When Albert Domingo sees me searching around for a spittoon, he nods toward the nearest sapling. “Spit on the tree,” he says with an earnest shrug. “It will totally make his day.”
I try not to laugh as I jet a mouthful of his Chenin Blanc onto the small patch of dirt at the tree’s base. We’re standing in the shade of his tent on Carrer de Verdi in Gràcia at the Vins de la Vila festival –designed more for drinking than for professional tasting–where he’s promoting his line of wines from Celler Tuets. From the first taste, I can tell I’ve stumbled upon something great.
Albert’s small but impressive line of wines and cavas have that signature vivacity that are often the mark of natural wines. Albert only has six wines on his label, all monovarietals: three whites (made from White Grenache, Chenin Blanc, and Parellada), one red (a Syrah), a sweet made from Chenin Blanc and an ancestral (sparkling wine) made from Moscatel de Alejandria. Each is distinctive and memorable. It’s rare that months after trying a wine I can recall tasting notes with such precision and clarity. Albert’s wines are like this.
With a headful of thick, sandy blonde rastas and piercing blue eyes, Albert plays the part of rebel winemaker well. But his manner is soft-spoken and gentle, and his approach exceedingly humble. Here, you think, is a simple guy who just wants to make excellent wine in his own way. That way, it turns out, is low intervention, largely sulfite and additive-free, fermented with natural yeasts, and finished with minimal clarification and filtering. These would be freaky wines, as they say. Yet, on the palate, they’re exceptionally clean and bright, bringing forth clear floral and fruit notes in the whites that strays from the tart, cider-like aromas that turn away many a natural wine skeptic. In short, they’re a beautiful entry point into the natural wine arena.
Located in Tarragona’s Alt Camp, a stone’s throw from the denomination of Conca de Barbará, the winery’s location off the beaten path makes it a bit far for a visit. Luckily, natural wine bars are springing up fast and furious in the city, so there’s no excuse not to try these hidden gems.
What to try: It’s rare that I get to enjoy a good Chenin Blanc (9€) in Spain, so I’m a bit partial to it for its notes of mature tropical fruits like mango and pineapple and the clear vegetal snap of fennel to balance it out. But for a comparable local taste, try the tropical Garnatxa Blanca (9€), nicely rounded and complex, filled with a juicy nose of grapefruit, pineapple, and white flowers.
Where to find it: Garage Bar (Carrer de Calàbria, 75), Rebelot (Carrer del Baluard, 54), Vins and Co (Carrer d’Aribau, 177).