It’s hard to look at the grape vines in the rugged region of Priorat in Spain and not think, “How do they make wine here?” The steep hills, the gnarled vines, the “llicorella” (slate) soil. And to call it soil is kind of strange as it looks menacing, like it would slice you in half if you slipped on it. This ain’t no fluffy potting soil.
The folks at Vall Llach in Priorat sent a trio of wines for my consideration and exploration. The region is best-known for its old-vine Carignan and Grenache, in Spain called Cariñena and Garnacha. But you’ll also see some Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.
And before I got any further, how about these photos? Big thanks to Rebecca Hopkins for letting me use her images. Please peruse more of her work here.
Now let’s get to the lineup:
- 2011 Vall Llach Embruix ($25): 28% Cariñena, 23% Garnacha, 18% Cabernet, 17% Merlot, 14% Syrah. (15% ABV)
- 2009 Vall Llach Idus ($50): 40% Cariñena, 30% Merlot, 10% Garnacha, 10% Cabernet, 10% Syrah (15.4% ABV)
- 2011 Vall Llach Porrera Vi de Vila ($65): 70% Cariñena, 30% Garnacha (15.7% ABV)
Each wine was better on day two and all were extremely savory, rich, and dense. Sips of Porrera had the kind of deepness akin to drinking wine from the ocean’s pitch-black depths, where only National Geographic and your palate can confirm such a place exists.
I know the soil is called llicorella so you may roll your eyes when I say that I detected a lot of very pleasant licorice flavor in all three wines. (The black slate resembles licorice, thus the name.) Look the soil doesn’t taste like licorice. And if you tried to taste it, you’d probably lose your tongue and cut up your gums something fierce. Oh, and when I say licorice I mean black licorice, not Red Vines or Twizzlers. (Sidebar: I prefer the latter.)
I’d also like to say something about the alcohol levels in these wines. They are high, over 15%. I will admit that I tend to be a delicate flower when it comes to ABV in wine. I like lacy, elegant bottles that clock in under 13%. At the very least, under 14%. But none of these wines tasted boozy to me and I’m happy to say I got over myself. (Mark this occasion on your calendar. It may never happen again.)
Finally, for $25, the Embruix is a lot of wine for the money. Anyone looking to expand their global repertoire of intensely powerful reds needs to put it in their rotation.
Want more Priorat? Read about my visit there, as well as Barcelona and Penedes (aka Cava country). Also, get to know white wine from Priorat.