When the news came out about Alberta going into lockdown again, I immediately activated my pandemic response plan.  No, I did not stock up on toilet paper and sourdough starters, or even start digging a bunker in the backyard.  Realizing that I would not be leaving the house for an extended period, I reached out to my friendly neighbourhood booze merchant and ordered a few cases of wine for delivery right to my door.

As you might imagine, I have developed a friendly rapport with the local purveyors of potables over the years, so they have gotten to know my purchasing habits, and will often make suggestions about new products.  Knowing that I would be drinking solo while isolated at home, I called my favourite long-suffering wine clerk, providing him with a welcome respite from an in-store customer insisting that masks were just for sissies, and the whole pandemic was an illuminati hoax anyway.

Throwing caution to the wind, I let the fates decide what I will be drinking during isolation, asking my favourite wine clerk to assemble one assorted case of Old World wines, and one assorted case of Canadian wines.  

The delivery arrived the next day, and I was quivering with anticipation to learn what surprises were in store for my solo tippling, with only the flickering light of my Zoom video call with my regular pandemic drinking crowd joining in over the interwebs.

There were a few reliable old standards in there, but the most delightful surprise was a Spanish wine made from the Trepat grape.  For those not familiar with the varietal, Trepat is a red grape that is native to the Catalonia region of northern Spain.

The Trepat grape is most commonly used as a blending grape in rosé wines, or as a component of the sparkling Spanish wines known as Cava.  However, I received a bottle of single-varietal Trepat, perhaps with small amounts of other grape varietals added for balance.  As an ancient grape, the origins of Trepat have been lost to the wine-soaked mists of time, but the grape is believed to have been first cultivated in days of the Roman Empire, more than two millenia ago, when the region was referred to as the Roman province of Hispania.

The phylloxera blight that destroyed most of the vineyards of Europe in the late 1880s nearly wiped out all the plantings of Trepat, but like the other ancient varietals, it survived by grafting the vines onto louse-resistant American rootstock.  After the vineyards of Europe started to recover in the early 1900s, the Catalonia wine region of Spain concentrated on producing sparkling Cava, so most of the Trepat plantings went to sparkling rosé wines.

When bottled as a single varietal, Trepat is low in alcohol and tannins, with a fresh and fruity finish.  The label on my bottle did not spell it out, but I suspect the winemaker added a bit of Garnacha or Tempranillo to balance out the flavour profile and add some tannic backbone to the wine.  Those Old World wine labels can be confusing even to well-seasoned boozers like myself, only specifying the wine region, but not necessarily the grape varietals in the bottle.

The last time I enjoyed a bottle of Trepat was on vacation in Barcelona many years ago, so kudos to my friendly neighbourhood booze merchant for surprising me with this blast from the past, a welcome memory of those carefree pre-COVID days when I could see more of the world than just the edge of the back yard.

While I have many other mystery bottles to be enjoyed for the first time in these assorted cases, this bottle of Trepat reminded me how much value can be found in Spanish wines.  The Old World trifecta of France / Italy / Spain have always been well represented in my wine cellar, but Spanish wines provide particularly good value for money, much to the chagrin of the snooty French winemakers just across the border that like to charge higher prices for wines produced just a few kilometers apart.  

If anyone needs me before the vaccine is ready for the general population, I will be hiding out the wine cellar with only a Zoom conference for company.  If you would like to do the same, contact your friendly neighbourhood booze merchant for curbside pickup or delivery!

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Nick Jeffrey

Nick Jeffrey

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