Priorat makes some of the most concentrated wines in the world. Did you know that Priorat has some of the lowest density plantings of anywhere else in the world?
Priorat’s climate is incredibly hot and dry. This means that the vines struggle during the growing season, requiring the roots to dig down deep in order to find proper amounts of water. Because of this, they have to be planted with a ton of space between them, so that the roots of one plant don’t have to compete with another.
In more fertile areas, the vines can be planted much closer together so they don’t over-produce. This means purposefully making the vines compete against each other. Over-production of grapes, or over-stressing the vines, will create watery and less-concentrated grapes. That’s why there is such a delicate balance of creating enough stress, but not too much.
We Have to Talk About the Soils
Mostly because the name of the soil here is such a fun word to say – licorella. These soils are composed of red slate and mica — and they sparkle! Really – they sparkle in the sun. The soils helps ripening by reflecting and conserving heat. Better yet – they are able to retain water from rainfall, occuring during other times of the year, to be consumed throughout the growing season. This is a similar principle as the chalky Albariza soils found in Jerez.
Garnacha and Carignan (Cariñena) are the most important grapes in Priorat, these are late ripening grape varieties with thick skins. Which means they need a lot of heat and a long growing season in order to ripen fully. This is why those heat retaining soils, hot climate and minimal rainfall help these grapes reach their prime.
So winemaking is tough, what’s the big deal?
Priorat already uses old vines, which means that these old vines don’t produce many grapes to begin with. Furthermore, because these vines struggle so much, yields are kept even lower, which means incredible concentration in the grapes that are produced. It also means scarcity.
Additionally, because of the climate, the vines are trained in a bush style, which makes it impossible for mechanical harvesting. That means manual labor is required to hand pick the grapes, which adds extra cost.
As a result, these wines are rarely less than $20. But you do get what you pay for – even in moderate priced Priorat wines.
What Do Priorat Wines Taste Like?
Garnacha and Cariñena are the majority of production, but many grapes are allowed to be produced here, including Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines from Priorat are typically high tannin, high alcohol, full body usually with black fruits and notes of spicy oak. These wines are intense and have a high flavor intensity.
Some wines I’d recommend to you are:
On to the Wine Review: 2014 La Petite Agnes Priorat
La Petit Agnes is a blend of Grenache and Carignan. The Grenache adds tannins, structure, and powerful, concentrated red fruits. Carignan adds finesse, and concentrated red and black fruits.
Appearance: This wine is medium ruby.
Nose: This wine is developing with a medium intensity, with notes of ripe and jammy red plums, raspberries, and strawberries. There are also notes of leather, cedar, vanilla, and dried herbs.
Palate: This wine has a medium flavor intensity, medium + acidity, high alcohol, medium + body, medium plus tannin, and a medium finish. This wine has notes of jammy red and black plums, strawberries, red cherry, and stewed blackberry. This wine also has elements of vanilla and baking spices.
Assessment of Quality: This is a good wine, suitable to drink now, but not suitable for further aging.
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