Roureda Llicorella 2005 (Priorat, Spain)
You can hardly find Priorat, or Priorato in Spanish, on a map, it’s so small. This tiny Catalonian wine region covers just 4,151 acres – Rioja, in comparison, is over 150,000 acres – but Priorat’s impact on the world of wine is large.
Named for the local monastery, or priory, that began producing wine in the 12th century, Priorat lies inland from Tarragona in northeastern Spain.
Priorat is getting known for its big red wines that thrive on its unique soil and in its harsh climate. The soil is called “llicorella” in Catalan (I can’t claim to be an expert on Catalan pronunciation, and Gringos probably can’t pronounce it properly at all, so after some web consultation, I’m going with “lick-oar-ALE-ya”) and it’s the source of the name of this delicious wine. Llicorella, the soil, is made up of tiny bits of red and black volcanic slate. Like the famous volcanic soils of Italy, this well-drained, rocky ground makes the grapes struggle for their living. Add this to the beastly hot, dry summers and windy, cold winters and you have the formula for growing grapes that make wines of complexity and depth.
At 14.5% alcohol this wine gives the lie to my usual complaint that California wines have gotten too high in alcohol, as compared with their more moderated European cousins. Oh, well. The wine carries its alcohol well, and the blend of Garnacha, Syrah and Mazuela (known as Carignan in France and Cariñena is other Spanish speaking countries) gives it a layered richness that makes it a very fine companion for drinking on its own. This is a great introduction to Priorat and would make a nice bottle to share with a friend.