Posted by: tomciocco | March 2, 2011

THE FUTURE AND PRIOR PRIORAT

…or at least as I imagine it…

Beginning in the early 1990s, the Priorat wine region (located in Catalan Spain) began its assault on the rapidly burgeoning “ultra-premium” wine market by aping the success of California producers that had penetrated deeply into, and in fact helped to create the category in the first place. By planting  hectare on hectare of the familiar and sanctioned if not downright sanctified “International” grape varieties (mostly from Bordeaux) in Priorat’s extreme climate served to intensify their (albeit noble) familiarity, which when blended with a bit of the very local strains of Garnatxa and Carignan, and then slathered in new oak, make for wines that supposedly ring all the bells.

But as you might infer, these are the sort of wines born from focus groups, teams of consulting chemists, and dreams of rows of EURO signs fading into the golden horizon…But so as it was before the market chase, so it seems to be becoming again. This wine is made from just the Garnatxa (80%) and Samso` (a very local name for Carignan) grown on the classic black slate soils (called “licorella” in Catalan), in a style more keeping with the drinking propensities of the average Catalan (or the average person anywhere), un-oaked, basically un-manipulated, and direct, and for all of these things, actually speaks Catalan not Esperanto…

As always, I tried to stay as regional as possible with the food selection, so I made a pa torrat which is nothing more than bread with lightly melted Catalan goat cheese on top, but this time with the addition of the first decent looking asparagus of the season. The main course was a dish from Roussillon: Boles de Picolat (pork meatballs with a sauce of green olives, dried peppers, and cinnamon, etc.) and plain white cannellini beans on the side.

Zaumau Priorat 2008

Just translucent magenta garnet color. Typical nose of wood-roasted meat, intense blackberry and blueberry fruit, dried Mediterranean herbs, and toasted hazelnuts. The body of the wine is big and full with deeply grippy tannins and tart acidity balancing deep flavors of boiled grape syrup, sap, and prune notes that exit with the pleasantly bitter and warm finish. Burly, rustic, and a just a bit exotic.

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