Priorat tasting masterclass

Have you discovered the elegance of Priorat?

Attending wine events and masterclasses is a true entertainment for a wine enthusiast, don’t you think? It has been my first Decanter masterclass, mainly because I always thought it could be slightly on the snobby side. Well, the Landmark Hotel in London only proves that point, yet the rest was quite casual and warm.
I adore Priorat wine, but in my mind they are associated with the powerhouse reds, usually 15% abv or sometimes even more than that, an explosion of black and red fruit flavours and quite a layer of oak.
The name of the masterclass suggested that they will be presenting the elegant side of it – something that I supposed earlier should be existing, but not overly popularised not to go against the mainstream image of the region. Again, when the weather is hot you do not want to be drinking a very powerful and alcoholic red, at least not too early in the day!

The masterclass was presented by Sarah Jane Evans MW, who is a regular for Spanish tastings (I remember her masterclass at the London Wine Fair 2014, it was also dedicated to Spanish wines) and a co-chair for a Decanter Spain panel. We had three speakers: Sergi Ferrer-Salat from Ferrer Bobet, Ricard Rofes from Scala Dei and Valenti Llagostera from Mas Doix.

Before I comment on the wines it is worth mentioning that all three of them were different in terms of personality and a manner of presenting, yet one thing that was clear for everybody was the enormous amount of passion and satisfaction of being there, in the moment, and enjoying to share the details about the region and their own wines. This passion is also contagious and I was definitely feeling inspired.
Priorat Masterclass London March 2015
Ferrer Bobet presented three wines: Vinyes Velles 2010, Seleccio Especial 2007 and Seleccio Especial 2005. All of them are Carignan dominant, with the first wine to have just 1/3 of Garnacha in the blend, whereas the other two are 100% Carignan. This is very unusual in general and you will not find many wines like that. The matter is that this grape shows good fruit (but not as much as Garnacha in example), adds good vibrant and dark red colour and quite famous to add mineral touches so the blend, yet not being a pure varietal normally.  The fun side of these three wines was in actually proving the point – these wines are elegant, refreshingly acidic, showing minerality, but also good and round tannic grip – this is what you want to have with your good dinners.  Expect more floral and herbal notes and definitely no overripe jammy cloying ones.

Scala Dei was the only company out of these three I knew, so was expecting to taste some really good examples and this was indeed a treat. Arguably one of the first Priorat wineries, Scala Dei exhibited Cartoixa wine from 1974 to showcase that winemaking was quite different 40 years ago.  The wine is noticeably more coarse, tannins are somewhat overshadowing the fruit. The ageing of course influences that, but the main difference (hooray, learning!) is in the winemaking process – prior to 1980s there were no de-stemming involved, concrete tanks were used and uncontrolled temperatures resulted in losses in fruit flavours, freshness and a bit stale character. Do not be fooled by the age or the price tag – it is not always the indicator! Cartoixa 2007 was the better proof of that theory – it exhibited more fruit, exciting complexity and elegant and pure oakiness. The wine is clearly fruitier with fresh strawberries and cherries  to form a beautiful mouthfeel. Masdeu 2011 is the newest out of three, but in this particular example they showcased how modern winemaking can actually use the stems to their advantage. The flavours are more delicate with forest strawberries, some exciting herbal notes, definitely more tannins and complexity. Having growing these grapes at 1000 feet altitude also shows that the wine can get more floral notes and definitely noticeable perfume.

Mas Doix was the most personal and touching story of an old vineyard, surviving the World Wars and then in the 90s turning to become a winery. They indeed still have vines dated 1902 and the 100% Carignan wines are made exactly from them, to be called 1902 Centenary Carignan. We have tasted 2010 vintage and this is where the first thing that comes to mind is ‘less is more’- it doesn’t have an abundance of fruit, but such a complex array of mineral, slate and oaky notes together with some flavours being worked on in the bottle (I expect it to age really well!)

The other two examples from this winery included Salanques 2006, which is regarded as an everyday red with a very high acidity, good fruit and ripe tannins, it is typical for the region, so if you are a newbie to Priorat, you can start your journey from it (it is also very round with the blend of 65% Garnacha, 25% Carignan and 10% Syrah); and Doix 2007, which is a generous red with the gripping, but ripe tannins and an amazing compexity of minerality and oak. I will call it a wine to talk about – a true star of elegance.

The true entertaining bonus of these masterclasses is not only to sample wines, see the producers and hear their stories, but also to be a part of engaged, and inspired audience, learn a bit more about the wine and have a good time.

About The Author

Dimitri

Dimitri is passionate about wines, food to go with it, happy & healthy lifestyle, digital marketing, start-ups and entrepreneurship. www.IBlameTheWine.com is about new organic wines in the UK, what to buy or avoid on the retailer shelves; tips on healthy and happy wine lifestyle, but also provides reviews and rankings for organic wines. Get in touch please, I am always on a lookout for new ideas and connections! Cheers.

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