Great Wines from Catalan Spain
At this year's F&W Classic in Aspen, F&W's Ray Isle led a lively seminar on the wines of Catalonia. Here's a recap, with his top bottle recommendations.
This year's Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is over, but memories still linger: particularly those of the wines I poured for my Friday seminar on the wines of Catalan Spain. Catalunya (or Catalonia, if you prefer the Castilian spelling) is an extraordinary region, home to most of Spain’s Cava production, as well as the sought-after reds of the Priorat.
But it has far greater diversity than people often realize. For the seminar I touched down in six of the region’s ten D.O.s (Denominación de Origen; though technically Priorat is a D.O.Ca., a higher designation shared only with Rioja). Vineyards here grow in a range of climates, from warmly Mediterranean (for instance in the lower parts of Pènedes) to windy and dry (the western reaches of Terra Alta, say); soils vary too: alluvial clays in Conca de Barberà, broken schist in Priorat, lime-rich loam in Mallorca (technically the Balearic islands aren’t part of Catalonia, but historically they were, so I included Mallorca; what the heck).
Any of these wines would be well worth tracking down; or, find them all and put on your own Catalan wine seminar.
2013 Raventos i Blanc L’Hereu ($24)
This sparkling white isn’t a Cava, since Raventos i Blanc famously quit the D.O. a few years back, but it’s made from the same traditional grapes—Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel.lo—in the same way. It’s also crisp, focused, and extremely impressive for the price.
2014 Celler Lafou Els Amelers ($28)
Forty-year-old Grenache Blanc vines from a single vineyard in Terra Alta provide the fruit for this minerally white. Grenache Blanc often becomes flabby in warm climates; Terra Alta’s high altitude and constant breeze help give this one notable focus.
2014 Binigrau Nounat ($23)
A big hit at the tasting in Aspen, this unusual Mallorcan white—a blend of the local Prensal variety and Chardonnay—has exotic aromas of toasted nuts and flowers, then surprisingly full-bodied, rich, tropical fruit flavor.
2013 Joan d’Anguera Planella ($23)
The d’Anguera brothers of Montsant make a superb range of Rhône-variety (or Montsant-variety, I suppose) reds. This spicy, medium-bodied cuvee blends 50% Carignan with 45% Syrah and 5% Grenache.
2013 Terroir al Limit Dits del Terra ($80)
Dominik Huber’s Terroir al Limit project is one of the most fascinating Priorat producers around. The wines, all from individual small vineyards, express a more elegant, transparent style than is typical for this region. Dits del Terra, 100% Carignan from an 80-year-old vineyard, is no exception: It’s beautifully aromatic and full of flavor, but not heavy or dense at all.
2009 Torres Grans Muralles ($140)
For my money, the most fascinating wine from (inarguably) the most significant winery in Catalonia, Grans Muralles is a single-vineyard blend of native Catalan varieties. (Starting with this vintage, that includes Querol, which Torres effectively brought back into existence after discovering a few straggling vines near the village of the same name). A dark, powerful red, it’s impressive now and should be even better after a few years in the cellar.