As you read this, the first olives are being pressed and bottled as oli nou—an atomic bomb of liquid gold that sells out fast. And, with Sant Marti on November 11th, the first pigs of the season are traditionally slaughtered, hailing a season of porky deliciousness for the long winter months to come. But most importantly, the vi novell is released.
Those who follow all things wine-related might know this better as the vins de primeur in France and have probably tasted the most famous of the lot, Beaujolais nouveau, which have a rabid band of followers. Despite 55 AOC regions making vins de primeur north of us, the French don’t have a lock on this and Catalunya celebrates its own first release of wines starting in the second half of November.
It’s important to understand these wines are very different from those released with longer aging cycles. As the wine has just barely become wine it is still prone to continue fermentation. Thus, when opening up a bottle, you’ll typically get a waft of CO2 and might even find a little bit of effervescence in the bottle. The flavour profile is light, fresh, and incredibly accessible, making it a wine that all level of drinkers can immediately enjoy. And immediately you must, as the wines are intended to be consumed within the first part of the year after their release. Aging vi novell will not win any taste points.
There are vi novell festivals in most of the wine producing regions, from Empordà to Pla de Bages, and from Penedès to Terra Alta. The fun also comes to Barcelona in the form of a festival that has taken place every November at Vila Viniteca in the Born since 1994 (see www.vilaviniteca.es for more information).
In this onslaught of bottles from all over the region, I generally pick out the Vi Novell from Celler El Masroig in DO Montsant as one of my favourites. Each year features a different pork-centric design as a homage to how the wine was traditionally drunk as part of the first pig slaughter. This cellar also makes a big effort to educate the public about the history of the wine.
Celler El Masroig Vi Novell 2013 €6
It holds red fruit notes in the nose along with a freshness that transitions in to the body and makes for a wine that’s very much alive in the mouth. A very approachable and versatile wine for immediate consumption which fits just about any table and meal.
Miquel Hudin is originally from California but now based in Barcelona. He founded the Vinologue enotourism series of wine books (www.vinologue.com).