Spain has some beautiful wines, you think of Tempranillo from Rioja, Albarino from Rias Baixas and of course, then there is Cava! I am traveling to Priorat, Spain this month. I do have some great company on this trip with the #WorldWineTravel group. This month we are heading to Catalonia, or Catalunya or Cataluña…you will find the spellings here vary.
We are led by Susannah at Avvinare who posted a preview post with tons of in-depth information on the region here.
You will find an array of articles by my colleagues at the bottom of this piece, that you will want to read. In addition, we will all gather on Saturday, February 27th on Twitter at 8 am Pacific Time to chat about the wines of this region. Join us by following and using the hashtag #WorldWineTravel!
This is northeastern Spain, with the Mediterranean sea to the east and France to the North. Barcelona is the primary city in the region and holds Spain’s largest port. The wine trade here goes back to the Ancient Greeks.
When it comes to the wine region, you must remember that the region spans over 12,000 square miles with a wide variety of soils and microclimates. Cataluña boasts 10 DOs Alella, Penedès, Priorat, Tarragona, Montsant, Terra Alta, Costers del Segre, Emporadà, Pla de Bages and Conca de Barberà. And then of course there is Cava, which while not isolated to the region, finds its primary footing here.
I had a delicious wine this past summer from the Priorat region and learned a bit about the area then, and I was smitten.
While wine in this region began in the 12th century with the Carthusian Order of monks, the early 20th century saw a decline in wine here. The late 1970s saw a glimmer of light and in the 1990’s René Barbier and some friends kicked off a resurgence in the area. In 2009, Priorat was elevated to a DOQ (or DOCa) only the 2nd in Spain.
This is an unforgiving land, with steep slopes and rocky soils of llicorella, a decomposed slate, flecked with mica that breaks easily.
The region has a continental climate, with long hot summers and little rainfall.
The Priorat DOQ
They take quality seriously here. Here’s a bit of their classification system that I shared in my other piece
Els noms de la terra (The Names of the Land) Classification system
- Priorat DOQ = regional wines
- Vi de Vila = village wine, 90% vines over 10 years old, 60% Carinyena and/or Garnatxa
- Vi de Paratge = single zone (smaller than a village, larger than a vineyard), 90% vines over 15 years old, produced inside the village,60% Carinyena and/or Garnatxa
- Vinya Classifacada = single vineyard, 80% vines over 20 years old (premier cru), 60% Carinyena and/or Garnatxa
- Gran Vinya Classificada = single vineyard, 80% vines over 35 years old, 90% Carinyena and/or Garnatxa. Vineyards must have been planted before 1945 (grand cru)
The region has over 2,000 hectares of vineyards, 575 winemakers, and 109 wineries.
Franks Massard was named the UK Sommelier of the Year in 1996. In 2004 he purchased his first vineyard in Priorat with a friend.
“It was a tiny vineyard of 3ha where vines were planted among olive trees. We refurbished an old shed of 70 square meters and started making our 500 bottles of wine in the Priorat region.”
To add to the story, this small vineyard was purchased from a taxi driver in Barcelona. And was located near the village of El Molar. Huellas, means “imprints” in Spanish.
In 2007 they saw their first wine the “Huellas”. It was 2008 when they released their first “humilitat”, which was meant to be a light version of Priorate. They made a statement, bottling it with a screwcap.
In 2010 they ventured into Montsant. In 2011 it was time to make sparkling wine. In 2012 they added Galacia to their list of wineries pulling fruit from Alma in Rias Baixas and Audacia in Valdeorras…the list goes on and on.
They prioritize coexistence on this planet and believe in biodiversity.
This wine is 60% Grenache and 40% Carignan. Grenache (in Spain Garnacha) is 41% of the production of the region, with Carignan a 2nd with 23% of production. The Garnacha is rich and juicy (and very Spanish in attitude) and the Carinena (or Carignan) adds depth and intensity.
The winemaker notes this wine as “elegant, fresh, simple, humble…Garnacha at its best” I find it impossible to disagree
The bottle reads…
“Because every vintage is a new challenge. Because we wish to nurture nature but we are only vinegrowers, artisans honing our skills all our life. And maybe then, the harshness of the land opens up to us, enlightens our minds gives rise to a special wine. Maybe, this is humility, “humilitat”.
Franck Massard, sommelier & vigneron.
The first notes to hit my nose were of coffee and mocha followed by berries and bramble. Notes of garrigue, heavy on the lavender popped out. There were notes of raspberry and roasted strawberry along with deeper notes of dried currant and a whiff of black olive floating somewhere in the back. This wine is full, but in no way heavy.
On its own, the wine is decidedly Spanish, vibrant, and feisty with elegance.
Pairing with Coffee and five-spice sous-vide salmon and grilled herbed zucchini
“Elegant, fresh…” yes that describes this wine. It began simply enough and then grew more complex as it opened and danced beautifully with the dish.
The wine and the dish waltzed gracefully together. Picture those dancers that seem to just glide across the floor effortlessly. That was this pairing. The coffee and five-spice melded beautifully, softening the wine, slightly. This was one of those pairings that you close your eyes and savor. The zucchini also with the char notes and herbs was delicious with this wine. This is really an amazing pairing and I encourage you to try it!
We also had a cheese plate with Iberico ham and manchego cheese which, as expected, were lovely with the wine. In addition, we had put together a pairing suggested in “Taste Buds and Molecules” for spicing up a cheese. We used camembert and sliced it in half horizontally and spread it with ground clove and five-spice, then wrapped it and let it macerate for a few days. We drizzled this with a black cherry and rosemary compote. This was delicious with the Priorat.
We had a dessert that we made to pair with another wine (a Pinot), but we thought we would try it with this wine also. This was a mini pineapple upside-down cake that we also topped with the cherry rosemary compote. The cake was fine with this, but the cherries? Nope just not right. I think if we had topped this with a strawberry compote the pairing would have worked much better.
More from #WorldWineTravel
My fellow writers at World Wine Travel are also writing about this region. You may seem some more Priorate, but you can expect lots of bubbles from Cava as well as other regions! The links to all of these posts are listed below.
And don’t forget to join us on Saturday, March 27th at 8 am Pacific or 11 am Eastern, on Twitter as we jump in to discuss the wines of Catalonia! Follow and use the hashtag #WorldWineTravel to join the conversation!
- Allison and Chris from Advinetures look at “Cava: Spain’s Answer to Champagne”
- Andrea from The Quirky Cork enjoys “Tapas with Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Pollo a la Catalana + Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2019”
- David from Cooking Chat shines with “Mushroom Fricassee and Red Wine from Priorat”
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator brings “Sparkling Wine Secrets: Catalonia Cava from Marqués de Cáceres with Spanish Chorizo Kale Bean Stew”
- Jeff from Food Wine Click looks at “Exploring the Variety of Still Wines from Catalunya”
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass showcases “Pere Mata Cupada Rosé Cava: Finesse in a glass”
- Lynn from Savor the Harvest posts “Beyond Cava: Loxarel and Gramona Organic Sparkling Wines”
- Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog waxes poetic about “A Taste of Can Descregut; Grower Spanish Sparkling Wine From The Corazón del Penedès”
- Melanie from Wining With Mel muses about “Innovative winemaking in Catalunya’s Penedès: Torres Gran Coronas Reserva”
- Nicole from SommsTable pens “On a Hilltop in Priorat”
- Payal from Keep The Peas joins with “Bartender’s Choice from Priorat”
- Steve from Children of the Grape describes “Cava by the Sea”
- Susannah from Avvinare.com thinks about “Two Key Areas in Catalonia Wine Scene: Cava and Priorat”
- Terri from Our Good Life dished about “Chicken Empanadas and Azimut Cava”
- Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm adds “Enjoying Tapas with Spanish Wines from Catalonia”
Sous vide salmon the perfect way to cook salmon to make it perfect and buttery. Adding coffee and 5 spice as a coating, makes it lend itself to pairing with heartier wines, like the Priorat we chose. Grilled zucchini brings the herbs and the char to round out this perfect pairing.
- • 2 salmon fillets skin on
- • 2 tbs olive oil
- • 1/2 tsp salt
- • ¼ tsp pepper
- • 3 tbs ground coffee
- • 3 tsp Chinese 5 spice
- • 2 zucchini
- • ¼ cup olive oil
- • ¼ tsp salt
- • ¼ tsp pepper
- • ½ tsp dried rosemary
- • ½ tsp dried thyme
- Rub the salmon with olive oil.
- Salt& pepper the salmon on all sides
- roll in ground coffee and 5 spice mixture.
- Put in a zip lock bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes
- Preheat the water to 110 with your sous vide.
- Remove the air from the bag as you lower the salmon in.
- Clip the bag to the side of the pot to keep it from floating around
- Cook 45 minutes
- with 15 minutes left on the salmon, slice the zucchini, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dried rosemary, and
- Grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side on the stove on a rod iron grill pan (put in the oven to keep warm)
- Heat veg oil in a cast-iron skillet over med-high, place salmon skin down, press gently with a spatula until crisp 1 to 1 ½ min, flip and cook another 15 seconds
You can cook the zucchini on a grill outside also, but I find a grill pan indispensable in the kitchen!
The sous vide technique with the salmon at 110 degrees F makes it buttery and delicious.
Sources & Resources
- Priorat: Medieval Monks, Modern Rebirth and Outstanding Wine from Spain
- History and Heritage in the Priorat
- The Names of the Land – DOQ Priorat
- Deep Dive – In Search of the Best Wines from Priorat – Wine Folly
- Consell Regulador DOQ Priorat
- Priorat Wine – Wine Searcher
- And for a visual of the label inspiration https://franckmassard.com/en/terroir-poboleda-vineyard-flora-doq-priorat/
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.