Enric Soler won Spain’s Sommelier Championship in 1997. He set up a tasting room in Barcelona, which he managed for 14 years, but after the death of his grandfather in 2004 he changed jobs and became a wine producer. Encouraged by friends, he decided not to sell the old Xarel.lo vineyard planted by his grandfather in 1945 in Sabanell (Font Rubí), in an area used as an airfield by the Republican Army during the Spanish Civil War, and started to take care of it himself.
From this plot, known as des Taus, he makes the barrel fermented white Nun Vinya dels Taus (€39 in Spain). The parcel is surrounded by trellised vineyards and encircled by the C15 road, but Soler has painstakingly marked his small plot with a wooden fence and a line of cypress trees to mark that “something different is happening here". In fact, this wine was one of the first serious attempts to show Xarel.lo’s potential for high quality still whites in Penedès. The Catalan producer left the DO Penedès in 2019.
Right next to this plot grows another one on different soils; these grapes, along with others grown on trellised vines on the other side of the C15 road go for Improvisació (€22). The presence of wood is more muted on this Xarel.lo, which is fermented in a combination of barrels and concrete-eggs. From the 2016 vintage a large wood cask has also been added.
The grapes for Soler’s third wine, Espenyalluchs (€35), are sourced from a plot planted in 2010 using cuttings from Vinya dels Taus. It is located in Torrelles de Foix (Alt Penedès) at 500m above sea level. This is Parellada country, so planting Xarel.lo at this altitude is a bit risky but Soler wants to achieve a fresher expression of this grape. Framed by a forest, barely one hectare of high density bush vines is planted and they lie on a slope with pure clay soils with many boulders and minerals like flint. This white is fermented and aged in barrels of fourth, fifth and sixth use.
Istiu (summer in Catalan, less than 1,000 bottles, €28) tries to capture the character of a plot planted with equal amounts of Xarel.lo and Malvasía de Sitges. The wine is vinified in oak and aged for eight to nine months in third year, 300-litre French oak barrels.
Enric Soler’s highly personal project rests on two hectares of Xarel.lo vines which translate into 8,000 bottles and three different wines. He uses biodynamic preparations in his vineyards, spontaneous fermentations are regularly performed and he makes no corrections at all. His main goal right now is to tone down the oak, preserve acidity and gain purity in his wines. That is the reason why he stopped bâtonnage in 2013. All of his wines spend eight to nine months in French oak before being bottled in May-June, just after the "spring awakening", as Soler defines his wines’ expressiveness shown at this time of the year.