While one can have a wine tour of Spain via the tapas bars of Barcelona (which we most certainly did), nothing beats standing in the vineyard with a winemaker in understanding a wine.
Much of our travel to wine regions is appointment driven; each year we go to Napa & Sonoma, Paso & Santa Barbara, and somewhere in Europe, usually Burgundy, with the purpose of wine discovery for currentVintage. Our two weeks in Spain, much like our time in Sicily last year, was much more cultural adventure than wine mission. We spent equal amounts of time on food, drink and sights and more time in city than country. This has been a refreshing change for me–now I don’t fall in love with just a wine, but a region.
Priorat is arguably the most prestigious wine region of Spain; one of only 2 DOQ, the other being the larger, more famous Rioja. The renaissance of the region has become legendary in recent times. Five friends, led by Rene Barbier of Clos Mogador, bought land in the late 80s, gambling that the old vines of Priorat, with proper attention and vineyard management would yield amazing juice. They planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, etc, to complement the existing Carignan and Grenache growing in the distinct slate “llicorella”, and the rest is history. Check the prices for L’Ermita and Clos Erasmus on winesearcher.com to get an idea of their success.
I clearly remember my first sip of Clos Erasmus (by Daphne Glorian, one of the five aforementioned) on the deck of the Sconset Market a few years back, so there was no way I was going to Barcelona and not visiting this part of Catalonia, however briefly. We invited friends on holiday in Barcelona to join us and other friends drove down from Toulouse, France. It was a fun-filled couple of days, to say the least. We enjoyed famous wines, such as Clos Mogador and made new discoveries, such as the honest wines of Capafons-Osso. We visited folks my husband, Mark, met when a doing film with the Nantucket Wine Festival and Plum TV on some of the wine regions of Spain awhile back. We had a fabulous morning and lunch with Roger Simo of Vall LLach in the charming village of Porrera. We four-wheeled through the lovingly tended organic vineyards of Capafons-Osso. We swooned over everything by the Esther Nin. She is now the winemaker for Clos Erasmus, but her own biodynamic wines, Nit de Nin and Planetes de Nin were the ones that touched me most. I got to meet Jordi Vidal, who makes the compelling “Les Brugueres” Garnacha Blanxa (a rare & acclaimed white from the Priorat) that we sell at cV. The winery is La Conreria d’ Scala Dei in the tiny northern hamlet of Escaladei and it was a strikingly different perspective on Priorat, eg white vines and more clay.
I love this video of Rene Barbier, Daphne Glorian, Alvaro Palacios & Josep Lluis Perez looking back on 25 years in the region and how they took the leap of faith that has re-invigorated the Priorat. It is a truly great story.
Another great story is that of Lluis Llach, a famous Catalan folk singer and songwriter. He retreated to Porrera, where he had spent much time growing up, to write music around the same time the Band of Five was planting like crazy on the other side of hills. His saw that his tiny village was dying and that the local cooperative could not employ the next generation. He founded the winery Vall Llach, which was followed by a dozen more in recent years, and ow the whole community is living the life of wine, once again. It is impossible to visit Vall Llach and not feel the love Lluis has for Priorat, for Porrera, for his founding partner Enric Costa and for his dear friend, the late poet Miquel Martí i Pol. It is a winery based on quality and community and I was profoundly impressed. Now that Porrera is back on its feet, Lluis is investing his time and treasure in Senegal. He is a shining star in the world of wine.