Xarel·lo: Catalonia’s Hidden Treasure For Cava And Beyond

Discover Xarel·lo (pronounced sha-rel-lo), a white grape variety largely unknown outside its native Catalonia, Spain. Renowned locally for its integral role in the production of Cava, Spain’s famous sparkling wine, Xarel·lo is also starting to gain recognition for the high-quality still wines it produces, revealing the true versatility of this indigenous variety.

A Brief History

Xarel·lo has been cultivated in the Penedès region of Catalonia for centuries and is considered one of the traditional grapes used in the production of Cava, along with Macabeo and Parellada. Despite its historic association with sparkling wine, Xarel·lo is now being appreciated for its capacity to produce intriguing, complex still wines, heralding a new chapter in its long history.


In the vineyard, Xarel·lo is appreciated for its resilience. It is a late-ripening variety with thick skins, which help it withstand the region’s hot summers. This thick skin contributes to its natural acidity, which is a key characteristic both in the production of Cava and in the increasingly popular still wines.

Flavour Profile

Xarel·lo wines are known for their complex aromatic profile, boasting flavors of ripe apple, pear, and citrus, underpinned by distinct herbal and floral undertones. With aging, they can develop more nuanced notes of honey, nuts, and baked bread. Notably, Xarel·lo wines often exhibit a characteristic minerality, reflecting the limestone soils common in Catalonia.

Different Styles of Wine

Xarel·lo is used in a range of wine styles. Its high acidity and structure make it a crucial component in traditional Cava blends, contributing freshness and aging potential. Meanwhile, still Xarel·lo wines can range from crisp and aromatic young wines to rich, full-bodied wines that have been aged in oak and on their lees, displaying great complexity and an impressive capacity for aging.

Wine Making and Maturation Options

In the winery, Xarel·lo’s adaptability shines. For fresh and crisp styles, winemakers may opt for stainless steel fermentation and avoid malolactic fermentation. In contrast, oak fermentation or maturation, lees aging, and allowing malolactic fermentation can result in fuller-bodied, more complex wines. Xarel·lo’s high acidity and structure also make it suitable for extended aging, both on lees in the bottle for Cava and in oak barrels for still wines.

Important Regions

Xarel·lo is almost exclusively grown in Catalonia, Spain. The Penedès region is the most important and widely recognized for this grape, given its role in Cava production. Other regions in Catalonia, such as Alella, also cultivate Xarel·lo and contribute to its diverse expressions.

Food Pairing Suggestions

Thanks to its high acidity and often complex flavors, Xarel·lo is very food-friendly. Fresh, young Xarel·lo wines pair well with light seafood dishes, green salads, and citrus-based sauces. Aged, fuller-bodied Xarel·lo can stand up to richer fare, such as roasted poultry, creamy risottos, and even mildly spiced curries.

With every sip, Xarel·lo takes you on a journey through Catalonia’s rich wine heritage, offering a unique expression of this vibrant region.

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Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

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