Where and what is Priorat?
Priorat is an area about 2 ½ hour drive west/southwest of Barcelona. Priorat consists of eleven small villages in the southern portion of Catalonia in the province of Tarragona. In comparison to the country, it is an extremely small region. Priorat is a Denominació d’Origen Qualificada (DOQa), in the southwest of Catalonia. It is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify as DOCa, the highest qualification level for a wine region according to Spanish wine regulations, alongside the better known Rioja DOCa.
Brief History and Background of Priorat
This wine area has over two thousand years of history from the Romans. Due to the proximity of the Iberian Peninsula, it was controlled by the Moors until the twelfth century. In this area you get a fabulous combination of architecture from the Moorish influence as well as Romanesque.
The Priorat district gets its name from the Carthusian order who founded a monastery in the region in the end of the 12th century. Interestingly, the most changes have transpired during the last 30-40 years. Winemakers in the region upgraded their methods and equipment and began a modernization and professional approach to wine.
Weather, climate and soil are the major components of this region. The wine area receives 3000 hours of sunshine and roughly 15 inches of rainfall per year. The soil in the area is rich in hard slate but the roots can go through seeking underground water. A lot of the vineyards in the area follow the terrain with terraces and steep slopes.
One of the two grapes which are used in this 2016 Vall Llach “Idus” is Grenacha (Grenache) which is the lesser grape. One of the distinct traits of the grapes from the region is its ability to produce a strong, yet fresh wine. The second grape varietal used in the making of Idus and the predominate percentage is the Cariñena in the USA called Carignan. Carignan grows very well in the drier regions of California like the Central Valley and Sierra foothills.
Typically wines from the area have intense red coloration, with aromas of ripe fruit with a strong mineral trait from the slate vineyards. In the mouth a fleshy, strong flavoring with tannins being present are common. They present black plum, licorice and have a black pepper spice quality, coupled with berry and chocolate with a smoky scent. Cariñena is a unique black skinned grape varietal. It typically is used in blending in many wines.
The 2016 Idus is multifaceted, with alluring aromas of red forest fruit, fleshy black plums, with hints of forest herbs, wood smoke and dark minerals. Wide on the palate, the wine is both powerful and fresh for an old-vine Priorat; displaying good acidity, round tannins and an incredibly long finish.
2016 idus Vall de Llach Priorat
The 2016 Idus provides multiple levels of aromas and tastes. The percentage mix is 90% Cariñena and 10% Grenacha. A dark color and medium to medium heavy viscosity is present. You immediately pick up on the palate, wood smoke from cedar and the mineral traces from the slate. It is what I describe as a representation of “old world” wine. Powerful with enough acidity to give an edge, but with round tannins so as not to overwhelm ones senses. Together they provide a long and satisfying finish. On the label it states this wine can age up to 30 years with proper storage. The wine is almost “blackish” in color with just a slight deep purple rim. This is a very strong wine and recommended to be enjoyed with food.
The Food Pairing
Paired was a seared Tri-tip Kabob marinated in Chaka sauce with pieces of purple onion, bell peppers (red, green and yellow) and pineapple. Accompanied by a Shitake mushroom with a light glaze of a sweet and sour sauce. The wine and food was an absolutely delicious pairing.
I hope you enjoy the side trip to Priorat as this growing region is extremely well-known in wine circles and the grape varietals Grenacha (Grenache in USA) and Cariñena (Carignan) are extremely tasty and wonderful grapes grown both in Priorat and the USA. I have for years now always kept wine from the Priorat region in the cellar for the uniqueness, quality and delightful expression of the local area.