The Conca de Barberà is an energetic, spunky little wine region that sits respectfully amongst some of Catalunya’s more prominent players. The surrounding superstar regions of Penedés, Priorat, Costers de Segre and the Montsant get most of the credit, but the wines coming out of Conca de Barberà are proving major contenders. Very little wine actually leaves the region, as most of the grapes are sold to the bigger guys or used make Cava, but the wines that do make their way to the great USA are consistently on point and are often natural or biodynamic.
The word conca means ‘basin’ in Catalan, and the Conca de Barberà is the basin of the Francolí and Anguera rivers. The soils are mostly limestone, a porous, water-retaining agent that is perfect for the low rainfall of the region. Minerals are poor and vines have to dig super deep to find their footing, making their root systems strong like bull. The climate is largely Mediterranean, but surrounding hillsides cause diurnal temperatures (hot days, cold nights), leading to perfect ripeness and slick acidity.
Varieties include the usual Cava suspects- parellada, macabeu and some chardonnay. The standout of the region, however, is the native trepat grape, used for still reds and sparkling rosados. Trepat is a fussy little bastard, but loves the soils of Conca de Barberà. In fact, Conca de Barberà is the only region in the world this bad boy will even grow which, in my opinion, makes it extra rad. A smattering of varieties are found throughout the region, including chenin blanc, garnatxa, sumoll tinto and a number of Bordeaux varietals. Indigenous varieties remain the heart of this region, though, and the wines waste no time repping the terruño. I recommend treating yourself as soon as possible.
Succés Vinícola- Succés Vinícola is the project of a husband and wife team that met while studying wine when they were only 20 years old. They use family connections to source wine from various old vine, organic vineyards throughout the Conca de Barberà region. They are among the first to adapt the use of trepat for a still wine rather than solely for sparkling Cava- and the wines are fire. “La Cuca de Llum” is a light-bodied, earthy little quaffer made from organic trepat. Rustic, great fruit and easy to drink- right up my alley. The “El Mentider” is more on the serious tip- old vine trepat aged in barrel with the power and ambition to prove still-fermented trepat can carry its weight. It’s muscular but elegant, well equipped with pepper and dark fruits. Super suave.
Escoda-Sanahuja- Joan Ramon Escoda and Carmen Sanahuja have been farming grapes biodynamically from the get-go, and went full on sulfite-free in 2005. A number of varieties grow in their vineyards, both indigenous and international, and they make a fair amount of wines. They farm olives and almonds and you’ll find everything from chickens to horses roaming about. The wines are made differently every vintage, as Joan likes to play around with the grapes for maximum character and quality. The labels each have a different animal on them- if you are into that (super cute) sort of thing. I’ve tried a fair amount of the wines and they are all fresh, balanced, mineral driven expressions of terruño that vary from light and earthy to rich and full bodied. The “Nas del Gegant” is a favorite- cab franc and merlot that pops out of the bottle with fruit, spice and a little bit of barnyard action. It’s stocked on the shelves at Birba right now, so join me for a bottle next time you are in the hood. For white, the “Els Bassots” is where it’s at. Skin contact chenin blanc fermented in stainless and aged in amphora, the wine is fresh and mineral with the tiniest bit of tannin to make it great with food. Get after it.
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