Llicorella, Why should I care, DOQ Priorat

52/365 – Catalonia – DOQ Priorat, Llicorella and Wine – Pasanau Ceps Nous 2010
…. which kind of soil the vines come from? The notion of terroir “sense of place”” is forever imprinted in the day to day wine talk. Terroir are attributes and components which are, supposedly important to vine growing, and create the typicity and uniqueness for each wine growing area. Climate, topography, landscape and soil. All of the characteristics have some influence on the wine makers desire on how to plan his/her vineyard and certainly affect the grape varieties planted and where.
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Having done research for this article, I discovered that there are several soil scientists which decisively claim that it is deceptive to assert that soil type have an explicit impact on the flavor of the wine. “The flavor is in the bottle” says John Havlin, professor and extension specialist at North Carolina State University. “The plant takes up water and nutrients and has to make flavor compounds. The plant cannot take up compounds from the soil that you would consider flavor.”
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And yet, so many, if not all vintners in Priorat stress the importance of the Llicorella (Slate) and how the wines of Priorat have such a typical Llicorella flavor. The climate around the vineyard drives the flavors of the wines much more than the soil type. The amount of rainfall, or lack of the same, during a season, the rain distribution, and the temperatures can all drastically change the amounts and types of flavor compounds and the final wine in the bottle.
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Look at it this way! Same wine, same vine, same grapes, same terroir. Different vintage! Buy a 2004 Garnacha from your favorite cellar in Priorat. This was a especially good year for the Priorat wines. The price is high, the quality is excellent, so you come to the only conclusion, you have to buy more of this wine. Sorry, there is no more of that vintage! You’ll have to make due with the 2005, a year that was bad! This wine is actually on the shelf, by the same producer, and much cheaper. Conclusion! Were the growing conditions between 2004 and 2005 different, yes they were! Was the soil different? Quality and flavor obviously changed, the quality changed, the price, due to demand, changed. The soil always stayed the same. So how much are YOU wiling to pay for the soil type?

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Geologically, Priorat is a very abrupt area characterized by a soil where a kind of slate called llicorella predominates. This structure favours the soil drainage and forces the vines roots to grow deep into the terrain in search of water. The stress, positive in this case, influences the slow expansion of the grape, giving it character and concentration of flavors.
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The sloping profile of the landscape makes viticultural practises in the Priorat very labour intensive and near impossible to mechanize. Costers and terraces are the two choices the vintners have when it come to planting their vines.
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A coster is a vineyard planted on an inclined terrain. This allows for a complete use of the available surface but makes it very hard to mechanize. The sloping surface retains very little water so vines are smaller than usual and produce smaller yield, but grapes have an exceptional concentration.

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A terrace, on the other hand, is a slice carved into the sloping terrain in such a form that a flat surface is created, where the vines are planted. This makes it easier to mechanize works and it favours water retention helping vines growth.

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Priorat has two major ways of growing vines, in low bush shape or on trellises. Low bush shape is the traditional way of growing vines in Priorat, it doesn’t require any additional investment and the structure of the vine protect the grapes from summer insolation. Trellises need a much higher investment in order to hold the vine to a structure of posts and cables that facilitates viticultural tasks and maximizes sun exposure. Yields are so much lower in Priorat due to lack of rain, the stress grapes experience and overall terroir.

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The wine region Priorat D.O.Q. (Denominació d’Origen Qualificada) is not exactly the same as the Priorat county. DOQ Priorat, which extension coincides with the historic Priorat area, it’s a subzone of the county that includes the villages of Bellmunt, Gratallops, El Lloar, Porrera, Torroja, La Vilella Baixa, La Vilella Alta, Poboleda, Scala Dei, La Morera del Montsant and a part of Falset and El Molar.
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In the XII century the monks at the carthusian monastery of Scala Dei introduced the viticultural and winemaking techniques in the Priorat. Since then, wines produced in this region have gained renown worldwide prestige. Exceptional grapes are grown in the Priorat, source of structured and powerful wines; recently, the use of modern winemaking techniques has made possible the achievement of world class wines in this small region in Tarragona.
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Pasanau Ceps Nous 2010, 45% Garnacha, 20% Carinena, 30% Merlot and 5% Syrah
Lovely bright red ruby color. Bouncy wine, lot’s of life! Cherry and red berries are there but also, during the primary nose, hints of meat, leather and some anise. Some black pepper and strawberry. On the palate it delivers bright  fruit carried by good acidity, excellent intensity and concentration, and complex flavors. Very well balanced palate. Mouth-filling with nice tannins. Can easily be cellared for a few years.
321 to go!
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6 thoughts on “Llicorella, Why should I care, DOQ Priorat

  1. Bra skrivet! Många vinskribenter anser att syran i champagne beror på att jorden är kalkhaltig. Kalk är basisk och syra är som det låter surt. Det går inte ihop. Orsaken är enligt Jerker Arrenius att i den kalkahltiga jorden finns små porer som innehåller vatten och vinrankan kämpar att nå dessa porer och får kämpa hårt och stressas. Detta ger den höga syran i champagnen.

    • Howdy B-G Rönnberg! Thank you for your comment and insight! I can agree partially but in my mind it is quite clear, as I have covered in one of my Cava articles. Climate! Not enough sun! If there is lack of sun hours, certainly the fruitiness is going to suffer and acidity be enhanced, irrespective of soil? But then again I don’t have that particullar problem as I drink Cava and not Champagne! Have a glorious wine loving Sunday! And thanks for following!

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  4. I really enjoy your blog! Great work! I have a question for you… would you mind if I used the photo showing the vines and the grey slates for a article I am writing on the geology of wine? I will attribute it to you of course. Thank you in advance.
    best regards
    Jon

    • Dear Jon! Thank you for your kind words! I am glad that you enjoy the blog and please feel free to use the photo as you see fit. Also, if you need more photos or slate soils and vineyards from the Priorat region and from Conca de Barbera, please let me know and I can send them via email. You can reach me on wine@sweeteasy.com Kindest Regards/Sinisa

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