I ordered one. And two turned up. Terrible shame. Especially as I’m not drinking until January.
Great tip this. I am 2 of 6 through my case. It’s really quite good already.
Does priorat go through dumb phases? Or should I proceed if it’s drinking well now? I can’t do home cellaring so would need to extract 3 at a time.
Crack on or hope for better on the last 3 in storage?
Well you’re 1 ahead of me here; it’s really rather good isn’t it? Powerful but light on its feet. TWS had a window to 2023 but sure have seen other reviewers saying 2027/28 which feels more like it.
My preference is to leave for a while and let it calm down a bit, integrate more. I think it’ll be more harmonious in a couple of years.
As to wether it’ll be more complex or in a dumb phase in a few years? That path leads to the wide open spaces of my ignorance I’m afraid.
Having said all this i don’t promise not to drink my 5 remaining bottles in the next 12 months.
Have you tried this btw?
Some similarities in style and bit of a bargain.
Yes, it’s whether there is a dumb phase as you say. I’ll have to do some reading around it. My knowledge doesn’t stretch that far either. I know aged priorat can be great but unsure on its typical ageing journey.
Thanks for the tip on the mondongo. Will add to basket if it’s still in stock by my next order (currently on a buying hiatus: too much house stock + upcoming dry Jan). Or will pick it up next time it’s on the list
@ricard is a priorat expert, maybe he can advise…
Morning @Jimmybob @wine.arbitrageur
I like this conversation. It is now starting to be possible to answer the question of how modern Priorat (i.e. the 1989 vintage onwards) ages, because we’re past the 30-year mark. I have had the privilege of tasting these early vintages, and have a few early '90s in my cellar.
I know that luminaries like Sara Pérez (Martinet) and Albert Costa (Vall Llach) keep “libraries” of their wines and taste them periodically to observe their evolution. But few are in public/commercial circulation.
My own experience suggests that two things can be observed, which appear contradictory at first sight:
- The wines are so long-lived they appear to hardly evolve
- You can observe subtle changes over time
Let’s examine this a bit more closely.
In the first statement, what we have is a phenomenon where the wines are so powerful and intense, that is, their individual components are almost overblown (tannins: high; alcohol: high; acidity: high; residual sugar: high) that over time, they won’t budge from these high positions. Even if their tannins soften (which they do, as they break down), everything else is still turned up to 11 (apologies for random Spinal Tap reference), so you struggle to see change. I have poured greats like Vall Llach, Martinet, Cims de Porrera, etc. at 10-15 years and to the eye, they’re black/blue, no orange rim, quite closed on the nose sometimes, full of contained power. And you think, is there any point in ageing this? If your bag is Bordeaux, you should be starting to see those lovely tertiary flavours. And if you like Burgundy, you should also start to see new dimensions opening up. As France is many (most?) people’s benchmark in the UK, it’s safer to go with Rhône as a comparator. Especially Southern Rhône and Languedoc, as it is often Grenache-based. And we know it ages.
Under the second statement, I have enough evidence that there is ageing to be observed and enjoyed. It tends to come late (after 15 years), and is more pronounced in second-tier wines. So for example the second Martinet wine (Martinet Bru) ages really nicely. I did a vertical of about five of them going back to 1999 in 2017 and there was clear evolution. Lots of tertiaries: leather, cinnamon, earthy undertones, stewed fruit, all of that lovely soft stuff. And colour had gone from dark blue to garnet. One I really loved was the 1999 Roquers de Porrera by Celler de l’Encastell. In October 2017 I wrote:
More proof of the ageworthiness of good Priorat. Not that much more proof is needed. This classic Priorat Garnatxa and Carinyena blend exudes an alluring bouquet of figs, raisins, dried prunes, fruit compote and molasses. The tannins have noticeably softened to a silky, seductive texture. The wine still retains good structure and body and carries its relatively modest alcohol level gracefully. Its low acidity and slight port-like sweetness is no impediment to refinement or elegance. This is a delicious, almost delicate Priorat that after almost two decades still asserts power, complexity and intensity. Very good.
Just a year ago I wrote this of the 2001 Mas d’en Gil Coma Vella:
A perfect Christmas Day wine, after almost two decades of patient cellaring. Easily the best wine we had on this day. Remarkably fresh and youthful. None of the typical astringency or abrasiveness of young Priorat tannins, but rather a more velvety, caressing texture. Richly aromatic nose of carob, figs, liquorice and big juicy jammy blackberries. A touch of smoky bacon as well. Yum! On the sweet rather than savoury or saline side, but not cloying. In fact the freshness and energy was its most impressive characteristic, considering how heavy these wines can be. Age has taken this fine Priorat (admittedly from a top vintage) to a new level of depth, character and singularity. A highly enjoyable, generous, joyful wine. Got better as it was served, and gone in less than an hour. Marvellous.
So my semi-educated guess is that second-tier Priorats (ideally from good vintages) age really well and peak at maybe 20 years. By extension, top-tier, I am guessing, peak at 30, and are still good at 40. We haven’t hit more than 32 years with any modern Priorat yet, so by definition we don’t know. But I have a bunch of 20+ year top ones in my cellar (Martinet, Mogador, Vall Llach, Cims, Doix) so I’ll be able to answer this question in about a decade.
I would add the caveat that these observations are generally true for the Garnatxa-based wines, especially those with about 70-80% G and about 20-30% Carinyena (Carignan). That’s a common blend. There are others, like the famous Vall Llach Vi de Vila, which is Carinyena-dominant, which I cannot report on because the oldest I’ve had is about 5 years. And some, as we know, have small (>10%) quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon (heresy!) and Syrah.
I think yes. The dumb phase is at about 4-7 years. Especially with the posh ones ones like Dofí or Mas Doix. That doesn’t mean there isn’t pleasure to be had - they tend to open up after an hour or two in bottle, or 20 mins if you decant.
Finally, to close this post, a word or two about white Priorats. Oh my… I am a huge fan. And let me tell you, they age exquisitely. I have written extensively about this. I think ageworthiness is their greatest strength. Aside from their distinctiveness (Vall Llach’s Aigua de Llum is a true titan of a white) and their often excellent value (Mas d’en Compte Blanc may simply be the best value white Grenache-based wine on the planet), they age incredibly well. I have had them at 20 years and I cannot fail to get excited. They remind me of Hermitage Blanc, even the top ones (Chave, for example). Not in flavour profile (Marsanne is nothing like Grenache Blanc) but in ageing potential and ageing arc. Honestly, that’s the way to go if you want to see ageing stages “quickly” (i.e. a new one every five years).
Hope this was useful, if a bit subjective.
Great post, appreciate the time taken to give us such a comprehensive and informative answer.
Thank you, that’s very kind! It’s a question that greatly interests me and I enjoy tasting and comparing with people.
Fascinating to read about this, never tried before although old southern French grenache blanc blends as well the rare South African version can show wonderful evolution. Some Mas d’en Compte Blanc on order to try!
Oh, I will definitely seek out some South African white Grenache blends now! Thanks for the tip!
I had the Donovan Rall Grenache Blanc (not the regular white) recently, and it was delicious, but very different to the similarly aged white Priorat I’ve had (all of which have been very young to be fair!).
Well, note that most white Priorat is blended. The one I recommended is (depending on the vintage) maybe only 60% GB, and has to varying degrees, Macabeu (Macabeo), Picapoll (Picpoul) and Xarel·lo.
Thanks for the interesting and helpful post.
The wine that prompted this is a 2017 so should be turning dumb in exactly 18 days time :
Have 5 bottles left so may stretch out my window depending on how they perform.
Well, to be precise you need to wait until Sep 2022 to count a full four years from when it was picked in 2017. In any case, I would definitely consider decanting between now and the next few years, so it can open up a bit.
Forgive me, but isn’t 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 not four full years?
Fabulous reply with plenty of things to explore from this. Thank you!
Like others I really enjoyed reading this.
This sounds like a type of wine I don’t like. But I did enjoy the Mogador you were kind enough to bring to the Crouch End tasting.
Hahaha yes it is. My numbers were fooled by the words “in exactly 18 days time” which made it look like it was the start of the calendar year that mattered.
Yes and in fairness, I’ve also lost interest in wines that are full of exaggeration and gratuitous bombast. Some of the Priorats were like this in the 1990s, when “Parkerised” wines were all the rage, but the truth is, there is a clear typicity in these wines, coming from the microclimate the the llicorella (the unique slate soil), and the winemaking is now much more restrained and balanced. Some of them are exceedingly refined (Clos Dofí comes to mind) and don’t taste like that sentence suggests at all. Objectively, it is true that they are high in tannins and alcohol, but most of the good ones are surprisingly balanced and restrained. I don’t think they’re famous for nothing.
Very interesting to hear this history - thank you.