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.
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.”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!