Alimentaria ’04

If you were casually wandering around the Intervin exhibition at the biannual Alimentaria fair you could have sucked wines from every part of Spain. The new location of Gran Via near Hospitalet meant there were less crowds and more time to catch up on contacts and try new wines. I had my eye firmly on small producers from Southern Catalonia and it was a great pleasure to see they have maintained and increased their presence at the fair.

Individually or on regional stands this is a great opportunity for small producers to catch up with the rest of the world, even try a few wines from New Zealand and Australia, but also to touch the pulse of what’s happening. There’s been a huge swing towards red wines in Penedès and further south the emphasis is on high concentration big expression wines.
Old old-world vines of Garnatxa with terroir of “Licorella” slate soils are highly attractive to northern diners. Fusions with Cabernet and Merlot are well advanced and there are many slick designer labels and presentations to welcome you to the rebooted deep south.
Penedès with its host of micro climates and soils, leads the way with more wine styles and innovation. Plenty of world class reds but also blissful rosés, whites and cavas as well.

Southern Catalunya continues to come out of its 50 year hibernation with Penedès as leaders in innovation in the vineyards and the cellar. There are new names from Conca de Barbera, Priorat, Montsant and Terra Alta as fresh blood takes up the reins, liberating themselves from inefficient cooperatives and releasing lots of pent up creative potential. It will be difficult to find a bad bottle. The licorella and poor clay soils, old vines and new varieties in the hands of competent, well informed wine makers are sending a warning shot across the bows of new world wines and even the French.

In Penedès
The Cusine brothers, Joan and Josep of Parés Baltà were presenting a single varietal Xarel.lo and a Shiraz rosé. Electió ‘03 is old vine Xarel.lo fermented in new oak, contact with the lees softens the strong acidic notes of this variety, the workhorse of Penedès whites. The attack is original, clean and fresh, slow and long in the mouth. It’s an excellently made wine made for contemplation and finer seafood. Expect to pay around 16 euros
Radisc ’03 is an original proposition, a Shiraz rosé. Penedès rosés have been edging away from the intended puce colour for some time now, perhaps because many use mature vines to produce bigger rosés. In the case of Radisc one has to be more than liberal with the term rosé as the colour has more in common with some reds from Priorat. Its solid appearance is the result of a mere 4 hours maceration with the skins. On the nose there’s cream and fruit, a touch of candy. The taste of mature fruit stays in the mouth. At 14.5ºC this is a very cheek catching complex and original rosé. 13 euros.
Parés Baltà:

Nadal always make the brilliant cavas. Their style is more in line with that of a French “Chateau”. In the hands of Xavi Nadal they create a chorus of cavas but also a number of significant white wines.
Xarello is the Chardonnay of Penedès. Finca Boadella ‘01 is a traditional style white wine produced with Xarel.lo and Macabeo which captures all the aromas of mature grapes and presents them with smooth structured elegance. White wine that will happily age and develop in a year. Price 4 euros.
Nadal 1510 ’00 is the gold calling card of the house. Over matured old vine Macabeo affected by noble rot produce an aperitif wine with very light green tints against a pale gold colour. The bouquet is the essence of perfume with notes of sour orange marmelade and honey that smoothly repeat in the mouth. Price 26 euros.
Cavas Nadal:

A very small winery that surprises every year, Colet, presented a 1/5 Gewürtztraminer ‘02. Sergi Colet is one of the pioneers of the variety in Penedès. This is rare and well crafted with tinges of muscatel, honey, almonds and banana. Watch out for the fresh attack of grapefruit. Price 7 euros
While everyone is looking the other way Sergi is introducing a fresh new Cava. A Priori, is aimed at the younger drinker. It’s light in body with a fruitier attack balanced with herbs and lemon. The blend is highly innovative and very pleasing. 6 euros
Cavas Colet: [email protected]

Heading further South over the hills south west of Penedès you enter Alt Camp and La Conca de Barbera.

Ricard Sabastien Foraster, enologist at Josep Foraster, Montblanc, D.O. Conca de Barbera, prefers to leave his wines unfiltered and chooses Hungarian and American oak for long ageing (18 months) of their new Selecció ’01. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Tempranillo makes this one of the new wave of fine wines from this small Denomination just south of Penedès. 2.982 bottles available @ 15/20 euros. Celler Mas Foraster:

Comalats, a project begun in 1989 with the replantation of the Bonet estate, l’Ametlla, La Segarra, D.O.Costers de Segre. 12 hectacres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc enjoy dry continental conditions that produce refined well structured wines. High altitude day and night temperature extremes ensure slower ripening and ideal conditions for ecological husbandry.
Total production is 20.000 bottles /year. The Comalats semi-crianza ’01 is deeply coloured and intense on the nose. It fills the mouth with velvety mineral and fruit flavours. Comalats Reserva ’01 is dark ruby with long legs thanks to the 14.5% graduation. American oak has tamed nearly all the tannins but another 4 or 5 years will do it total justice.

Follow the old trade route south from Montblanc and you enter the now 4 year old D.O. Montsant.
Home to a brace of high quality wine makers. The main trend in Montsant is towards 2 year old, full nosed, elegant reds, with their eye firmly on young restaurant goers.

Fluminis 2002 is the first wine produced at Mas de l’Abundancia, Montroig D.O. Montsant. Enologist Andreu Fernandez Asens works with 41/2 hectacres close to the Siurana river. Cabernet 60%, Garnatxa 20% and Cariñena 20% are treated to ageing in French oak from Alliers, Tronçais and Nevers to produce an original dark sherry tone that is light, fruit forward and fresh. Available from Verema I Collita, Pl Joanic. @ 10 euros.

Cellers de la Cartoixa unites the efforts of Francesç Sánchez and enologist Roser Amorós Soler in the town land of Vilella Alta, D.O.Priorat. Montgarnatxa ‘02 is a semi crianza with 7 months in French oak to offer it background structure. The fruit of Garnatxa 70% and Cariñena 30% predominate. Characteristically for Garnatxa the colour is light with shades of red brick . The nose is long and light. Its youth left pepper and heat on the back of the tongue and sweet fruit to the fore.
Montsalvat ’01 is 80 year old Cariñena vines 60%, Garnatxa 20% finished with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Dark thick colour is accompanied by toasted tones of 17 months in oak The wines of Priorat are very masculine and the touch of a female enologist is appreciated here.
Fruit and coffee are joined by a chemists dispensary of minerals. Sweet, deep and full flavoured. 977 839 299

Onix, from Priorat caught my eye with their very attractive presentation. The Licorella slate soils of the region are often mentioned, Onix have included a piece of this aromatic stone in each catalogue.
Their Tinto classico ’03 Garnatxa/Cariñena is light ruby with good weight and light nose. It’s individual, evenly balanced and rustic. About 6 euros
Evolució ’02 is old vine Cariñena 30%, Garnatxa 20% and Cabernet Sauvignon treated to 12 months in American and French oak. There’s lots of dark fruit and mineral on the nose, a lick of cough medicine and fruity medium dry finish. 14 euros
Selecció ‘02, single varietal old vine Cariñena has whiffs of Riesling and cherry, its sweet and long intensity increases in the mouth. 23 euros. 977 839 167

15 years ago Priorat began to emerge from its role as an abandoned backwater, source of tough wines accompanying mediocre set lunches. It still clung to some prestige as the origin of preferred alter wines worldwide since the middle ages. A few intrepid outsiders spotted the pre-filoxera varieties, the unique climate and geology and perhaps something of the stunning atmosphere of the place. The Priorat designer wine was born and more outsiders, large wineries, corporations and quite a few individuals from the preforming arts, dived in for a piece of the 40 euro/ bottle action. Some of the previously dominant Co Operatives made links with experienced producers such as Albet i Noya. Teeny local producers, the ones who had stayed behind, watched with frustration as they and their Co Operatives were left on the sidelines.

Els Petits Cellers de Priorat is a group of young at hearts who believe in high quality, low production, environmental sustainability and sharing the marketing and technological wheel reinventing. Most produce between 2.000 and 10.000 bottles a year. Their Priorat wines are distinct from any wines in the world and they are partial to a healthy dollop of personal or designer wine making without skinning you entirely for the proceedings.
I had exhausted my time and wine tasting buds by the time we met so I’ll let you have some addresses to play with and we can expect to hear more about them in the near future.

Josep Garrian takes care of Celler Mas Garrian, El Molar, producers of Mas del Camperol and Clos Severs. 977 26-2118.
Primitiu de Bellmunt. Wine made with a traditional hand. Antonio Rodriguez Martínez and Enologist Josep Valiente 977 830 098.
Terra d’Hom ‘01, Syrah 35%, Merlot 35%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20%, Garnatxa 10%, 12 months in new Allier oak.
Coma d’en Romeu ‘01, Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Merlot 20%, Syrah 20%, Garnatxa 10%, 12 months in Allier oak. 3.800 bottles.
Celler Ardevol, Josep Ardevol, [email protected], 639 85-3282.
Closa Batllet ’01, Negre Crianza, 90 y/o vines, Authentic Priorat character
Closa Batllet ’02, singular mediaeval variety “Escanyavella”, Oak fermented and aged white. Marc Ripoll Sans, Celler Ripoll Sans, Gratallops,, 977 839 361.
Les Eres ’01, Traditional varieties plus a touch of Cabernet, long fermentation, 13/15 months in new French/American, light to medium toasted oak.
Les Sentius ’01, High expression traditional varieties finished with Cabernet and Syrah, 12 months is French Allier oak 95%, American oak 5%. Gerard Batllevell Simó, Celler Joan Simó, Porrera, [email protected], 977 830 325.
Roquers de Porrera ’01, Traditional varieties finished with Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, 16 months in Allier oak, 5.000 bottles.
Marge ’02, New/Old world blend semi-crianza 8 months in Allier and new American oak, 12.000 bottles. Carme Figuerola Juncosa, Raimon Castellvi Vigués, Celler de l’Encastell, Porrera, 977 828 146.
Amèlia’01 & Pedralets, Celler Masdeu i Campos, Gratallops, David 609 881 980
Nunci Blanc ’02, Celler Mas les Pereres, Poboleda, Dirk Hoet, 977 82 72 57

If you are looking for a chance to catch up on D.O. Priorat, and D.O. Montsant I highly recommend the very well organised Mostra de Vins in Falset, the first weekend of May. There will be various levels of wine-tastings. I hope to reserve a bit of time for the Concurs de Gastronomia, where one is obliged to include any of 60 wines in the pot.

What’s on in April/May
April, 1st Sunday, Bike Trial with specialists, La Muntanyeta, Moja.
23 April – 2 May Setmana Mediaeval, Montblanc Conca de Barbera, Mediaeval Markets, banquets, devils, games, pagents and crafts,. 977 860 822/977 860 158
April 23 Meeting of Classic motorbikes, Pla del Penedès, info.93 898 80 03
April 23 Dia del Graller, Catalan Pipers. Pl Santa Maria, Vilafranca.
Last Sundays, Ride out and discover Torrelles de Foix, South West Penedès with El Moli Bike Centre. 93 897 22 07
1st Weekend May, Mostra de Vins, DO Priorat, Falset
Trans Catalunya Probike Club 93 419 78 89

Paddy Mannion
[email protected]