At the final board meeting of 2021 for the regulatory board of DO Terra Alta, in Catalonia, Spain, a long list of changes was approved.
The most striking was the implementation of a very strict certification system for 100% Garnetxa Blanca since it is their flagship grape variety. But perhaps the most interesting element is a little further down the list that allows the certification of a type of wines called in Catalan “broken wines”.
The name refers to the white wines which are produced in contact with the “broken” or, the skins, stems and pips of grapes. This is a method of wine production that has gained prominence and popularity in recent years and is more commonly known internationally as ‘amber/orange wine’.
Via wine bars and especially restaurants, the style was seen more due to its gastronomic pairing capabilities and heavier weight. Although it seems like a modern trend, it has actually been produced historically in countless regions such as Georgia, Armenia, parts of Slovenia, and others. Terra Alta has been producing this style of wine for as long as anyone can remember, but in general the wines are lighter than what many others are producing.
As Núria Altés, co-owner of the winery, Herència Altés, told Decanter: “The people of the region have always drunk wine made in this style. People were actually more used to it than to the current style. It was much simpler to produce because you put everything in the tank to ferment together.
But the brisat style fell out of fashion in most parts of the world because it was often rightly considered more rustic and tannic. Since the inclusion of the skins allowed many faults to be hidden, it was also not always the best wine from a given cellar.
With only half a dozen wines produced in this style in Terra Alta, however, one wonders why they chose to include it now in their official statutes given that it seems to be a very small part of their overall production. .
DO President Joan Arrufí told Decanter: “We have many more wines that will be released soon because many winemakers have returned to these wines, but this time using modern winemaking techniques, allowing traditional “brisats” but with more finesse and compatibility with current tastes. We wanted to include it in this revision of the plc (statutes) in order to reflect this history of our region as well as its evolution, and also because it is clear to us that the wine-loving public is more and more interested in these wines.
Once the new version of their statutes is fully approved (scheduled for mid-2022), any wine that can show traceability to the regulations will be allowed to be certified, regardless of vintage. The same will apply to 100% Garnatxa Blanca wines. And how they hold 1/3 of all the vineyard of this grape variety in the world, it is also the standard base for “brisat” wines.
In addition, it will make DO Terra Alta the first DO in all of Spain to have legal certification for this style of wine. Arrufí and others within the DO can’t say for sure, but they believe they could be the first regulatory designation in all of Europe to do so as well.
While reaction to the more orange wine segment can sometimes be controversial due to the widely varying strengths of the resulting wines, the fact that a DO shows a willingness to introduce legal certification speaks to their belief that they are is a market segment with growth potential. .