Clos Mogador Priorat 2017
The wine shows an opaque black-purple color and an intense, complex bouquet of ripe fruit, wild herbs, toasted bread, spices and smoke. The palate is massive and well balanced with a fat richness, a dense structure of velvety tannins and a powerful lively acidity. Flavors of crystallized fruit, pepper, chocolate, coffee and a whole panoply of spices and herbs. On the long finish there are the unique mineral tones that make Priorat so special.
Blend: 45% Garnatxa, 29% Carinyena, 16% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
I also tasted the 2017 Clos Mogador next to the 2018 vintage. The varietal mix has been slowly changing, with less Cabernet and Syrah and more and more Cariñena. In 2006, they started fermenting with indigenous yeasts, and in 2011 they introduced oak foudres. It was bottled in June 2019, after 18 months in 300-liter barrels and 2,000-liter oak vats. 2017 was a tough vintage, a very warm and extremely dry year, and the character of the wine is almost opposite from 2018. The wine had a very slow fermentation, as they used larger volumes for the fermentation, and the challenge was to keep the freshness. The wine has a full 1% more alcohol than the 2018, but there is very good acidity that keeps the wine balanced. It has dusty tannins and very ripe flavors, with a long finish—warm and Mediterranean, a little in the style of the 2011.
Robert Parker once said of Clos Mogador that the wines are "stunning examples of what Spain can produce but so rarely does". This is more true now than ever, because compared with the large numbers of ambitious "alto espreccion" Spanish wines that have come on stream these last few years, Mogador has not just concentration and complexity, but also energy, vitality and a genuine soul.
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 overly 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, namely old Carignan and Grenache blended with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. When the demand arrived, 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.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.