After returning home from an unforgettable Catalan wine trip last week, the holiday hangover (figurative and literal) has dissipated just enough to thank a few great people who made this trip possible.
We started the trip in the daddy of Catalan wine regions- Priorat DOQ. One of only two premium-tier wine regions in Spain (alongside Rioja DOCa), this is a rugged, parched landscape, with steep, low-yielding vineyards. Garnacha and Cariñena (Grenache and Carignan to you Francophiles) make up the bulk of the production. These are powerful wines with deep forest fruits and a minerality that comes from the slate and quartz soil, known locally as llicorella. Generally high in alcohol, don’t plan on doing much for the rest of the day if you have a couple of glasses during the siesta!
Many thanks must go to Patrick Webb of Coast to Coast wines. Together with his partner Anna, we spent our first day visiting fantastic wineries across Priorat.
The highlight was a trip out to Celler Burgos Porta– a remote organic winery, set in a steep valley, run by the indefatigable Salvador. If you want to check your fitness level, try trekking around a Priorat vineyard in 30 degree heat after this guy! Still, the fantastic Mas Sinén 2008 at the end makes the effort that much more worthwhile!
Later in the day we spent an exhilarating, if bum-numbing, hour and a half travelling through Juan José Escoda’s (Jou) Prior Pons vineyards in his trusty, well-travelled ‘office’ (an old 4×4 stacked with files and rock samples!). Growing on steep hillsides around the town of Vilella Alta, this unforgiving terrain is constantly threatened with drought; when we were there in June, they had not had any rain for over six weeks. This low rainfall means the fruit gets great concentration of flavours, but the yield per plant can be as low as 300g in older vines, one-fifth that of neighbouring Penedès! This is a key contributing factor why many Priorat wines can seem expensive compared to other Spanish regions.
Prior Pons’ Planets is available in O’Briens Off-Licences nationwide and offers a good value introduction to Priorat DOQ. Well worth a try.
Check out the blog next Friday, when I’ll post about a morning spent with two generations of one of the biggest names in Priorat- René Barbier of Clos Mogador. Until then, sláinte and enjoy the weekend.