Fortified Friday: Celler Espelt Airam
During my recent visit to Catalunya I encountered a wine style I haven’t tasted before. It’s called Vi Ranci which literally means ‘rancid wine’. Sounds good, right? Here’s where things get complicated…
It’s not produced in any specific area, like sherry for example. It seems that these vi ranci wines can be found from Roussillon, France all the way down to Valencia. Now that’s almost 600km so forget any talk about terroir. It’s made from grapes but other than that it can be red or white, doesn’t matter, after some heavy oxidation it all turns to brown anyways. It can either be sweet, dry or anything in between, fortified or unfortified. So, basically it’s a wine that just doesn’t give a shit. A true punk rock wine. So faulty that it’s actually good. At least this is what I’ve been told. I tried to search for some information about vi ranci, or rancio as some people call it, but even the almighty Google was stumped. So, I’m not sure if any rules apply to vi ranci. Like does it have to be fortified or not. Is Fondillón a vi ranci? If there’s someone reading this who knows more about this subject please drop a comment. I would love to learn more about this.
Why haven’t I heard about vi ranci before? Well, probably because it’s not exactly export friendly. Quantities are low and it has this distinctive rank that will make a grown man cry. Something between Oloroso sherry and battery acid with a 'may cause anal leakage' warning written on the back label.
But let’s taste this Airam wine shall we… First smell, disappointing. No unholy odors, no cloth-soaked-in-chloroform effect. This actually smells good! I thought this would bite my nose off or something but it has this nutty aroma with some lovely fruit. Let’s taste it. Hmm…maybe lacking a bit of a kick in the acidity department but still quite well balanced. A delightful little fortified wine. Nice!
Some maybe could argue that Airam is not a “proper” vi ranci since it’s actually pretty good. Either way, I liked it. I did taste one other rancilicious wine on my trip. Don’t know who made it but it was in a two liter jug (picture here) and had a taste that could wake up the dead. I mean, rough juice! What started as a sophisticated dinner ended up with me and three friends of mine, drinking straight from the jug and going for a swim at 3:30am (despite the ‘no swimming allowed’ sign and the jellyfish infested water). Definitely not the smartest thing I’ve done this year but that moment will go down in history as one of my all-time favorite fortified wine memories. Long live vi ranci!