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Costers del Priorat Pissarres 2014
In 2007, Winemaker Jose Mas Barberà joined Costers del Priorat, a joint venture between a grower in Belmunt del Priorat and a family from Penedés. In the beginning, the winery worked a single vineyard called Sant Martá planted in 1939. Since its founding in 2002, the winery has expanded, and now has vineyards in El Molar, Bellmunt, and Torroja del Priorat.
The cellar lies in El Molar to the southeast of the appellation. The surrounding vineyards vary from slate to alluvial and are planted with mostly Garnacha. In Bellmunt, to the northwest, the winery owns a parcel of Samsó (Carignan) planted in 1934. The single vineyard wine, Clos Cypres, comes from this parcel with the rest of the grapes going into the winery's two introductory cuvées. Their nothernmost parcel is in the village Torroja del Priorat, a high elevation site planted in 1939 composed of steep, terraced vineyards. In the past, wine from this site was blended into several wines we imported. We are excited to be back, working with a winery that can express the true potential of this renowned site.
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.