Portal Blanco is an estate-bottled wine made by Celler Vinos Piñol with grapes grown in the region of Terra Alta, located south of Barcelona. To understand how Portal Blanco relates to the world of wine, it's important to note that the birthplace of the Garnacha Blanca grape is Terra Alta. Today, Terra Alta's beautiful panoramic landscape is home to 35% of the world's Garnacha Blanca vineyards and 70-75% of those in Spain. This limited production wine is made in stainless steel tanks to emphasize purity of fruit and terroir. Here, Garnacha Blanca makes a gutsy, full-bodied wine with a character similar to a red. This white is a perfect compliment to all seasons. With lots of dry herbs, it's not an overly ripe “tropical wine.” The story of Cellar Vinos Piñol mirrors the ascendance of Spanish wines in world markets over the past ten years, a story of how a reverence for old, treasured vineyards and the best family traditions have been combined with new winemaking methods to make the finest wines possible. Similar to Yecla and Vinos de Madrid, Terra Alta is one of Spain's up-and-coming wine regions with an identity built on exciting projects and progressive innovation. Juanjo G. Piñol and Toni Coca are the winemakers. Juanjo's mother Josefina remains in charge of the family cellar.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE? This wine is made from old vines of the Garnacha Blanca grape, indigenous to this area. The estate owned vineyards are planted in limestone soils and are dry farmed (no irrigation). This “all season wine” is made by the fourth generation of the Piñol family.
RATING HISTORY: 2015 90VM; 2014 90VN; 2013 90IWC; 2012 90IWC; 2011 90IWC; 2008 90RP; 2007 90RP
GRAPE: 100% Garnacha Blanca. Vines planted in 1990. Tended in limestone and clay soil at 356m (1,168 ft) elevation
PAIRING SUGGESTIONS: Portal Blanco pairs well with pan-roasted hake with almonds, plank roasted salmon or grilled swordfish with herbs. This wine also has the stuffing and acidity to compliment wonderfully intense, “stinky” cheeses like Valdeón and Serena, as well as flavorful and aromatic Monte Enebro, Queso Azul Asturiano and Morbier with vegetable ash.
VINIFICATION AND AGEING: Hand harvested in the cool morning hours, the grapes are brought to the winery in small, 15 kg boxes. After de-stemming, the grapes are crushed and go into 10,000-liter stainless steel tanks. The unfermented juice mixes with the skins at cool temperature (4C or 39F) for about 8 hours to maximize the extraction of flavors from the skins. The grapes ferment with neutral yeast (from Levuline in Champagne), which is optimal to ferment grapes with high sugar levels. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks on the lees for two months. No malolactic.
PRODUCTION: 1,500 cases
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE: The vineyards are located a few miles southwest of Priorat, within the Terra Alta DO (Zone 5) in Catalunya’'s Tarragona province in northeastern Spain. The winery and vineyards are in the town of Batea, situated at 450 meters (1,476 ft.) elevation. The soils are composed of 95% limestone and 5% clay. For climate, the average temperature from April-October is 67.3F. The hot day and warm-to-moderate night temperatures make Terra Alta a drier and warmer region than Montsant or Priorat. The low average yearly rainfall of 16.3 inches is less than in neighboring regions.
TASTING NOTES: Light bright yellow. Meyer lemon and green apple on the incisive nose, joined by hints of chalky minerals and ginger that emerge with air. Juicy and focused on the palate, offering lively orchard and citrus fruit flavors that open up and turn spicier on the back half. Finishes on a dusty mineral note, showing very good persistence and a lingering suggestion of honeysuckle. There's something Chablis-like going on here.-- Josh Raynolds.
All photos: Friederike Paetzold