The Arizona wine scene continues to show us the spirit of discovery and experimentation is alive and well. A common thread is the continuing search for grape varietals that can do well here. Enter Arizona wine pioneer Kent Callaghan’s latest discovery: Xarel-lo. Hailing from the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia, the white varietal is one normally found in the ubiquitous sparkling Cava. Callaghan tells me that his interest “began with a trip to Barcelona in early 2016.” Visiting the nearby wineries of Recaredo and Gramona to taste Cava, he found some “very interesting still bottlings of Xarel-lo.” After returning, he ordered budwood from the Foundation Plant Services program at UC Davis in California to ensure healthy and true-to-varietal stock.
In Cava, Xarel-lo is normally blended with Macabeu (also known as Viura) and Parellada to provide freshness and acidity. It’s also responsible for robust aromatics and textural structure. In Arizona, where we strive to find varietals that retain acidity, Xarel-lo fits the bill. It’s also rot-resistant, a plus since our harvest coincides with our dramatic monsoons. Callaghan grafted about 0.3 acre in 2017. He will focus on making it still instead of sparkling. “The 2018 version [$35] is quite tasty. Definitely shows character similar to the Spanish versions,” he says.
I was lucky enough to have a glass, and it was nutty and herbaceous, with some lime and quince aromas. Texture was powerful and bigger in style. This wine not only pleases, but teaches us about other regions.
336 Elgin Rd., Elgin