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Sara I Rene Partida Bellvisos 2011
When Sarah I Rene got the “coster” (steeply sloping traditional Priorat vineyard) back into production, they thought they had bought a plot of Carinyena (Carignan)… and to their great surprise, they found it had 40% of Garnatxa Peluda (Downy Grenache)…!!! This ripens before the Carinyena (Carignan) and expresses more freshness. It is the last piece of the jigsaw they needed to transmit the balance of Bellvisos.
A vertiginous wine with long maceration which needs oak and time in bottle in order to be reborn, fine, beguiling, fresh and powerful… anchored to the Llicorella (slate-based soil) which has shaped it.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The red 2011 Gratallops Vi de Vila Partida Bellvisos has a very classical Priorat nose with characteristics of a very warm vintage. This was the first year they used an 1,800-liter foudre (before that it was 300-liter barrels); the foudre was new at the time and marked the wine slightly. This has more or less the same quantity of Garnacha Peluda as it does Cariñena, harvested and fermented together. It has some grainy tannins and deep flavors and really transported me to the dusty roads of Priorat, with that heat and rustic character. I'm sure this is going to develop nicely in bottle. This is phenomenal.
The Bellvisos vineyard has never seen herbicides or pesticides of any kind—it had been abandoned over fifty years ago, before they became available in the region. There are no neighbors to worry about either; the surrounding slopes are too steep to plant. Husband and wife team Sara Perez and René Barbier, of Mas Martinet and Clos Mogador renown, purchased and restored the steep licorella slope vines in 2001 to craft just 1300 liters of their vinous lovechild.
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.
Enjoying great glory across a variety of appellations, Grenache thrives in any warm, Mediterranean climate where ample sunlight allows its clusters to achieve full phenolic ripeness. The grape typically produces full-bodied reds interestingly light in both color and tannins. While it can make a charmingly complex single varietal wine, it also lends well to blending. Grenache's birthplace is Spain (there called Garnacha) where it remains important, particularly in Priorat where winemakers enjoy great liberties in blending Grenache with other varieties. Today it might be most well associated with the red blends of the Southern Rhône, namely Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône and its Villages. The Italian island of Sardinia produces bold, rustic Grenache (there called Cannonau) whereas in California, Washington and Australia, Grenache has achieved popularity both flying solo and in blends.
In the Glass
In sufficiently warm conditions, Grenache produces smooth and generous wines that are loaded with strawberry, cherry blackberry, purple plum and in the richest examples, even cocoa, black tea or licorice.
Despite its bold flavors, Grenache has very mild-mannered tannins, which makes it eminently quaffable on its own, yet easy to match with food. Because of its friendly nature, Grenache is the ultimate barbecue red, pairing happily with lamb chops, pork loin or tri-tip. Unlike most other full-bodied reds, Grenache’s low tannin level ensures that it will not easily be fazed by a bit of spice.
Sardinia is often revered for its association with a long and healthy life. Residents of the Italian island often live well into their 90s and beyond, crediting this to their antioxidant-rich red wines, like Cannonau, along with their healthy Mediterranean diet.