were replanted. The old vines of xarel-lo that Enric inherited from his grandfather are about 70 years old.

Converting the vineyard to biodynamics
When he recovered the 0.89 hectare family vineyard, the vines were programmed to produce a lot of grapes and soils saturated with pesticides. In 2004, Enric Soler decided to convert the vineyard to biodynamics. Enric refutes the marketing side that leads several areas to convert to biodynamics. If he made this choice, it is primarily to rehabilitate his vines to a less intensive agriculture. Moreover, during difficult years, he found that his vineyard has suffered less than those of his neighbors, because the vineyard has adapted better to weather conditions.
In 2011, Enric Soler planted an extra hectare of xarel-lo on clay soils at 400 meters above sea level. Everyone told him that xarel-ho would not grow well at such an altitude. He nevertheless planted it and managed brilliantly to prove the opposite. All the grapes coming from this young vineyard are used in the elaboration of his Espanyalluchs cuvée.

Photo: vino2travel.com

Only one grape variety featured: xarel-lo
The Catalan region of Pénédés is a plateau landlocked between the mountains of Montserrat in the north, the Cordillera prelitoral, the sierra litoral and the Mediterranean Sea. It is, in surface area, the largest appellation of Catalonia. Its altitude varies between 250 and 800 meters. The climate is Mediterranean with 500 to 600 millimeters of rainfall per year.
The Pénédés is especially known for the production of cava, the famous Spanish sparkling wine. Of the 28,000 hectares of vines in the appellation, 22,000 are for the production of cava. The almost two hectares of Enric appear almost anecdotal in an area where the properties have on average between 20 and 30 hectares of vines.


Photo: vino2travel.com

“What’s interesting about xarel-lo is that depending on the producer and the soil on which it grows it can produce very different wines” – Enric Soler, winemaker
The xarel-lo enters the blend of cava with other varieties such as parrellada, macabeu and sometimes chardonnay and malvasia. On the other hand, xarel-lo is increasingly vinified alone for the production of still white wines.
When worked at low yield, xarel-lo can give exceptional expressions of fruitiness and minerality. It often develops aromas of white flowers, almond, citrus and quince. It is also very suitable for aging in oak barrels.


The wines of Enric Soler
In winemaking, Enric Soler works in the most natural way possible. All wines are aged in barrels for 8 to 9 months. Enric nevertheless uses barrels of various ages to give very different profiles to his wines. His goal is to make the terroir speak for each of his wines.

I have a great memory of my visit to Enric. An ultra-friendly person and a passionate winemaker. And especially white wines of incredible purity and finesse. Thank you again Enric for this warm welcome! And I hope to come back soon to visit you!