My love affair with wine started with Spanish wine - specifically Rioja. For this reason, Spanish wine will always have a special place in my heart - especially Rioja. Rioja is a large, expansive region in north-central Spain home to over 600 wineries and is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify for the highest qualification level for a Spanish wine region, DOCa, along with the Priorat DOCa in Catalonia near Barcelona. Rioja is known primarily for Tempranillo, but Garnacha is a key component of many red Rioja wines. Despite its relative small size, Priorat has garnered a reputation for producing big, bold red wines primarily from Garnacha and Cariñena (Grenache and Carignan), along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Priorat, which usually appears on the labels, is the Catalan spelling, while the Castillian spell it as Priorato.
Our annual Valentine's Day party seemed like as good a time as any to pour a trio of Priorat wines for some friends and neighbors. One thing Priorat doesn't have in as much abundance as Rioja is inexpensive wines. These samples sent by Folio Wine Partners ranged from $25-$65. My favorite of the bunch was actually the cheapest. The 2011 Embruix de Vall Llach (15% abv, Sample $25) was the lightest, freshest and most aromatic of the group. At only 15% abv it was also the least alcoholic - and it showed. There were fresh cherry and vanilla aromas and pure fruit flavors, complement by some dark licorice and spice. It definitely was full bodied, but compared to the other two it was not weighted down by excessive extraction.
Like the Embruix, the 2009 Idus de Vall Llach (15.5% abv, Sample $50) was a blend of mostly Cariñena and Garnacha with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah blended it. However, the Idus was a hot mess of a wine. Overwhelmed by excessive ethyl acetate and alcohol on the nose, I could barely come to put it in my mouth. When I worked up the courage, my palate was met by an abundance of charcoal, tobacco, oak and way too ripe muddled berry flavors. I suppose some people like these type of exaggerated cocktail wines, but I found this downright disgusting.
Last by not least, the 2010 Porrera vi de vila de Vall Llach (15.5% abv, Sample $65) was made with 70% Cariñena and 30% Garnacha. Though this wine may not be for the faint of heart, it is drinkable and quite good for the style. It is a massively dense and concentrated wine. Blackberry jam, chocolate, and vanilla are pervasive on the nose and palate. There is a hint a mineralogy attempting to show itself, but it is being suffocated by the oak and fruit. Though the high alcohol is very apparent, it isn't obnoxious. I'd still take a glass of the Embruix over this, though I'd guess lovers of burlesque-y wines would very much prefer the Porrera.