Anticipation for this tasting was high, since Priorat reds are among our best-loved categories of wines, and because it had been since April 2016 that we compared six bottles in our blind format. Priorat reds have an exceptional combination of power, concentration, and terroir that we find irresistible.
Grown in a rugged, remote area of Catalunya on slate soils (locally called llicorella), they are most commonly composed of mostly Grenache, plus Carignan, then smaller amounts of anything from Cabernet Sauvignon to Syrah. The area is dry, and vine yields here are extremely low. Priorat is only the second appellation to be awarded Spain's top classification of DOCa (in Catalyuna called DOQ), the other is Rioja.
Common to most entries this night was a sense of place, expressed in a rocky, saline, or underbrush quality, combined with depth of blue/red fruit, and impressive structure.
Unsurprisingly, the entries were outstanding, with all bottles receiving points, spread out among the bottles more evenly than we have had in a long time. Tasters struggled to pick favorites, resulting in a tie at the top of the podium, and the second-place bottle only one point behind. Our third-place wine was even the favorite of two tasters.
The top two wines were relative values for this appellation at $25 and $30. A welcome result.
The last-place bottle was clearly different from the rest, perhaps because it contained an unusually high percentage of Carignan (74%) that presented as well-made and enjoyable, but not as intense as the rest.
Two bottles were made by Alvaro Palacios, one of the best producers in Priorat.
Chelsea was once again on hand this month to randomly number our bagged bottles, as well as for the reveal.
First Place (tie): Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2020 (Priorat). On the nose, tasters were reminded of dusty basement, cream, menthol, bacon, mint, red berries, pine, charcoal, and a touch of smoke. Silky in texture, and a bit lean, but having lovely acidity that Jamie said "would cut through stuff." Refreshing, with flavors of espresso, blackberry, and underbrush. Blood orange on the finish. Josephine felt that it was "a little more inviting." Andy's favorite. Received 19 points. Josephine's bottle. About $25.
First Place (tie): Mas Doix Les Crestes 2019 (Priorat). Scents of cola, blue cheese, cedar, wormwood, green seaweed, and a little funk. Saline. Orange peel on the palate, plus green pepper and a sweet herbal quality. Finishes with raspberries. Youthful, but harmonious. Josephine's favorite. Received 19 points. Ali's bottle. About $30.
Second Place: Alvaro Palacios Gratallops 2017 (Priorat). Reminiscent of caramel, sour cream, vanilla, blackberries, and coconut on the nose. Kristin thought of "something by the sea", while Ali noted "sour cream with scallion potato." Saline on the palate, with notions of squid ink, dark fruit, and toasted chestnuts. Well-integrated. Kristin's favorite. Received 18 points. Jamie's bottle. About $70.
Third Place: Merum Priorati Inici 2018 (Priorat). Rocky and dusty on the nose, like crushed rocks with dark licorice, blackberries, cherries, smoke, and leather. Like a dark forest, with a tiny bit of red rose. Jamie felt that "It's like Heathcliff." Powerful in the mouth, with super-forward fruit, tasting like pomegranate, black tea, and roasted rosemary. Tannic. Ali was reminded of "watermelon Jolly Rancher on the finish." David and Ali's favorite. Received 16 points. Kristin's bottle. About $26.
Costers del Priorat Petit Pissarres 2019 (Priorat). Scents of wet clay, dry fruits, mashed dark berries, currants, raw meat, licorice, star anise, sausage, and maple. Tannic and powerful, with flavors of iron, licorice, Good & Plenty, cherries, and then savory qualities on the finish. Briny. Mellowed considerably with time. Jamie's favorite. Received 8 points. Andy's bottle. About $22.
Ferrer Bobet Vinyes Velles 2017 (Priorat). Youthful nose, suggesting milk chocolate, cola, red and blue fruits, Moxie, and anisette. Rounder and fleshy in the mouth, with lower tannins compared to the rest. Flavors of chocolate and dark plums. Good, but not as interesting, and didn't evolve. Josephine felt that it was "a little bit of a tease." Received 4 points. David's bottle. About $45.