Catalan red wines

webmaster Sat, 11/02/2013 - 21:49

Home to some of the world’s most sought-after red wines—the modern wines of Priorat—Catalonia is experiencing a dramatic shift toward quality in all its DO (denominación de origen) zones. Winemakers with a global mindset and an eye to the future are installing state-of-the-art equipment, lowering yields, and planting noble varieties like Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Many are aiming for individual greatness and even rejecting the DO for their wines to gain maximum flexiblity in decision making.

Garnacha is king here. Grown in all the Catalan DOs, Garnacha (known in France as Grenache) contributes sweetness, structure, and balsamic and black pepper notes to Catalonia’s red wines.

Cariñena (Carignane in France) is widely planted in the region, producing wines rich in tannin and acidity. Many of the best Catalan red wines include some Cariñena, often from old vines.

Although you may want to seek out wines from Priorat or Montsant—two DOs esteemed for their reds—you should know that many fine Catalan reds carry only the broader Catalunya DO. That appellation doesn’t mean the wine is a generic blend. Some experimental high-end producers don’t want to be bound by the strict rules of the smaller DOs. They may want the freedom to plant grapes varieties that aren’t permitted by the DO or to blend wines from multiple DOs. The wines they produce can be complex, even stunning, and still qualify for only the Catalunya DO. Don’t pass them by.

Appellations with an established or emerging reputation for red wines include:

Montsant: A relatively new DO that split off from the larger Tarragona DO in 2001, Montsant is up and coming. The zone comprises a near-complete ring around Priorat, and the bodegas located within it are quality driven. Many own old-vine Garnacha and Cariñena and are farming for low yields to emulate the concentration of Priorat.

Priorat: Its star rose in the 1990s, thanks to the efforts of a small band of progressive winemakers who recognized the unique quality of the soil here and jointly invested in the zone. Today, modern Priorat wines like Alvaro Palacios’ L’Ermita and René Barbier’s Clos Mogador command astronomical prices and have brought international attention to the DO. Not that everyone has abandoned the old ways; traditionally styled Priorats—inky, intense, high-alcohol wines—persist in some villages and have many fans.

Costers del Segre: Almost single-handedly, the Raïmat bodega has established the reputation of this DO. By bringing irrigation to this largely arid land and doing extensive grapevine trials, the proprietors were able to find the vines that would thrive in the area’s salty soils. Raïmat grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Tempranillo, but the DO allows several other red varieties, too.

These vigorous red wines show beautifully with Catalan bean dishes, such as Garbanzos con Butifarra Negra (Chick Peas with Blood Sausage); with sturdy rice dishes, such as the classic Paella Valenciana with rabbit and snails; or with roast pork or grilled sausages. Made in a contemporary style, Catalonia’s more refined reds match the innovative spirit of the food at the area’s avant-garde restaurants.

About the author
Catalan wines are produced in Catalonia, an old European nation with a rich wine tradition, as well as being one of the top cork producing countries.