Priorat and Montsant wines come from strongly contrasting terroirs, despite their proximity, winemaker Alfredo Arribas demonstrated in a 'discovery theatre' seminar at the Decanter Spain & Portugal Fine Wine Encounter…

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Aldredo Arribas, winemaker at his namesake winery in Priorat, got guests to taste the wines blind to minimise pre-conceptions about how they should taste.

The differences between Priorat and Montsant wines

It is only 30km from north to south of Priorat and Montsant, with the hills of Montsant surrounding Priorat and creating a mini micro-climate within, Arribas said.

The main difference between these neighbouring areas are the soils; the soil of Montsant glows bright red, next to Priorat’s grey, Arribas said.

Priorat is predominantly slate soil, on very sloped land – and often difficult to work the vineyards any way other than by hand.

Montsant is much flatter, meaning ‘less aggressive topography’, with clay and chalky soil.

Dicovery theatre guests had a sheet of clues to help them blind taste the wines, which were all Grenache, Carignan or a Syrah blend, and the vintage.

The wines – see the wine names below

1) Arribas described the first wine as refined, elegant and fresh, but with too much cherry to be Grenache. It had spent time in 100% new oak, but not for long, meaning oak influence was subtle and ‘more like an infusion’, he said.

2) The second wine was a Grenache and was produced with biodynamic methods, but again could have deceived. Arribas said it was from a clone not generally representative of the classic Grenache character. He described it as very floral, with orange peel notes and slightly underripe on the nose, with smooth tannins.

Both were examples of how two wines from similar chalky soil could taste very different.

3) Arribas said the next wine was very expressive of power and mineral, with graphite and earthy notes and a bit of violet flowers on the nose. There was a feeling of ‘a dry year – the vines have been working hard’, he said.

4) Wine number four, like number three, was also from Priorat. Arribas said it showed how wines from individual vineyards and plots could be clearly distinct from others in the same area.

5) Then we moved on to two white wines, both from Montsant, on clay soils. The first one had creamy notes, great structure and finished with a lot of acidity; a white wine with a lot going on. ‘It’s got the structure of a red, translated into a white,’ said Arribas.

6) The final wine was poured from magnum, and was another complex white, with an alcohol of 15% abv. On the nose was the ‘petrol’ note associated with some aged Riesling, said Arribas. The wine was from a small, biodynamically-farmed plot of vines and made with the ‘queen’ grape for Priorat white wines, Grenache Blanc.

The full list of wines tasted, in order served:

  1. Vins Nus, Siuralta Antic, Montsant 2012
  2. Portal del Priorat, Trossos, Tros Negre, Montsant 2013
  3. Portal del Priorat, Clos del Portal, Somni, Priorat 2012
  4. Portal del Priorat, Clos del Portal, Tros de Clos, Priorat 2011
  5. Vins Nus, Siuralta Gris, Montsant 2013
  6. Portal del Priorat, Trossos, Tros Blanc, Montsant 2007 (magnum)

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