Tasting #241 May 31, 2022, 12:30pm Priorat and Penedès, Catalonia Wine Region
Jorge Requena, Jairo Sanchez y Alberto Gomez
1st. Seafood salad
2nd. Prociutto and Melone
3rd. Three mature cheeses from Spain and Italy:
Manchego, sheep, Spain
Idiazabal, Cow, Spain, and
Pecorino Romano, sheep Italy
4th Grilled tenderloin with wine sauce, and grilled vegetables, mainly sparagus.
- 2018 Clos Mogador Vinya Classificada Gratallops. DOQ Priorat
- 2017 Ferrer Bobet, Vinyes Velles DOQ Priorat
- 2018 Mas Martinet – Bru DOQ Priorat
- Villa Conchi Cava, Brut Selección
To get acquainted with Catalonian Wine Region, main grapes, wines and styles in the Priorat and Penedès “Denominaciones de Origen Protegido” (DOP).
The Region was selected for having international recognition for Spain wine quality, diversity and tradition in grape production and wine-making. Wines were selected with criteria for local availability in Washington DC area and representing Catalonia’s Priorat and Penedès DOPs. Tasting will be blind to wine costs and serving order, to enhance identification of wine quality and attributes.
Location. The Catalan wine region is located along the Mediterranean coast in northeastern Spain and is strongly influenced by its Mediterranean climate. Along the coast temperatures are warm with moderate rainfall but conditions become progressively more arid further inland. The majority DOPs lie to the south of the distinctive peaks of the Montserrat Massif, while smaller plantations lie to the north of Barcelona and south of the French border at the Pyrenees.
Climate. The region is marked by warm climates along the coast and cooler temperatures through the foothills up to plateaus of more than 610 m. above sea level. The area has a diversity of soil types, mostly calcareous sediments mixed with alluvium and clay. Some of the most acclaimed vineyards in the region are found on scattered limestone deposits in the area.
Catalonia grapes and Wines. The wines of the Catalan wine region include sparkling Cava, dry white wines and powerful reds. The grapes of the region include the Cava and white wine grapes of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo and the red wine grapes of Garnacha, Cariñena, Monastrell and Tempranillo. The production of sparkling white wine is the largest contributor to the Catalan wine industry, followed by production of still red and white wines. While the majority of the region’s wines are the Cava blends, many varietal wines are also produced.
DOs in Catalonia. The Catalan wine region includes 10 DOPs (Denominación de Origen Protegida), of which one, the Priorat, is a Denominació d’Origen Qualificada (DOCa or DOQ): (Alella, Conca de Barberà, Costers del Segre, Empordà, Montsant, Penedès, Pla de Bages, Priorat, Tarragona,and Terra Alta. The Catalunya DOP is an umbrella appellation that covers the entire region for wines that do not fall under any other DOP designation.
Priorat wine DOP
The Priorat wine DOP is located in the Catalonia region, just inland from the Mediterranean port city of Tarragona. The Montsant mountain chain dominates the region, with vineyards situated between 330 feet above sea level in the valleys of Bellmunt del Priorat and el Molar up to 2,500 feet above sea level on the slopes of La Morera de Montsant and Porrera. This small, geographically inhospitable wine region produces some of the country’s most powerful red wines.
Many vineyards are located on costers (Catalan for “steep slope”) with a typical gradient of 15 and up to 60 percent, so terracing is common, and vineyards are often too steep and narrow for machine-harvesting. The slate soil on the slopes is known as llicorella due to its dark color and is the main feature of the soil’s terroir and the success of its native grapes.
History. The Priorat wine region has a long history, and it first began producing wine over 900 years ago. Priorat’s winemaking history begins in the twelfth century, when Carthusian monks from Provence established their priory, Cartoixa d’Escaladei in the region’s center. In 1980, the Clos, small walled-in vineyard spots meant for producing high-quality wines were introduced. These typically wines are labeled with the names of the individual mini-vineyards, such as Clos Erasmus, Clos Mogador, Clos de l’Obac, Clos Dofi (now Finca Dofi) and Clos Martinet. In the years 2000s Priorat became the second region in Spain, after Rioja, to receive the designation DOCa.
Climate. The climate here is remarkably continental, given its relative proximity to the Mediterranean. The official Priorat viticultural area covers 11 parishes located just inland from the city of Tarragona. Summers are long, hot and dry, and annual rainfall averages 500mm. The particular combination of geographical factors makes this one of Spain’s warmest, driest areas.
Topography and soil. A tiny mountainous region, rugged and dry, pretty much unsuitable for any other crop, except for wine grapes and olives. Soil is of paramount importance to winemakers in Priorat as this is reputed to impart much of the minerality associated with the region’s wines. Priorat’s flagship soil type is “llicorella” – a free-draining, nutrient-poor soil made up of partially-decomposed slate and quartz.
Priorat grapes. Red grape varieties are by far the most popular in Priorat, accounting for 93 percent of plantings: Garnacha (41%) is rich and juicy, it adds body and density to red blends and holds its own as a varietal wine; Cariñena (23%) adds depth, intensity, and fruit flavors to red blends; Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) is permitted in Priorat blends, it can add structure; Syrah (10%) is permitted for blending, it makes for a full-bodied wine and adds earthiness; Merlot (6%) is also permitted in Priorat red blends, it adds a certain roundness; Garnacha Blanca (5%) while white wines aren’t common in Priorat, they do exist, and most come from this light-skinned version of Garnacha; Macabeo (1%) is the second most planted white wine grape in northern Spain, its mild flavor makes it a useful blending grape for cavas and rosés; Pedro Ximénez (0.5%) used in sweet, fortified wines.
Tasting of Priorat wines. Sun-dried red and black plum, black cherry, and cassis (red and black currant) dominate the aroma profile of high-quality Priorat red wine. Beyond the fruit, you’ll notice a distinct, “black stone” or “hard rock” minerality that some experts relate to the iconic llicorella slate soils of the region. The typical structure of Priorat offers soft, moderate acidity matched with big, brawny tannins, and relatively high alcohol (usually in the 14% and up ABV). Additional flavors might include some smoked salt, and spiced notes (cinnamon, cardamom, molasses), often with a somewhat herbal-minty or licorice-anisette finish. The finer the Priorat, the more harmoniously intense and polychromatic the taste profile will be, often traveling through several different stages of flavor (i.e., fruit, to savory, to spiced).
Wine regulations. Current Priorat production laws only recognize a so-called “Vino de guarda” in which a red wine must spend a minimum of 12 months in oak prior to bottling. Most red Priorat wines conform to this standard. Fermentado en Barrica or Barrica indicate the wine has been fermented or aged in barrels of 600 liters or less. The term Roble is often accompanied by the length of time (in months or years) the wine has spent in barrels of 600 liters or less.
DOQ Priorat is pushing a new qualification of wines produced in their wineries.
Introduced in 2019, “Los Nombres de la Tierra” is Priorat’s unique classification system. It has five tiers: 1.-DOQ. 2.-Vins de Vila.3.-Paratge. 4.-Vinnia Classificada. 5.-Gran Vinia Classificada
DOQ Priorat has just over 2.000 hectares of vineyards, grown by 535 producers and 109 wineries. Vine cultivation and wine making are the main economic activities of the appellation’s villages.
Best years: Outstanding (2010, 2004), Good (2013, 2012, 2009, 2008, 2005)
Penedès wine DOP
The most important viticultural area in Catalonia, northeastern Spain, in terms of both volumes produced and the diversity of wine styles. Its Penedès DO title covers dry, sweet and sparkling styles (red, white and rosé). Its vineyards also generate vast quantities of Spain’s flagship sparkling wine, Cava.
Penedès is a former administrative district in the coastal hills between Barcelona and Tarragona. It lies just a few miles down the Mediterranean coastline from Barcelona. Such proximity to Spain’s second-largest city provides the wine industry with a significant local market. It also offers a gateway to export destinations via its busy port.
History. The region’s long viticultural history began when the Romans arrived in the area. The region’s wines attracted little attention, and were rarely exported. It wasn’t until the 20th Century that they began attracting attention on export markets. In 1960 the Penedès DO was introduced, followed almost immediately by sweeping changes in the region’s approach to quality wine production. The introduction of stainless-steel tanks and temperature-controlled fermentations ushered in a new era of cleaner winemaking, complemented by experimentation with non-traditional grape varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Climate. The climate is Mediterranean, with warm summers, mild winters and moderate rainfall concentrated mostly in spring and autumn. Due to the complex topography of the coastal hills, however, there is notable climatic variation from site to site, allowing winemakers to generate a relatively wide range of wine types.
Broadly speaking, Penedès can be divided into three climatic sub-zones: Baix Penedès, lower-lying, warmer areas, and specializes in the production of full-bodied red wines. Medio Penedès is the transitional area between the two. Alt Penedès lies higher up in the hills, between 500 and 800 meters. In the cooler conditions here, the freshest white wine styles are produced
Topography and soil. The region has a highly varied geology characterized by very poor-quality, well-drained soils. The sandy, clay-like soil is poor in organic matter and rocky in the main, the pre-litoral upland. Coastal mountains are mostly limestone.
Penedès grapes. Red Penedès wines have traditionally been made from such classic Spanish grape varieties as Garnacha, Cariñena, Monastrell and Tempranillo but the local winemakers are increasingly turning to the “international” Bordeaux varieties Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The white wines are made from the varieties otherwise used for Cava: Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo, and more recently Chardonnay.
Cava grape varieties. Macabeo makes up around half of a typical Cava blend – not because of its flavor (quite bland), but because it represents a viticultural insurance policy. Macabeo vines bud relatively late in the spring, ensuring that their flowers and grapes are safe from early frosts.
The interesting, slightly earthy flavors that distinguish Cava from most Champagnes are generally attributed to Xarel-lo grapes. Pinot Noir and Monastrell are used to bring red pigment and depth of flavor to Cava Rosado, which may also be labeled as Cava Rosé. Grenache, Malvasia (sometimes called Subirat) and Trepat are also authorized for use in Cava by the Consejo Regulador wine authority, although the latter is allowed only in rosado wines.
Cava sweetness level begins with Brut Nature (0-3 grams/lt of residual sugar, no sugar added), and continue with Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Seco, Seco, Semiseco, and Dulce (more than 50 grams/lt)
Wine selection. We selected a cava from Penedès and three red wines from Priorat. Cava is core to the success of the Penedès area and red Priorat wine is exceptional for several reasons. First, it is one of very few world-class wine styles to be based on Grenache – a category in which it is joined only by red Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the top-end wines from California’s Sine Qua Non. Second, it is one of only two styles to hold Spain’s top-tier DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada) classification. And third, it has risen from being almost unheard-of on the international wine market to being one of the world’s most expensive wines.
♣ 2018 Clos Mogador Vinya Classificada Gratallops. DOQ Priorat
14.5% Vol. Garnacha (45%), Cariñena (29%), Syrah (16%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%)
Clos Mogador is a vast amphitheatre of crumbling slate. The vines are surrounded by mountains up to 1.200 metres. For the first time in Spain, Clos Mogador, was awarded the prestigious qualification of «Vi de Finca», an additional qualification to the D.O.Ca. Priorat certification. It certifies that all grapes used to make this wine over at least the last five years have been sourced from the Clos Mogador single vineyard.
Wine Advocate (98). Fermented with natural yeasts, slow fermentations with long maceration and long aging. It matured for 18 months in 2,000-liter oak vats and 30% in 300-liter oak barrels. There was a lot of rain in 2018, and it was an atypical year:
Vinous (96). Inky ruby. An exotically perfumed bouquet presents an array of mineral-driven dark fruit liqueur, spice and floral qualities, along with hints of vanilla and pipe tobacco that build as the wine opens up. Sweet and densely packed on the palate, offering intense blueberry, cassis, cherry compote and violet pastille flavors and a touch of cola. Rich yet energetic in character, displaying superb definition, building tannins and outstanding, smoky persistence.
♣ 2017 Ferrer Bobet, Vinyes Velles DOQ Priorat
14.5% Vol. Cariñena (74%) and Garnacha (26%)
Grapes from steep slate hillsides and terraces picked by hand. Selected berry by berry and then transferred to tanks by gravity. Fermentation in 15 and 30 Hl wooden and stainless-steel tanks. Malolactic conversion and aging in fine-grained, medium and lightly-toasted French oak barrels for 15 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. Bottle aged for a minimum of 11 months.
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (95). In a warmer year, the high percentage of Cariñena has worked wonders; it has herbal and floral aromas and a rustic side but is mostly elegant. It’s beautifully textured, and the tannins are very fine; there is no sense of heat at all, and it has amazing balance and a very tasty finish. The oak is perfectly integrated.
Wine Spectator (94). The medley of black cherry, currant and plum is focused and lively and flanked with tar, smoke and spice undertones. This has depth, freshness and harmony of flavors.
♣ 2018 Mas Martinet – Bru DOQ Priorat
14.5% Vol. Garnacha (28%), Syrah (26%), Cariñena (23%), Merlot (16%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%)
Martinet Bru is mainly sourced from a single vineyard, known as Mas Seró. The soil is stony but the vineyard is cool in terms of climate. It faces the cooling sea breeze and the quality of the soil means this wine is more drinkable and easier to understand than most Priorat wines, affording it hint of licorice, blackberries, rosemary and tannins.
It’s a blend of grapes from three organically farmed. The grapes are picked early but at different times, fermented with some full clusters and, when possible, with indigenous yeasts in concrete vats. It matured in a combination of 4,500-liter oak vats, used 300-liter barrels, amphorae and glass demijohns.
Forward and elegant wine, lovely fresh nose of integrated black fruits and oak, overlaid with minerals and hints of spices in a warm deliciously smooth, fresh, friendly wine, marked tannins and licorice notes on its long lingering finish.
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (93). Elegant and fresh, nuanced and clean. It’s very harmonious and feels very balanced, with fresh flavors and very fine tannins. It’s one of the finest vintages for this bottling.
Jeb Dunnuck (91). A juicy, upfront style carrying lots of ripe black cherry and mulberry fruits as well as notes of brambly herbs, licorice, and earth. It’s nicely textured and balanced, has silky tannins.
♣ Villa Conchi Cava, Brut Selección
11.5% Vol. Macabeo (30%), Parellada (30%), Xarel.Lo (30%), Chardonnay (10%)
Bodega Villa Conchi is located in Penedès, Catalonia. The grapes are harvested manually and pressed directly on arrival at the winery. Each variety is fermented separately, then the must is blended and bottled together with the base wine, to which yeast and sugar are added to create the second fermentation. The bottles are kept in underground cellars at constant temperature, in contact with their lees. The Cava is then aged for minimum 12 months in bottle. After this period, the sediments are removed and the liqueur d’expédition is added in order to obtain a Brut style
This cava is balanced and elegant with a refreshing quality. It has pronounced flavors of ripe fruit and citrus notes. Lingering behind on the palate are hints of apple, pear and citrus.
James Suckling (91). Sliced apples and pears with some dried biscuits and minerals. Full-bodied. Layered. Dry finish.
Guía Penin (89). Colour: bright yellow. Nose: ripe fruit, fine lees, balanced, dried herbs. Palate: good acidity, tasty, ripe fruit, long.
-MacNeil, Karen, 2015, The Wine Bible, Second Revised Edition, New York, Workman Publishing
-Robinson, Jancis and Julia Harding, 2015, Oxford Companion to Wine, Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press
Club del Vino members assessment of the tasted wines and theirs prices will post after the event.
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