WINE REVIEW: LOS 800 2007 PRIORATO, SPAIN

Los 800 2007 Priorat, Spain $23.95

Priorato is a wine-producing region in north-east Spain inland from Barcelona. It has become famous only in the last few decades despite entirely ancient roots. Many factors contribute to this renaissance, with plenty of information about the zone to be found. Shepherd boys and stairways to heaven aside, the shortest version is as follows: it became only the second region in Spanish wine producing history to earn a DOCa/DOQ (Denominacion de Origen Calificada/Qualificada) after Rioja in 1991 despite it having been so recently re-discovered. A handful of top Spanish winegrowers, lead by Rene Barbier, established a cooperative style winery in the town of Gratallops where they produced five wines preceded by the French term 'Clos' (meaning walled-in vineyard). The vines they had discovered in the area were upwards of 150 years old, and produced miniscule amounts of super-concentrated grapes. Garnacha is the leading variety in the area, with some Carinena, Syrah and eventually Cabernet Sauvignon. A well-draining slate-quartz soil called Llicorella comprises the best sites.

 


This wine represents among the best values from the zone, as great Priorat tends to be expensive.



With the 2007 vintage, the varietal makeup includes 45% Garnacha, 35% CariƱena, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Syrah. All grapes come from vineyards 800 meters or higher (thus the name "The Eight Hundreds") as with Mediterranean (i.e. hot) growing regions altitude goes a long way toward preserving flavours and freshness while producing structure in the wines. After a 24 day maceration and succeeding malo-lactic fermentation, the wine is then aged for six months in French and American oak barrels.

With the deep ruby colour, we are lead into a nose that somehow gives the impression of density. Dark, stewed cherries, dark chocolate, red rose, yet a fine mineral line prevents it from tilting toward the boozy side. In one sense, it is reminiscent of Chateauneuf-du-Pape while in another it is Amarone-esque. On the palate it follows from the aromatics, with density dominating, yet supported by firm acidity. Have you ever seen a really large person move like lightning? They don't seem to be capable, but the sheer strength of their structural makeup allows them the physical agility to move tremendous weight with speed, power and elegance. Though not as layered as top Priorat can be, that kind of complexity comes with a higher price tag. For a truly rewarding wine that offers richness, some complexity, structure and intrigue, but that isn't as blowsy as big Auzzie Shiraz, this is your vino del dia.

-Matt Browman


 

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Comments

  • 2/2/2012 2:24 PM Drex wrote:
    Loved the comment about the ability of heft to have agility. What I want to know about, though, is what it tastes like after you swallow it, and for how long (or was that the "it follows from the aromatics, with density dominating, yet supported by firm acidity")?
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    1. 2/3/2012 5:57 AM Highlander Wine Team wrote:
      Thanks Dex - yes. Sorry, we sometimes unknowingly slip into winespeak. "It follows from the aromatics..." implies that the flavours give more of that dark, almost stewed cherry and rich plum, but the structure prevents it from being sweet or too heavy. Great question!

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