Xarel-lo is a light-skinned grape from Catalonia, northeastern Spain, and is one of the region's most widely planted varieties. It is used to make various wine styles, but it is best known for its role in sparkling Cava, in which it is typically blended with two other classic Spanish grapes varieties, Macabeo and Parellada.
In the Catalan language, the variety's name is written with an interpunct dot (Xarel·lo), but in other languages this is either replaced with a hyphen (Xarel-lo) or removed entirely (Xarello).
Xarel-lo is valued by winemakers for the acid structure it brings to wines, and stands out as one of Spain's finest white-wine varieties. It has thick skins, is high in polyphenols, and its juice offers an excellent balance of sugars and acids. It is also high in the antioxidant resveratrol, as shown by joint studies between the enology department of UC Davis and the pharmacology department of the University of Barcelona. It is largely responsible for the age-worthiness of the finest Cavas.
In the vineyard, Xarel-lo vines could be viewed as relatively pedestrian and mediocre. The variety buds and ripens neither early nor late in the season, and produces berries of average size. It is not particularly fussy about soil composition, and can tolerate a wide range of climatic conditions, making it as popular with grapegrowers as it is with winemakers (only very few varieties can successfully keep both parties happy). From a viticultural perspective Xarel-lo's stand-out drawback is its elevated sensitivity to poor fruit set (coulure) and mildew (both powdery and downy).
Although best known as a sparkling-wine grape, Xarel-lo is also used in dry table wines. These are produced mostly around the town of Alella, just a few miles northeast of Barcelona. These interesting wines are highly regarded for their bracing, lemon-like acidity and stonefruit flavors. The still wines are very textural, often with slightly vegetal characteristics on the palate. One of the distinctive qualities of Xarel-lo grown in Alella, both in sparkling and still format, is its lime-cordial flavor and aroma. The fragrance surpasses the more ubiquitous lime-blossom scent.
Food matches for Xarel-lo include:
Snails with garlic butter
Vietnamese summer rolls with prawn