Montsant and Priorat are some of the most interesting wine regions in Spain. The two regions are clustered together about 100 miles southwest of Barcelona, slightly inland from the Mediterranean coast. Priorat, also called Priorato, is probably the most ragged, atypical wine region anywhere in the world, with its very steep hills, stony villages, and special soil (thin, volcanic slate, with small pieces of schist), which gives the wines their special mineral character. Wines from the Priorat region are very famous, but the appellation is relatively small, with 60 wineries sharing 1500 hectares. 1991 was the first “commercial” vintage, where some wines were exported to countries outside of Spain.
Directly south of the Priorat appellation, not far from the town of Tarragona in Catalunya, lies Montsant, formerly the Alt-Priorat, and a subsection of the Tarragona appellation. Montsant became its own appellation in 2001. There are 40 wineries located in the Montsant appellation, some over 180 years old. They operate in the shadow of the famous Priorat appellation but produce stunning wines for a fraction of the price of the Priorat wines.
Here are some recommendations from these regions:
Celler de Capcanes 2001 Costers del Gravet Montsant $26.50
The winery is located in the village of Capcanes, was founded in 1933 and served for several years as the village cooperative. Tasting notes: A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Garnacha, 20% Carinena. Big, full-bodied red, with ripe, almost roasted flavors of plum, prunes, cola and coffee. Elegant on the mid-palate. Great concentration and acidity. Long, clean, almost floral finish with fine tannins. Drink now through 2010
La Cova Dels Vins 2006 Ombra Montsant $19.50
This is the personal project of Capcanes winemaker Cisco Perello. The vineyards are located in the districts of Falset (Priorat) and Capcanes (Montsant) at 300 to 700 meters altitude. This red is produced from 3 different varietals (Garnacha, Carinena, Syrah) on 3 different soils. 96 year-old (!) Garnacha on chalk soils, 75 year old Carinena on slate soils, and 25 year old Syrah on clay soil. Aged for 14 months in French oak barrels. Tasting notes: Round and lush, with great fruit from the nose to the palate. Aromas and flavors of sweet plums, red fruit, with smoky components and a touch of pepper and herbs. Beautifully balanced and elegant. Doesn’t need much cellaring. Drink now till 2011
Celler De L’Encastell 2006 Priorat Marge REG $35/SALE $30.99
Family-owned, this winery was selling wine to other estates for a long time. The winery is located in the village of Porrera and started bottling its own wine in 1999. This red is a blend of 60% Garnacha, 14% Syrah, 13% Merlot, and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 8 months in French and American oak barrels. Produced from vines planted on pure slate. Tasting notes: A beauty that represents Priorat. A floral, herbal nose with notes of lavender and violets. Flavors of dark cherries, blueberries, plums and prunes. Medium- to full-bodied with a smooth, elegant texture and balance, with spicy, peppery notes. This red blend has terrific length and depth, and a long, smooth finish with fine tannins. You won’t find a better value from Priorat. Best from 2010 for a decade.
Clos Les Fites 2003 Priorat $40
The winery, located in the middle of the Priorat mountains, was founded in 1998, and has been a monastery for a long time. This red is a blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Carinena, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Tasting notes: Intense nose of dark fruit and blackberries, followed by flavors of chewy blackberries, plums, prunes with chocolate and vanilla notes. Complex, full-bodied, with spicy elements and a very long finish.
Drink now till 2013.
All these wines are a good match with grilled steaks, dark roasts and lamb.
Enjoy & cheers!