Over the years I have tasted hundreds of wines that claim to have been produced without the addition of sulphur and as a rule they were vile. A few have been just about drinkable, but I have yet to find one that I would be happy to drink. Until now that is … and guess what? It’s a Cava …
I try to approach every wine objectively, but as I opened the Albet i Noya 2013 Brut Natural NOSODOS+, past experience told me the odds were that it might not even survive a quick sniff before I tossed it down the sink. So you can imagine my surprise when I found the nose to be absolutely clean and devoid of any oxidative notes. What a good start! With my spirits raised, I settled down to evaluate this exception to the rule in greater detail.
Technically NOSODOS+ is not a Cava, as Albet i Noya now prefers to emphasise the geographic origin of its sparkling wines through the Penedès DO and I have to admit that this wine clearly reflects the typicity of its Penedès-grown Xarel-lo, with its citrus-apricot fruit leading to a characteristic phenolic twist on the finish.
It was a smart decision to opt for 100% Xarel-lo, not only because this grape is the best of Cava’s three traditional varieties, but also because it offers the greatest ageing capacity and is particularly high in the antioxidant resveratrol. Everything is relative, of course. In am not claiming that Albet i Noya’s NOSODOS+ will be longlived. Nor am I suggesting it should be cellared. Quite the opposite in fact. However, when you produce a brut natural, a style that does not age well in it itself, you need to retain its youth. The importance, therefore, of Xarel-lo’s potential to age longer than Cava’s two other traditional varieties (Parellada and Macabeo) is not about the long term, but more about its ability to keep a wine as fresh and as vibrant as possible in the short term, while the antioxidant properties of its resveratrol content should help offset the lack of any added sulphur.
When I tasted NOSODOS+ I was amazed. Too amazed in fact. When something is too good to be true, it often turns out not to be true, which is why I asked Lance Piggott of Vintage Roots, who imports Albet i Noya, for an analysis. If you click on the PDF of this ananlysis below you will see it states that NOSDOS+ wine contains 6mg/l of Total SO2, which is well within the norms of sulphur produced during a normal fermentation (up to 10mg/l can commonly be found).
The problem with most low or no sulphur wines is that they are not the result of rigorously tried and tested low or no sulphur regimes. Most are made by people who think they can simply cut down or eliminate the addition of sulphur, but to succeed the entire production process must be tailored to end up with a wine that does not need the amount of sulphur that it and other similar wines in the range previously required. Low sulphur regimes start from the ground up, putting an emphasis on producing meticulously clean fruit in the vineyard because initially sulphur is used more to neutralise bacteria than to combat oxidation. They finish with controlling the Total Package Oxygen in preparation for final corking. What happens between these two extremes can involve a raft of precautionary measures, but from the 2013 NOSODOS+ it would seem that Albet i Noya have checked all the boxes.
I’m not going to over gild the lily. This is not a great sparkling wine, but it is a very good Cava. It is pristine, light, fresh and fruity sparkling wine with a mousse that has just the right balance between softness and energy. I did not just taste the NOSODOS+, I drank it, and I tested it over several days by resealing it and storing it in the fridge, fully expecting this no sulphur fizz to fall apart on day two, but it was still drinking well on day three. It did not last until day four, not because it fell apart, but because there was none left. I had drunk it all!