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Celler Pasanau Priorat La Planeta 1999
The Pasanaus are perennial growers in La Morera, the highest municipality of the Priorat, with vineyards abutting the sheer rock wall of the Sierra de Montsant which forms Priorat's viticultural boundary. Finca La Planeta is six acres of mature Cabernet Sauvignon, planted in gravelly scree. Aged one year in new French oak. A more clear-cut and elegant (less Mediterranean) style than is typical for Priorat. 90 Points, Guía Peñín 2003 (Spain's top critic.)
The Pasanau family are perennial growers in Priorat, with vineyards located in the highest municipality of the region, literally skirting the sheer rock wall of the Sierra de Montscant, which forms the Priorat's viticulture boundary to its north and west.
At over 2,400 feet, Pasanau's "Finca La Planeta" dominates the regional landscape and experiences Priorat's widest daily temperature variation. This helps to retain freshness in the concentrated, late-harvested grapes, resulting in a uniquely tight-knit, albeit typically powerful Priorat style. The long, arid growing season, as elsewhere in Priorat, severely limits yields while packing the fruit with mineral extract and complexity.
Tiny and entirely composed of craggy, jagged and deeply terraced vineyards, Priorat is a Catalan wine-producing region that was virtually abandoned until the early 1990s. Its renaissance came with the arrival of one man, René Barbier, who recognized the region’s forgotten potential. He banded with five friends to create five “Clos” in the village of Gratallops. Their aim was to revive some of Priorat’s ancient Carignan vines, as well as plant new—mainly French—varieties. These winemakers were technically skilled, well-trained and locally inspired; not surprisingly their results were a far cry from the few rustic and fermented wines already produced.
This movement escalated Priorat’s popularity for a few reasons. Its new wines were modern and made with well-recognized varieties (old Carignan and Grenache blended with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). When demand came, scarcity commanded higher prices and as the region discovered its new acclaim, investors came running from near and far. Within ten years the area under vine practically doubled.
Priorat’s steep slopes of licorella (brown and black slate) and quartzite soils, protection from the cold winds of the Siera de Monstant and a lack of water, leading to incredibly low vine yields, all work together to make the region’s wines unique. While similar blends could and are produced elsewhere, the mineral essence and unprecedented concentration of a Priorat wine is unmistakable.
A noble variety bestowed with both power and concentration, Cabernet Sauvignon is sometimes referred to as the “king” of red grapes. It can be somewhat unapproachable early in its youth but has the potential to age beautifully, with the ability to last fifty years or more at its best. Small berries and tough skins provide its trademark firm tannic grip, while high acidity helps to keep the wine fresh for decades. Cabernet Sauvignon flourishes in temperate climates like Bordeaux's Medoc region (and in St-Emillion and Pomerol, where it plays a supporting role to Merlot). The top Médoc producers use Cabernet Sauvignon for their wine’s backbone, blending it with Merlot and smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and/or Petit Verdot. On its own, Cabernet Sauvignon has enjoyed great success throughout the world, particularly in the Napa Valley, and is responsible for some of the world’s most prestigious and sought-after “cult” wines.
In the Glass
High in color, tannin, and extract, Cabernet Sauvignon expresses notes of blackberry, cassis, plum, currant, spice, and tobacco. In Bordeaux and elsewhere in the Old World you'll find the more earthy, tannic side of Cabernet, where it's typically blended to soften tannins and add complexity. In warmer regions like California and Australia, you can typically expect more ripe fruit flavors upfront.
Cabernet Sauvignon is right at home with rich, intense meat dishes—beef, lamb, and venison, in particular—where its opulent fruit and decisive tannins make an equal match to the dense protein of the meat. With a mature Cabernet, opt for tender, slow-cooked meat dishes.
Despite the modern importance and ubiquity of Cabernet Sauvignon, it is actually a relatively young variety. In 1997, DNA revealed the grape to be a spontaneous crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc which took place in 17th century southwestern France.