Priorat, the Power Hitter

In 2012, Yoenis Céspedes knocked a 462 foot bomb into the left center field of the Oakland Coliseum. It was probably the longest home run Oakland had seen in 13 years- possibly ever, and it’s certainly the longest it’s seen since. Now the size of Priorat may be arguably smaller than the size of the All-Star Cuban power hitter, but the wines are just as muscular, just as handsome and come just as equipped with la potencia to clear the bases.

Priorat sits in northeast Spain, in the heart of Catalunya’s most well respected wine regions. Were I a baseball nerd, I’d give it five-tool player status. It is one of only two DOQs in Spain- which in Spanish wine law speak means it’s really good. It is one of the only regions in the world that is based off garnatxa (grenache), and super low yielding vines incite quality over quantity. The steep, terraced vineyards get their fair share of sun, giving the berries the power to become bold and full bodied. It is the soils of Priorat, however, that set this region apart. The most sought after wines come from a soil made of decomposed slate called llicorella. These shiny, broken pieces of slate impart balance in the wines, giving them a distinctive mineral quality that makes them seriously next level. Vines have to dig and push their way through the broken rocks to collect water and nutrients, making their root systems super powerful- and when you taste the wines you appreciate why the struggle is real.

Wine has been flowing in Priorat since the 1100’s, when the rocky hillside vineyards were covered in garnartxa vines and produced mostly sacramental wine. Sometime in the 1800’s the Spanish government redistributed the vineyards, but when phylloxera hit, the pesky little aphid wiped out almost everything, leaving the region neglected for years. It wasn’t until 1979 that a man named René Barbier came in and started somewhat of a revolution. Realizing the region’s potential, Barbier collected a band of talented winemakers who, throughout the 80s, managed to turn the wines of Priorat into some of the most coveted in Europe. Barbier and friends each chose specific sites, using their own names and dubbing each of them a Clos. The bulk of the vines were kept garnatxa and carineña, but a number of French varietals like cabernet, merlot and syrah were planted, as well. Clos Martinet, Clos Mogador,  Clos Dofí, Clos de L’Obac and Clos Erasmus are pretty much the OGs of the Priorat, and each had a hand in its quick evolution. The last 20 plus years have have been explosive, with hundreds of new acres under vine and a ton of new producers on the seen- and along with René Barbier and friends, the region continues to pump out some of the most desirable, expensive wines in Spain.

Mas Martinet– The wines of Mas Martinet are some of the best (probably my favorite) wines coming out of Priorat. They are made by Sara Pérez- a serious, beautiful, badass winemaker with a permanent smile and a work ethic like none other. I’m constantly amazed by the quality of every single wine she makes, and I can’t wait to (hopefully) see her again when I’m in Spain. Her dad, José Luis, is one of the original in the band of pioneers (Clos Martinet). She makes wines from several vineyards throughout Priorat, and they are all beautiful, mineral driven power hitters. The wines need a little time to age, so grab one with a few years under its belt, or lay that bad boy down for a while. Any bottling will do you right, but for fun, look for Gratallops Partida Bellvisos – a label she makes with her husband…who happens to be René Barbiers son (ehhooo).

Pasanau- If you want some good stuff on a budget, Pasanau is where it’s at. I sold this wine at St Vincent like it was the thing to do, and the people loved it. The wines contain the usual suspects- garnatxa, cariñena- but they also throw a little cab in there for good measure. They are super approachable and affordable, with the appropriate amount of masculinity and a serious mineral backbone.

Blogged at: Birba, Mom and Dad’s

Soundtrack: Kanye West, Life of Pablo, Warriors vs Wizards

 

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