The wine universe has been expanding at an accelerated rate over the last decade or so, and no place illustrates it better than Spain. New appellations have joined historic names. Forgotten regions have reinvented themselves. And everywhere, despite the country’s poor economy, new producers have jumped into the global fray.
According to the article from The New York Times ( published on 22 feb)
Global is the salient point. No Spanish regions are really new to making wine. It has been part of the culture for centuries, if not millenniums. But unlike the first thousand some-odd years, when consumption was primarily local, winemaking is now a thoroughly global enterprise, and that has required new ways of thinking and working.
One of the foremost examples of Spain’s transformation is Montsant, a small Catalonian region nestled in the forbidding shadows of Priorat’s slate hills.
Priorat itself is both old and new, an ancient region that few outside Catalonia had heard of 30 years ago. Now it is renowned for beautiful red wines that manage to combine power and density with structure, shape and a distinctive sense of place. Naturally, they fetch high prices.
Montsant is an even more recent discovery. Only in 2001 was it carved out of the larger Tarragona appellation and given official approval as an independent zone. Even since then, it has largely been valued for its proximity to Priorat, an association that has had its pluses and minuses.
On the one hand, because the world greatly values the wines of Priorat, Montsant has earned attention as a source of red wines that resemble Priorat’s but for a lot less money. This, of course, is good for business. On the other hand, the constant likening to Priorat has kept Montsant from developing its own identity. This, perhaps, is bad for the soul.
So how do the regions resemble each other? Proximity is one thing, but judging by the many ordinary Bordeaux chateaus that like to note they are just across the way from renowned Latour or Margaux, that doesn’t always amount to much. Montsant and Priorat do use many of the same grapes. Old-vine stands of garnacha and carignan, known in Catalonian as samsó, and in Castilian as mazuelo or cariñena, remain of what was historically planted in the region. They have been supplemented by international grapes like syrah, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and even tempranillo.
The two regions also share a Catalan outlook, and unlike geography, the role of culture should never be underestimated.
Yet, differences separate the regions. Most significant is the soil. The best Priorat vineyards are planted on steep slopes in unusual, porous, slate like soils, known in Catalan as llicorella, which allow naturally low yields of concentrated grapes. In Montsant, the soil is more varied, though predominantly granite-like sand. The microclimates differ, too.
While Montsant producers generally strive for the same styles of wine that are made in the Priorat, to my taste they don’t quite achieve the drama, intensity or distinctive minerality of the Priorat wines. Nonetheless, they are quite delicious in their own right. In the end, it’s not much of a stretch to liken them to Priorat’s, so long as it’s understood that the wines are related but not identical.
( according to the article from the New York Times)