Priorat seems to have come a long way since our last tasting in March 2011. Our judges’ perceptions then of high-alcohol, over-oaked and concentrated wines have been replaced, thanks to an exciting new style. ‘Priorat has moved to a new stage and there is real excitement about the future,’ enthused Sarah Jane Evans MW. ‘My real discovery this year has been Cariñena.’ This is clearly reflected in the result, with the top wines predominantly made from Cariñena (Carignan).
Evans continued: ‘Producers seem to have turned the corner in going back and rediscovering what they do best, which is their own local varieties. This is quite a recent change.’ Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW explained: ‘In 1972, the ministry said Priorat had the potential to make top Cabernet Sauvignon. In the 1980s, five producers established themselves in the region, planting a lot of Cabernet and Merlot, which were popular at the time. Alvaro Palacios has now abandoned Cabernet Sauvignon, but until 2014 there were still a lot of both varieties.’
Top scoring Priorat wines:
Evans also confessed to expecting an overdose of oak and alcohol, prior to the tasting: ‘People say that Priorat is a new region and that all they do there is make very concentrated wines with lots of oak; that was true in the past, but no longer. Yes, they have a lot of alcohol but on the other hand, they are really nicely balanced. The best thing about Cariñena is that it’s fresh!’ Pierre Mansour echoed her comment:
‘Alcohol is part of the Priorat style, but in general it was in balance. There were examples where the alcohol was above 16%, but the richness and generosity of fruit is so intense that it supports the alcohol, and the acidity too, and it works as a part of their original flavour and style.’