You may have heard of wines from Priorat in Spain’s Catalunya region. It’s famous for being one of the country’s two DOCa appellations (along with Rioja) and for its special soils known as llicorella, a kind of slate. It produces powerful red wines from Garnacha and Samso (Carignan). A DOCa appellation is the highest level possible in Europe in terms of quality controls over viticulture and wine production (Ca stands for “calidad” or quality).
There’s another region that completely surrounds DOCa Priorat, and that’s DO Montsant, which also has llicorella soils too, alongside silty loams, limestone clays, and granite sands. The appellation was awarded in 2002. It’s Mediterranean climate has continental influences in some areas: arid with rains mostly in spring and fall and elevations from 164 to 2297 feet. Most of the vineyards are on mountain slopes, often in the Sierra de Montsant.
Red wine predominates by far, as is true for Priorat, encompassing 90% of winemaking. This is Grenache country as well, but the wines have perhaps more elegance and less concentration than those of its neighbor. These wines are often blended (Garnacha with Samso, Monastrell, and even Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and typically have concentrated red fruit aromas, balanced acidity, and a certain minerality on the palate.
For fans of Garnacha/Grenache, it’s one of my favorite regions in Spain.
When you order wine online, consider picking up a good example of a Grenache blended with international varieties. The 2018 Venus Dido "La Universal" Montsant was made from Grenache, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This wine is an elegant, refined expression of Montsant, with impeccable balance and texture. The winemaking couple of Sara Pérez and René Barbier grew up in Priorat, but prefer the lighter styled expression they achieve in Montsant.
Another great choice is the 2018 Mas Donis Old Vines Montsant from Cellar Capçanes, a cooperative winery with roots stretching back to the 1930s. Mas Donis is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Carinena made in a modern style from ancient vines. You will find berry flavors, including from the Merlot and Syrah, alongside cherry and a hint of thyme. Made in contact with oak, there are also elegant notes of vanilla and toast. This medium bodied wine has velvet tannins and a refreshing finish. Lamb, roasted chicken, and Catalan-style pastas are great companions to the Mas Donis Old Vines.
Both can be ordered easily from Bottle Barn for wine delivery, as can some great Priorat wines to compare with those Montsant selections. This includes options from the famed winemaker Alvaro Palacios.