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Mas Donis Mas Donis Barrica 2003
Not so surprisingly, the cooperative of Capçanes which produces Mas Donis is nestled among the foothills of the Montsant mountains. In the 1990’s, the co-op began making kosher wines for the Jewish community in Barcelona, and from this exposure in the capital of Catalunya, the property began to attract a greater level of interest. By 1995, a vast investment took place and the whole winery was completely restructured and modernized. Shortly after the modernization, Eric Solomon visited the cooperative and he was taken by how similar the soils and grapes varieties were to the Priorat where he had just started working with an unknown estate and a lesser known winemaker, Daphne Glorian. Tasting through the various tanks and barrels at Capçanes, he created a cuvée of Garnatxa and Syrah that he named Mas Donis – a wine he jokingly said was his “best Côtes-du-Rhône.”
Despite the similarities in cépage, the granite and schist terroirs here could not be more different than the calcareous soils of the Rhône valley. With time and experimentation – moving from barrel aging to aging entirely in concrete and selecting fruit from some of the oldest Garnatxa in the village, Mas Donis has evolved to show a more Priorat-inspired profile. A serious wine at an extremely friendly price.
Known for bold reds, crisp whites and distinctive sparkling and fortified wines, Spain has embraced international varieties and wine styles while continuing to place primary emphasis on its own native grapes. Though the country’s climate is diverse, it is generally hot and dry. In the center of the country lies a vast, arid plateau known as the Meseta Central, characterized by extremely hot summers and frequent drought.
Ribera del Duero is gaining ground with its single varietal Tempranillo wines, recognized for their concentration of fruit and opulence. Priorat, a sub-region of Catalonia, specializes in bold, full-bodied red blends of Garnacha (Grenache), Cariñena (Carignan), and often Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Catalonia is also home to Cava, a sparkling wine made in the traditional method but from indigenous varieties. In the cool, damp northwest region of Galicia, refreshing white Albariño and Verdejo dominate.
With bold fruit flavors and accents of sweet spice, red Rhône blends originated from France’s southern Rhône Valley. Grenache, supported by Syrah and Mourvèdre typically form the base of the blend, while Carignan, Cinsault and Counoise often come in to play. With some creative interpretation, Rhône blends have also become popular in Priorat, Washington, Australia and California.
In the Glass
The taste profile of a Rhône blend will vary according to its individual components, as each variety brings something different to the glass. Grenache is the lightest in color but contributes plenty of ripe red fruit and a plush texture. Syrah supplies dark fruit flavors, along with savory, spicy and earthy notes. Mourvèdre is responsible for a floral perfume and earthy flavor as well as structure and a healthy dose of color. New World examples tend to be fruit-forward in style, while those from the Old World will often have more earth, structure and herbal components on top of ripe red and blue fruit.
Rhône red blends typically make for very food-friendly wines. These can work with a wide variety of meat-based dishes, playing equally well with beef, pork, lamb or game. Braised beef cheeks, grilled steak or sausages, roasted pork and squab are all fine pairings.
Some regions like to put their own local spin on the red Rhône blend—for example, in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Shiraz is commonly blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, tannin and a long finish. Grenache-based blends from Priorat often include Carignan (known locally as Cariñena) and Syrah, but also international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In California, anything goes, and it is not uncommon to see Petite Sirah make an appearance.