Carles Alonso is the kind of guy a lot of winemakers wish they were. Forgoing a career in finance and banking, he made a huge life change. Starting in 1979, Carles opted to pursue a more purist lifestyle; he built a stone house into the mountainside amid the tiny Catalunya hamlet of Els Vilars, in the shadow of the Pyrenees, not too far from the French border.
For his unique Carriel dels Vilars selections, Carles ferments in aerospace-grade, ceramic-tile-lined cement vats to give himself more peace of mind while working without SO2. He crafts wines of the utmost purity from 2.5 hectares, grown on slate, of a co-fermented field blend based on garnatxa and syrah, with a little cabernet sauvignon and carinyena to round it out.
Élevage happens in stainless steel, as Carles doesn’t believe his wine needs to touch wood at any point in its lifespan. This is also why he bottles in used Freixenet Cava bottles with crown caps; he doesn’t want anything to do with cork either. His wines are definitely fruit-forward–somewhat rich and high in alcohol–yet they offer a licorice-tinged, herbal complexity that draws you back for more. For me, this wine would shine on a stormy night, the colder the better, with a spicy lamb braise.
It wasn’t very long ago that Carles struggled to sell his product–nobody really knew anything about him or his wines. Now, he’s become “famous,” thanks to his nonconformist ways and high-quality results. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any back vintages to sell. This is not surprising, considering how little wine he makes each year from those low-lying, low-yielding old vines that are struggling to produce fruit from what little slate dust surrounds them.
Carles is the only year-round resident among the roughly 10 different domiciles within the town limits. He also didn’t have electricity to work with until 2012! Crazy, right? This is the kind of guy I would love to have dinner with. He seems likely to have a memorable story or two, and a few opinions to share as well. He is truly an iconoclast without pretension: forging his own path, making wines how he wants to, and living out his ideals in brazen fashion. That mustache has some clout, too!
These are the kinds of wines that get me excited about being in the wine business, even if they aren’t exactly the grapes I normally drink, or the style of wine that I usually gravitate toward. I can’t help but be stoked on people like Carles Alonso who are crafting natural products from the earth. It requires an enormous amount of passion, skill, and perseverance to succeed year in and year out. This renegade winemaker boasts all of these qualities. Visit us at Paul Marcus Wines, and discover him for yourself.
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