Shawn Dalton on Honest Wine

Recently, MeraWine was mentioned in a CBC Saskatchewan article on biodynamics. Check out the article if you just said “biodyWHATics”. I was also lucky enough to be invited onto Sheila Coles’ morning radio show on CBC to talk a bit about biodynamics. I probably wasn’t as elucidative and magnetic as I would have liked on the radio but oh well, I can just stick with talking to rooms full of half-cut wine drinkers from now on and be okay with that.

This little bit of attention though has really made me think about a nagging issue I have with a question I get asked all the time: “What wines do you like the best?” I mean, because the majority of our winemakers work biodynamically I must like biodynamic wines right?

Sometimes I say something like, “I like all wines,” but that’s not really an answer, and it’s really not true because I think a lot of wines are terrible. If I start reaching for my monocle and reply, “ahem, well lately I’ve been very much impressed by some later vintage red wines from the cooler microclimates of the Sancerre region,” somebody needs to slap me. What I really want to say is simply that I like real and honest wines, which is probably just as mystifying as saying I like biodynamic wines.

I don’t really define a personal favorite in terms of grape, climate, or region, and even though MeraWine works with mostly biodynamic producers I can’t really say plainly that my favorite wines are biodynamic, natural, or even in a broad sense organic. Mainly, I just like wines that are comfortable with showing off the time and place they came from even if that means the struggles of a difficult vintage or the nuances of a terroir or a grape maybe not entirely en vogue at the moment.

To tell you what wines I like the best is not to start talking about a specific region or style or even a philosophy of sustainability, but is literally to show you a handful of people that are in my eyes making real and honest wines. Producers that simply choose to work towards making the wine their land and their grapes naturally give them.

One of the producers whose wines I like very much just so happens to be someone I was lucky enough to visit with for the second time last month during a trip I took to Barcelona with my family. I strongly suggest you check out the videos of Assís explaining biodynamics, he is way better at doing this than I am. At the bottom of the article you can find links to a few places here in Saskatchewan you can find them.

 

The Suriol family makes wine from their own vineyards surrounding a small town about a 45 minute drive outside of Barcelona called Grabuac. The area is known as Penedés, which is mostly known in the wine world for being the center of the Spanish sparkling white wine known as Cava. Winemaker, Assís Suriol, identifies what they are doing as making traditional wines, even though their vines are certified organic and they farm them using biodynamic practices. For Assís, these things are basically just the steps needed in order to make traditional Catalan wines from the region of Penedés.

Assís makes his Cava with only the three traditional Cava grapes: Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo. Although many Cavas sold in North America add or substitute the more familiar Chardonnay grape at the expense most often of Xarel-lo, Assís is adamant about using only these grapes and features Xarel-lo in his wines. For Assís, his and the other surrounding vineyards are best suited for producing Xarel-lo so does not shy away from it.

It is not just Cava that he produces though, he also makes still white wines from the three grapes as a blend, Suriol Blanca, and as single varietal bottles of Xarel-lo and Parellada. The Can Peritxo, made from a single plot of Parellada vines Assís has singled out, was actually one of my favourite wines of the whole trip. His red wines are impressive as well and feature the Catalan clone of Tempranillo known as Ull de Llebre.

A few of the varietals and plots see some time in barrel, but not in the oak barrels that everyone automatically assumes when the words wine and barrel are used. Assís only uses chestnut barrels made from area forests, since oak trees are not native to the region.

As you can see, the wines of the Suriol family are guided and informed by tradition and what their region natural gives them to produce wine. Drinking these wines is an opportunity to taste something ungentrified in a way. It’s what I mean by saying that I like honest and real wines. Wines that don’t just treat you like a consumer and cater only to popular tastes while ignoring centuries of cultural and natural history that went into making the wines.

Look for Suriol wines in Regina at The Capitol, Amy’s Winehouse, The Lancaster Taphouse, and The Artful Dodger Gallery Wine Bar. In Saskatoon, you can find Suriol wines at The Hollows. Look for Assís’ Can Peritxo and the Sang de Drac coming to Saskatchewan in 2016.

. Shawn Dalton .

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