Priorat reclassified

20Oct Posted by Jo Lory

We caught up with Daphne Glorian to talk about the new vineyard classification system in Priorat, and the 2018 vintage arriving in late November.

Daphne is a force of nature, she started Clos i Terrasses in 1989 when Alvaro Palacios and René Barbier persuaded her to join them in a project in Priorat, before its reputation as a region for fine wines had been established. The five of them all still had day jobs – only René was based there full time – but they pooled their experience and resources across their vineyards. Daphne travelled from Paris every six weeks: “Each of us had our own vineyard, and we shared a winery, but we had separate vats”

Fast forward 30 years and the wines are some of the most sought after in Spain. 

The names of the land.

Many Spanish wine regions are divided by administrative boundaries, rather than by soil types or quality. But there’s a growing momentum – often led by quality minded producers – to change this.

There’s a new classification that you will see on Priorat wine labels. It’s called Els noms de la terra  – The names of the land – and follows a Burgundy-style pyramid model. With regional wines at the base; moving up through Vi de Vila (from 12 village zones); then Vi de Paratage (equivalent to a single location or Lieu-dit); and finally single vineyard Vinya and Gran Vinya classificada (equivalent to premier and grand cru).

Daphne won’t use these classifications as her two wines – top bottling Clos Erasmus, and second wine Laurel, from barrels which don’t make the Grand Vin cut – are easily understood. I asked her if she thought the new definitions would help drinkers understand the region.

“It might be complicated for the consumer… but it gives them an idea that Priorat isn’t a monolithic place that everyone thinks of, with one wine”.

It’s also good for growers: “it’ll give them competition; they will want to go up in the hierarchy”.

And does she think the villages have unique characters? “I keep saying to them let’s not forget Burgundy has been doing this for a thousand years, before they can differentiate… it’s [more] complicated, Burgundy is one red variety, here there is Grenache and Carignan and international varietals in the mix. It’s not that simple”.

Daphne’s Guinarderes vineyard near Gratallops

How has her winemaking changed over the years?

“Our taste evolves like our taste in music… It sounds like a cliché but I’ve learned to be patient”. Moved to away from heavy extraction, you don’t need to push for it in Priorat, you get hard tannins and massive wines. “I now move in a very soft way, gentle pumping over, and no stepping on the grapes”.

It’s not just Daphne, increasingly producers in Priorat are using a lighter touch. Dominik Huber at Terroir al Limit also moved away from the heavily extracted and oaked style and adopted gentler extraction, or infusion as he refers to it. Which he believes showcases the region’s unique vineyard sites better.

2017 vs 2018 vintages.

And finally, what about the 2018s which will be coming to Indigo in spring?

“They’re fresher wines [than the 2017s], we had plenty of rain in spring, they’re not as opaque and dense. You could drink the 2018 earlier, it’s more open”.

“2017 is a great vintage, it is dense, but it does have a fine texture – I love it – I don’t mind drinking young wines. You could drink the 2018 earlier, it’s more open”.

We still have a small amount of Laurel 2017 in stock including some magnums. Luis Gutiérrez in his Wine Advocate report described it as: aromatic, open, expressive, tender and juicy and surprisingly fresh for a dry, warm year that resulted in a very early harvest. There is a peachy, soft, approachable quality here that I like very much. 95 points.

If you’d like to taste the 2018s let us know, the Clos Erasmus is sold by allocation.