Wave Spanish White Wine
Priorat and the famed “Llicorella”
The wine region of Priorat, as a whole, is certainly Spain’s
most exciting region in 2004. Located in the beautiful natural
park around the mountains of Montsant (Holy Mountain), an
hour inland from Roman Tarragona and the Mediterranean Sea.
Priorat is red hot at the moment, winning awards worldwide.
Winemakers have transformed into celebrities. Priorat red wines
(“Priorato” in Spanish, “Priorat” in
Catalan) are fetching the highest prices of any Spanish wines
being made today. Alvaro Palacio’s “L’Ermita
and Rene Barbier’s “Clos Mogador” are two
of the most famous, expensive wines in Spain. Both have been
given top marks by Robert Parker and Spain’s Jose Penin,
and these wines have gained almost mythical status. What strikes
the first time visitor to Priorat is the amount of amazingly
young winemakers, particularly female winemakers. As in other
parts of Catalonia, Priorat is tremendously innovative and
dynamic, and this is reflected in the winemaking. Priorat has
wonderful terroir (the perfect relationship between the soils,
microclimates and grapes). The secret to Priorat’s success
is said to be the amazing loose, granite like soils, called “Llicorella”.
The llicorella soils are high in mineral content and are said
to contribute magnificently to quality wine production.
Apart from the monster reds, Priorat is making a surprising
amount of interesting white wine from unusual grapes. The principal
grapes used in Priorat for whites are Garnacha Blanca (Grenache
Blanc), Macabeu and Pedro Ximenez (the key player in Sherry
country, used for Amontillados and Olorosos). Priorat white
wines are high in alcohol (as are the reds) and regularly top
13.5-14%, quite strange for still, young white wines. The white
wines are often fermented in French oak, and the wines are
usually beautiful and golden. These heavy whites are luscious,
powerful, even oily, and cry out for food. We were lucky enough
to recently attend a superb white wine tasting at a local wine
shop in Priorat’s capital, Falset, and here is a list
of some of our favorite white wines from the region: Mas d’en
Compte Blanc (made by the enormously gifted young winemaker,
Joan); Kyrie (by Carles Pastrana’s phenomenal Costers
del Siurana winery); and “Nona” (a delicious wine
made with Garnacha Blanca, by the very charming Jordi Vidal
of La Conreria de Scala Dei).
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