A Great Location:Priorat is found in the hills of Catalunya. Interestingly, the vines grow on a unique soil of red slate mixed with tiny bits of mica. This soil, known as llicorella, is excellent at reflecting heat. As a result, the vines receive good signals for ripening, and avoid frost damage despite being up in the hills. Being on a slope ensures that the grapes get maximum levels of sunshine. It’s a fantastic site.
The Kind of Wine that Priorat Produces:
Traditional:Classic Priorat is a very alcoholic wine. It is made from Garnacha and Cari?ena vines with very small yields, and it’s aged for an extended period of time. Some examples have even used soleras. The process tends to give them qualities of hung meat and fungi. That’s not to knock this style, as there’s a time and a place for that sort of wine as ‘Tio Pepe Shows Sherry’s Savoury Side’ makes clear.
The New Style:This is the style that’s been making the headlines. Since encouraging experimentation with other styles, Priorat has earned the highest classification in the Spanish wine system, DOC. In fact, to know that you’re getting a good specimen, look for ‘DOC’ on the label. What makes the difference is the addition of non-Spanish grapes. Often the wine still includes Garnacha and Cari?ena, but they appear alongside Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, Priorat wines have a really strong bramble flavour. It’s also possible to detect new oak, but the big tannin and pronounced fruit character mean that these wines have great ageing potential. By all means buy them to drink, but considering improving a few with age.
Good Priorat Wine to Try:
- Ferrer Bobet Vinyes Velles shows how a little experimentation pays off. It mainly uses Cari?ena and Garnacha but with Cabernet Sauvignon as well. The tasting notes include lots of red fruit flavour, and some minerality as well. There’s a good balance between acidity and tannin too. As a result, the bottle picked up 92 points from Robert Parker, 92 from Vinous and 95 from Guía Peñín.
- Barranc Dels Comellars mixes things up even more. The bottle uses Black Grenache in a mix with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Expect more plummyness from the merlot along with the bramble and tannin provided by the Cabernet Sauvignon. Guía Peñín gave it 89 points.
- Coma Blanca really is very different. It’s white, for a start. Yet the experiment has payed off, as Robert Parker gave the bottle 93 points. It’s a spicy white which would go well with curries, and particularly those with roasted meat, as it has a fuller body for a white.
- L’Ermita 2000 Magnum is for really pushing the boat out. Not only is magnum bottle an ideal size for special occasions, but it picked up an incredibly rare 100 points with Guía Peñín! Mind you, the 2000 vintage will set you back €1600. That’s how good it is, but if you’re looking for a bargain from a wine with good pedigree, there are other vintages available.
Explore the Wider Region:Just around the corner from Priorat is Penèdes. There have been some interesting developments in the wine industry there too, as biodynamic wines have taken off in the area. Read ‘Recaredo Aloers 2010: The First Penedés Wine Certified With The Demeter Biodynamic Farming’ to find out more.