By Marco Giovanetti
The Priorat region is located in the south of Catalunya (Catalonia), in the province of Tarragona, includes the municipalities of La Morera de Montsant, Scala Dei, La Villeda, Gratallops Bellmunt, Porrera, Poboleda, Torroja, Lloa, Falset and Mola.
In Priorat some of the Spain and world’s best wines are produced. A revolution in the 1970’s and 1980’s brought new methods and tools to the region and since then the wines have kept getting better and better and today they are among the very best wines in the world.
The secret behind the excellent wines of the district is an excellent terroir, but also the fact that over the last decades the winemakers in Priorat have modernized the winemaking process.
Today Priorat is the only Spanish wine district together with Rioja that has obtained the prestigious “qualified” denomination. Therefore it says D.O.Q (“Denominació de Origen Qualificada” in Catalan, since 2001) on the bottles from Priorat and Rioja, while wines from other Spanish areas say simply D.O. The Priorat district is famous for its strong red wines made of the Cariñena (Carignan) and Garnacha (Grenache) grapes. These grapes are often combined with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in the area.
The wine district has two thousand years of history. Tarragona, located east of Priorat, was the Roman capital of Tarraconense and already the Romans began making wine in the Priorat area. So Priorat has been producing wine for at least 2000 years.
Priorat was occupied by the Saracens in the beginning of the 8th century and controlled by the Moors until the XIIth century. Priorat preserves vestiges such as the oldest mosque in Catalonia and in the beautiful city of Siurana there is a famous church built in Romanesque style in the 12th century.
The district gets its name from the Cartheusian order who founded a monastery in the region in the end of the 12th century. Today remains from the monastery, Cartuja de Santa María de Escaladei, can still be visited close to the winery Scala Dei, taking name from the Cartheusian monastery.
But over the past 20 years, Priorat has undergone a major change, probably bigger than the changes happening over the last two thousand years. In the 1980’s and especially through the 1990’s the wine makers of Priorat changed their methods and equipments and began a more professional approach to wine.
The head of the pioneers was René Barbier, who trained Alvaro Palacios among others. Today the wines are renowned for using the old Garnacha and Cariñena grapes (usually mixed with a little cabernet sauvignon and Syrah) and for the mineral taste coming from the soil.
The district has some 3000 hours of sunshine and less than 380 mm rainfall per year. The soil is rich in slate and the vines are in general old (more than 30 years old, in L’Ermita you will see Garnacha vines that were planted 70 years ago).
The soil, which is rare in the Iberian Peninsula, is rich in slate Carboniferous period, occupying a large part of the center of the region. This type of soil, that looks hard, consists of small and thin layers of slate, known as Llicorella. The vineyard is planted on terraces and steep slopes. These are some of the secrets behind the unique wines coming from the area.
When it comes to Priorat, it is not a cheap proposition. Most wines at the SAQ will cost between $40-$60. Top cuvees from famous producers will cost over $100. The wine tends to be expensive due to the high production costs in the region and limited supply with high demand. However, it is a very important region to discover for any wine lover.
Many thanks to Francois Blouin from Vintrinsec for the sample of Barranc del Closos.
Cheers, good health and see you next week for more wine adventures!!!!
Priorat wines of the week:
Mas Igneus Barranc Del Closos 2012 ( White wine). Code SAQ : 10857729. Price: $22.55
Very floral nose reminding me of nutmeg with spices and jammy yellow fruit. With time it develops notes of wet and dusty minerality. In the mouth, it is very elegant with a retronasal that reminds me of ground spices and more yellow fruits. In addition, the wine display a good acidity and tension. It shows a lot of volume with a with a nice bitter mineral finish that bring freshness to the whole wine. 90\100. QPR
Food Match: Grilled oven lobster, seafood platter, aperitif.
Ferrer Bobet Vieilles Vignes 2010. ( Red Wine). Code SAQ : 11953763. Price : $56.75
A very evolved bouquet that shows aromas of soya sauce, dry mushrooms with hints of leather and toasted cofee beans. In addition, roasted black fruits with nuances of black pepper and a superb mineral signature Oak well integrated. In the mouth, flavors remind me of smoky red fruit and more minerality. Very elegant wine with a long persistence in the mouth. Drink now or keep over the next 10 years 95\100.
Food Match: Oxtail stew, wild boar terrine.
Alvaro Palacios. Finca Dofi 2009. ( Red wine). Code SAQ : 00705764. Price: $64.50
Complex nose. Fine aromas of oak, raspberry red fruit with a distinctive mineral profile and notes of black truffles and morilles mushrooms. In the mouth, full body with an almost perfect balance. Silky tannis. A wine a lot of potential, in a dumb phase at the moment. Drink now or keep over the 15 years. 97\100.
Food Match: Confit de Canard Parmentier.