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New 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).

Related links

Cellar Tours - Unforgettable wine tours through some of the most charming, untouched wine regions in the world.

Cellar Tastings - Detailed information on gourmet and culinary activities, wine and winery information, food and wine tours and other forms of unique travel for the Gourmand, and various fun and educational events related to the world of food and wine.

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