On a trip to Priorat in 2017, we were struck by how Carignane, a grape not often discussed in North American wine circles, was treasured among winemakers, with the best cuvées receiving the lion’s share of the best old vine fruit.
Years ago, the Catalonian government initiated a pull-out program endorsing farmers to rip out their Carignane and plant Grenache and other preferred varietals. Carignane is vigourous, and under certain vineyard practices, can produce a large quantity of fruit at diminished quality. As a result, much Carignane was made into “jug wine”. It gave the grape a poor reputation.
When crop load is controlled, however, or when vines are very old, Carignane produces rich, round, full-bodied, vibrant wine with soft tannins and bright acidity. The best can age gracefully. These are special wines worth pursuing.
“1902” is arguably one of the best of the best. This wine, 100% Carignane from 115-year-old vines is a centrepiece for the cellar. Aged 16 months in new French oak and bottled unfined and unfiltered, only three barrels were produced. Bottles are individually numbered.
“New vintage of one of the Priorat great wines, elaborated with Cariñena planted in 1902. Limited and exclusive production of 880 bottles. Bright crimson red colour, medium depth and intense dark violet trim, slightly tinted fine tear that flows quickly throughout the glass.
In the nose initially it shows a bit closed and it is necessary to be patient. It is a slowly opening wine and it takes up to 2 hours to start showing its initial records. Then forest fruit aromas appear with red currants, blueberries, fleshy and ripe blackberries, fine and elegant roasted aromas from the French barrel that delight us with a subtle perfume of vanilla pod, cinnamon powder, and the soft minerality that it is characterized by suddenly appears. The llicorella is gaining ground as the wine is opening but we still need to be patient. Mountain herbs with fresh balsamic aromas, licorice root and fresh eucalyptus gradually lighten its remarkable aromatic structure. It is worth noting that after a decanting of 4-5 hours the wine shows an impressive balance of aromas and a deep nature of ripe fruit, fresh violets, wet slate, grain spices and nutmeg, everything in its purest state.
In the mouth it has an excellent entrance with a sweet astringency, it shows powerful, structured and compact; a whole block that is slowly progressing with a remarkable breadth and volume, tasty and fleshy black fruit with black plums, blackcurrants and fleshy blackberries, firm tannins, although at times they are a bit unripe, the barrel roasted aromas are elegant although they still have to be integrated into the whole, elegant and round, balanced and very pleasant, silky texture that is maintained throughout the route and helps to accommodate its structure and vigourosity, long persistence. Very long final, ripe fruit aftertaste and mineral retro-nasal of wet llicorella and soft spicy sensations. Pure essence of the Priorat. A colossus!”
98+ points, Demos Bertran, Nov 2017