84/365 – Catalonia – DOQ Priorat – El Molar– La Perla del Priorat – Clos Les Fites Crianca 2006
…., contained in the bottles is the whole history of the Priorat and only the future will tell what’s next? In the past few years, so very much has changed, with regards to the wine making philosophies, the knowledge influxes, the multitude of wine styles and the economy. Economy, unfortunately, plays a huge role in every aspect of wine making. Should we be looking at it from the aspect of art, there would be subsidies from the department of culture and/or art, for the sake of making wine without having to be concerned with the figures. Is wine art?
Change is constant and necessary but what if wine makers were free to do what ever they wanted to? What would the wine be like then? Some do just that, without giving the financial aspects another thought, brave people, conquer or die! Some have been forced to add younger wines to the market, making them their money cow and reducing the number of bottle of their higher quality wines. One of the cellars in the Priorat, that haven’t changed their focus is La Perla del Priorat, and what a winery this is!
La Perla Del Priorat’s vineyard is composed of 70’000 vines planted on 22 hectares. It is located just outside the south-west wall of the “Mas Dels Frares”, on a very particular hill. The stone soil of that hill is called “Llicorella” (porous schist rich in iron, typical of the Priorat). The density of “llicorella” is not the same on every side of this hill, as there is more clay on the north side than on the south side.
This particular hill was chosen by the monks of Scala Dei who wanted to grow a vast vineyard in the south of Priorat. In the 12th century, after establishing their capital in the village of Scala Dei (situated 28 km to the north), a group of monks were sent here to build the “Mas Dels Frares” and grow vines, olive trees, almond trees, and produced fruits and vegetables in order to provide wine and food to the capital of Priorat. Because of the quality of the fruits that were grown here, the monks and people of Priorat renamed this land “La Perla Del Priorat”. The first written proof of this name goes back to the 18th century.
In 1998, Yves Pirenne, owner of the “Mas Dels Frares” and 102 hectares of land (including the hill called “La Perla Del Priorat”) decided to replant this vineyard that had vanished about 100 years before. Back to life, the vineyard counts today 70’000 vines of 5 main varieties, and it remains on the hill chosen by the monks five centuries earlier and renamed the “Pearl” of Priorat for at least three centuries. La Perla Del Priorat is one of Priorat’s oldest wineries. Founded in the 15th century by the carthusian monks of Scala Dei under the name of “Mas Dels Frares” (House of the Friars), it used to be an important monastery of Priorat.
It was surrounded by a huge vineyard (up to 90’000 vines). As the fame of the wines blended in the “Mas Dels Frares” grew quickly, it was named “La Perla Del Priorat” since the beginning of the 18th century. On the eve of the 20th century, the land of Mas Dels Frares was abondonned by the monks. In the whole region, farmers stopped working on their lands and left to work in the silver mines. It was the end of regional traditional farming, and the beginning of the industrial era.
Almost one hundred years later, Count Pirenne bought the Mas Dels Frares along with more than 100 hectares of land around it. All of this land is situated within the Priorat. Convinced of the potential of this particular area of Priorat, he founded the winery “La Perla Del Priorat SL” in 1998. The same year, 70’000 vines were planted on 22 hectares of the lands of Mas Dels Frares. About 1’000 vines of 25 year old Cabernet Sauvignon were allready there.
La Perla Del Priorat SL blended its first wines in 1999 from grapes that were bought from selected old vines of Priorat. Then, only 10’000 bottles of “Comte Pirenne” and “Clos Les Fites” were produced. Today, with a 10 year old vineyard in full production, La Perla Del Priorat SL limits it’s production to maximise the quality of it’s four wines (“Comte Pirenne”, Clos Les Fites”, “Clos Les Fites Blanc” and “Noster”). Grapes from very old Grenache and Cariñena vines are still bought outside the property to blend “Comte Pirenne”.
The philosophy of La Perla Del Priorat SL is based on two principles: respect and quality. The respect aims the local tradition of winemaking, the environment, and the human beings. Making quality wines is their way to respect the history of “La Perla Del Priorat” as well as their customers. The fact that the vineyards are not irrigated serves both ecology and quality: each vine produces a maximal average of 1.1 kg of excellent quality grapes with high mineral and sugar levels, and no water is spoiled in the process.
To limit the production and optimize the quality of the wines, during July they do what is called a “verema verda” (“green harvest”). By removing between 30 and 50% of the grapes off each vine, they manage to concentrate the vine’s energy on the few grapes that are left for a perfect maturation. Doing this, they also reduce the vine’s “stress” due to the exceedingly hot summer and enable the plant to regenerate and stabilise it’s production year after year.
Pruning and harvest are entirely done by hand. When harvesting, every grape is controlled twice: once in the field, and once on the “table of selection” in the cellar. Only the grapes that succeed are vinified. The Priorat is one of the driest regions of Spain. The average rainfall is 300 mm per year. With no irrigation, the vines are obliged to seek for water deep into the stone soil, especially during the summer.
The soil is called “Llicorella”. This typical mineral soil of Priorat is composed of layers of porous schist that are very rich in iron. It makes no obstacle to the penetration of the vine’s roots, thus enabeling the plant to find humidity tens of meters underground. In these conditions the vines have a very limited production of grapes: about 1.1 kg per vine.
The north-east dry wind coming from the center of Spain provides great benefits for the maturity of the grapes. It prevents all diseases that could affect the grapes in a humid environment, especially during the harvest. Therefore, they are able to avoid unnecessary chemical treatments on the vines.
Clos Les Fites Crianca 2006, 55% Garnacha, 35% Carignena and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Aged for 14 months in new French oak barrels and only free run is used in this blend.. A nice and tasty wine which can be enjoyed at an affordable and well balanced price, despite its high ranking. It is a cherry red wine, with clean layers and glossy coating. The initial nose is that of red and black fruit. candy, cocoa and toasted notes appear after a while. Well balanced, quite wide. Creamy if not satiny, fruity and sweet. Good structure with nice tannins, well integrated. Long finish.
The name, Clos les Fites;
“Fites are rudimentary columns made of stones. Since the 12th century, fites were used as landmarks. After building the monastery Mas Dels Frares in 1450, the Monks of Scala Dei built many fites all around the property in order to delimit their land from their neighbor’s.”
“Today, eight fites still exist around our vineyards. Not only do they mark the limit of the property of La Perla Del Priorat, they also draw the south border of the DOQ Priorat.”
297 to go!