“Hmmm….. a Priorat…. it could be excellent, I hope this doesn’t disappoint” was the Saucy Dressings’ chief taster’s anticipatory comment.
“Good nose”, continued the Chief Taster, sniffing appreciatively. It smelled good, and, having poured out the purple-dark liquid, and sipped, we found it also good. It tasted of where it came from, the rocky heights of Catalonia. It tasted different, of itself. It tasted of stone, perhaps a little of rust. It tasted of iron… of blood…. a veritable Bismarck of a wine.
And as the evening developed in a warm, convivial kind of way, so did the wine. Small wonder this wine won a Bronze in the Decanter 2011 wine awards. It’s composed of 65% Garnacha, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 15% Syrah and 5% Cariñena grapes. 15% of the wine is aged for eight months in oak barrels and the final 85% of the wine is aged for eight months on fine lees.
Ralph had meanwhile told me:
Here we have another Priorat wine. This time I’d travelled to the area to buy white wine not red. I was looking for a wine called Les Brugueres – a white wine for red wine drinkers, but I ended up buying this red as well. They’ve had great fun with the creation of this wine, it’s almost a cocktail of grapes, and then they took out 15% of it, aged it, and reintroduced it. It’s as if they’d experimented, and then were surprised by their own success. This is different and it really works.
It certainly does. It will set you back £19 per bottle (from Ralph’s Wines Online), and it’s good with all kinds of red meat.
In the meantime I was curious about Priorats – so I did some research and this is what I discovered.
Short briefing about Priorat wines
Small region just south of Barcelona
The Priorat region (it’s a DOP/DOQ) is a small, remote, rugged and mountainous region just south of Barcelona. It’s grown and reduced in size, but now it covers just under 5,000 acres.
French influence in making Priorat wines
It’s always benefited from a French influence, initially being developed, nearly a thousand years ago, by French Carthusian monks; and being further developed in the last few decades by a Frenchman, René Barbier – he matures the wine for example in small oak barrels. He persuaded four other producers to develop and market their Priorat wine, with great success. Now, of course, there are many other producers.
The grapes used in Priorat wines and flavour they give
The most important grape in the Priorat mix is the Garnacha, seconded by the Cariñena. Both of these grapes give the wine a kind of rich, ‘red fruit’ flavour. Other, originally French, grapes habitually incorporated into the mix are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot.- depending on the proportions these give the wine a darker fruit flavour. Each producer makes his own mix of course, the best of which are robust, but balanced and sophisticated at the same time.
The terroir in Priorat
Additionally the soil gives Priorat wines a very particular taste. The vines seem to grow on some pretty challenging rock faces. It’s steep, slate soil (known locally as llicorella) – cool and damp for the vine roots – which gives a subtle stoney, pumice sort of flavour, complex tannins.
How to choose a good Priorat
- It will come from this stoney, mountainous soil – some parts of the Priorat region are similar to most vinyards, these produce less noteworthy wines
- The five original producers produce consistently reliable wines. They are Clos Mogador (René Barbier’s label), Clos Dofí, Clos de L’Obac, Clos Martinet, and Clos Erasmus – the name ‘clos’ means enclosed – as for example in a walled garden or vineyard – it was part of the rebranding of the area pioneered by Barbier.
- 2004 and 2010 are two of the best years, with 2012 and 2013 also being good years
- The Cariñena grape seems to add something special
- You get what you pay for! A 2010 from Clos Mogador will cost around 55 euros; one from Clos Erasmus could be three times the price!