This month we’ve been exploring some iconic summertime wines, like crisp whites from Portugal and “rosa” (or rosé) from Italy, through a storyteller’s eyes. We’ve adopted a narrative approach to each glass, meaning we ask the classic storytelling questions of who-what-where-when-why, except we apply them to the wine.
Who made the wine? What’s the history of their families, and how did they come to be in the vineyard and winery?
What grapes have gone into making the wine? Why those grapes specifically, especially when they’re less commercially viable?
Where were the grapes grown? Where was the wine made? Where on the global wine map are the origins for this wine, and why there in particular?
When were the grapes harvested? That’s the most obvious question in terms of a wine’s chronology, but there are complementary questions too such as when the wine was made and when it was bottled. Both questions adjust our appreciation of a wine’s timeline.
Why was the wine made? This may be the most subjective of the narrative questions, which is perhaps what also makes it the most interesting.
All five of the storytelling questions open the door to enjoying wine in a fun, unusual and nuanced way, even when the wines in our glass could very well be the “easiest” we drink all year, and perhaps in the most relaxed or lazy-summer circumstances, and perhaps also when it falls in the everyday-wine price category of $15 or less.
‘Tis the season for easy to drink, relaxed and/or inexpensive wines. But that doesn’t mean we should overlook their story.
That point was driven home to me over the weekend, when I attended an event that was part book signing and part launch event for a new wine venue in Atlanta where I live. Servers passed small plates of Korean food, taken from Kim Sunée and Seung Hee Lee’s excellent cookbook, Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks. I was most drawn to the “Slutty Tofu,” a gluten-free, vegan dish where the tofu is deep-fried and topped with cilantro and a perilla seeds. That recipe, and the entire cookbook in fact, deserves a dedicated article of its own but for now I’ll focus on the wine that paired best with it: a sparkling cava, Alta Alella ‘Mirgin’ Rosé Gran Reserva specifically.
Here’s a deeper look at the wine and its backstory, which offers some perspective on what makes it such a suitable pairing for the “Slutty Tofu” slice of Korean cuisine.
Who Made the Wine?
Alta Alella Mirgin winery is family-owned and organically farmed, that was started in 1991 by Josep Maria and Cristina Pujol-Busquets Guilléns. Their daughters, Mireia and Georgina, embody the next generation of the “Cava lifestyle.”
What Grapes Go Into the Wine?
Pansa blanca (or xarello), macabeu, and parellada, which are the three main grapes used to produce sparkling cava, the same way that pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier are the three main grapes used to produce Champagne.
Where Were the Grapes Grown?
Alta Alella is the winery that’s located closest to Barcelona, set in the Serralada de Marina Natural Park just a short distance from the Mediterranean Sea. It’s significant to note that the vineyards are farmed organically, and the wines are described as low intervention with no added sulfites. The healthy lifestyle theme, tied to the land, plays a role in the winery’s marketing to tourists.
When Was the Wine Made?
This wine from 2017 sat on its lees for 30 months, and was released to the market immediately after it was disgorged. The disgorgement date is identified on the label. The 30+ month aging process is a requirement for the “Gran Reserva” designation of cava.
Why Was the Wine Made?
A few different answers to this question present themselves, depending on the perspective of the person answering.
Given Alta Alella’s location geographically and culturally, for example, producing cava is essentially a foregone conclusion for the business. The market’s appetite for reasonably priced sparkling wine is a significant consideration as well, both for export markets like the US as well as the domestic market for Spanish consumers and tourists who also want an in-person taste of the “cava culture.”