By Celia Strong
Greetings. And happy wine drinking. I hope everyone has been doing well.
And drinking well.
Today, we have a chance to learn about, and try, a pretty unique wine.
Its appellation, Priorat, isn’t that unique, especially if you’ve been staying connected with popular Spanish red wines from the last decade or so. Whether you have or not, we’ll learn about Priorat today.
Unique is “the” Priorat we have. There was an extremely small production from the winery, and only five cases are in South Carolina.
Priorat is a Spanish DOQ located in the southwestern part of the Catalonia wine region. The appellation is located just south of Barcelona.
Priorat is one of just two wine regions in Spain with this higher legal status. (Rioja is the other.) Priorat can also be called Priorato – no difference except for Spanish dialect.
Wines have been made in the Priorat area since the 12th century. Carthusian monks from Provence, France, tended the vineyards for 700 years. In 1835, the lands were claimed by the state. Toward the end of the 19th century, phylloxera infected the vineyards and Priorat wines mostly disappeared. They did get their original, and legally lower, designation in 1954, but an upgrade to DOQ in 1989 established them.
Like we’ve learned with other wines, this upgrade brought money into the Priorat wine business, better winemakers, better winemaking techniques and lots of new fans.
Today, the area covers almost 5,000 acres with over 550 vineyards and 100-plus wineries.
There are two main varieties used in red Priorat wines – Ganarcha (Gremache) and Cariñena (Carignan). There is no minimum or maximum amount in Spanish wine laws for either of them. Each Priorat producer, though, focuses on his own style of this appellation.
Other varieties are allowed in these wines, too. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and even Pinot Noir can all be used.
The more Garnacha and Cariñena in a producer’s blend, the more we taste red fruit flavors. The more of the Bordeaux varieties that are used, the more we taste black fruit flavors.
Wines laws for Priora also include some aging times. “Criança” wines have to be aged for at least six months in barrels and 18 months in bottles. “Reserva” are barrel aged for 12 months in barrels and 24 months in bottles. And, “Gran Reserva” stay in barrels for 24 months and bottles for two years. Yes, you can assume the price goes up as the aging gets longer and longer.
Within the Priorat area, there is a village called Falset. It has one castle and two palaces. And it’s one of the best sites for growing Priorat grapes.
Our Priorat comes from this village, from Clos Pissarra, a winery founded in 2005 and named for the Catalon word for “slate.” It’s one of the things that make the area wines taste like they do.
Aristan is a 5-acre vineyard next to the winery. This wine is a blend of Garnacha, from 10-year-old vines, and Syrah. (Syrah is becoming more popular than Cabernet Sauvignon for Priorat wines.)
The soils for both varieties are slate and clay and the production is cut back to 1 ton per acre, a very meager amount.
Five cases of the 2010 Aristan came into South Carolina. Clos Pissarra only made 399. More than one of the five has been sold.
So going, going, gone is the issue. For $20.99. Enjoy.