Indigenous grapes become distinctive wine full of local character.
The recent evolution of the official denomination of Empordà reflects what’s been happening throughout so much of the wine world: indigenous varieties transformed into distinctive wine with newfound skill and respect for local character.
Although the Espelt family have been growing grapes in DO Empordà since the early 1900s, it was only in 2000 that they began to produce their own wine commercially.
The Espelt vineyards lie between the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea; over half of their vines are grown in the Cap de Creus and Albères National Parks. On a poor soil of slate, granite and sand, the region has low rainfall and is cooled by winds from the north. Some of the Garnacha vines here are the oldest in the DO at over 90 years. Espelt practice sustainable farming, and both organic and biodynamic practices are adhered to.
Empordà occupies some of the Mediterranean’s most scenic coast. It comprises two distinct slices of land that rise westward from Gulf of Roses headlands on the Costa Brava. The area was home to the famed elBulli restaurant, as well as the holiday homes of many of Spain’s wealthiest and most famous families.
The wines here are yet to match the fame of its beaches, but with the strength of the local economy and food scene, there’s ever more investment in viticulture and a corresponding rise in quality.
In terms of grape varieties, Empordà is typically Mediterranean. Garnacha and Carenyena are the dominant reds, and a mixture of local whites like Garnacha Gris and Garnacha Blanca live alongside more famous expats like Sauvignon Blanc.
As with many of Spain’s emerging regions, there’s great value to be found in Empordà, with some old vineyards producing wonderful, dense and complex wines without hefty price tags.