Xarel·lo—sometimes written as Xarel-lo or Xarello—is a Spanish grape variety from Catalunya. It is used to produce various styles of wine, but is most often associated with sparkling Cava.
In the vineyard, the Xarel-lo grape is thick skinned. Its growing cycle is quite unremarkable, budding and ripening neither especially early nor late. Its berries are average size and light in color. The vine performs well at relatively low elevation, though it can also tolerate a wider than average variety of soil types and climatic conditions. Careful pruning is required to control yields and ensure quality. Xarel-lo is particularly susceptible to powdery mildew, downy mildew and coloure (shot berries), but with good resistance to other diseases.
Xarel-lo can produce wines with intense aromas and flavors, notably of earthy or herbal character.
Xarel-lo in Cava
This grape variety is most significant in the Penedès region in Catalunya, for the production of the traditional method sparkling wine known as Cava. Typically, Xarel-lo is blended with Macabeo (also known as Viura) and Parellada to form a base wine that will then undergo a secondary fermentation to give it its sparkle.
Like Champagne, Cava is made using the traditional method, wherein a blended base wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle. This is distinct from the tank method used in Prosecco, where the secondary fermentation takes place in large, sealed tanks.
Of the three primary Cava grapes, Xarel-lo brings balanced acidity and strong aromatics to the blend. This acidity gives the finest Cava its aging potential, making for particularly long-lived sparkling wines. The grape’s prominent earthy aromas make Cava a distinctive traditional-method sparkling wine.
Xarel-lo in Alella
The Xarel-lo grape is cultivated and widely used in the still white wines of the Denominación de Origen (DO) of Alella. The region is named for the town of Alella, located to the northeast Barcelona. Here, Xarel-lo is known as Pansa Blanca.
It is the region’s primary grape variety, though local rules state that Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay can also be cultivated. Alella wines were traditionally medium-sweet, though the modern style is for dry white wines. This region can also make sparkling wines under the Cava DO, of which Xarel-lo is naturally a primary ingredient.
Still white wines from Alella have refreshing acidity, with flavors of stone fruits and citrus, notably lemon and lime. Alella wines can show some of the herbal hints that Xarel-lo brings to Cava.
Synonyms for Xarel-lo, other than those mentioned above, include Cartoixa, Cartuja, Cartuxa, Moll, Pansa, Pansal, Pansalat, Pansalet, Pansar, Pensal, Prensa Blanco, Vinate and Vinyater.
If sparkling wine is your preference, you’ll find plenty of options for wines that use the Xarel-lo grape in our online Buying Guide below. Wine Enthusiast’s tasting experts share their ratings and feedback on the top wines throughout the world, making it easy for you to find the next bottle to take home.