Rotllan Torra Amadis 2000
The main attraction at Rotllan Torra, apart from sampling the wines, is the history and architecture of the facility, built in the middle of the 17th century by the Carthusian monks of Scala Dei in a Renaissance style with Cistercian influences. From the start it was designed as a cellar, with an enormous capacity of one million litres of wine. The technology of the construction, consisting of stone and mortar and dug in the ground, provides optimum winemaking conditions, with a constant temperature and humidity, in addition to silence and darkness.
In the 20th century, after being sold, the cellar’s new private owners fitted it out with the latest technology of the period (electricity, glazed ceramic...). At the end of the 20th century, Rotllan Torra, in step with new trends, added stainless steel and wood to the facility, noteworthy for an interesting bottle cellar for 100,000 bottles in the old underground cellars, today perforated and interconnected.
In addition, the cellar houses the facilities of the Torroja cooperative, which is used as a warehouse. Rotllan Torra works with the fruit grown on 86 acres of its own vineyards within the township of Torroja (the varieties Garnacha Tinta and Cariñena, between ten and one hundred years old, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot), as well as 160 additional acres of land. The winery produces around 200,000 bottles a year, 80% of which is exported. The firm also produces Milena vinegar.
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.