Red, Ready, but will improve

2010 L'Ermita, Alvaro Palacios

2010 L'Ermita, Alvaro Palacios

Red | Ready, but will improve | Code:  9010 | 2010 | Spain > Catalonia > Priorat | Grenache/Garnacha | Medium Bodied, Dry | 14.5 % alcohol

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Scores and Reviews

The Wine Advocate - The 2010 L’Ermita is approximately 90% Garnacha, 8% Carinena and 2% white grapes, mainly Garnacha Blanca, since that is the mix found in the vineyard, and it has been like this since the 2006 harvest. Every year the grapes are hand-picked and then the 45-odd people that take part in the harvest sit down and go through each and every bunch removing the grapes that are not pristine. So even if the harvest is late, there is no over ripeness in the wine, as all the raisined fruit is removed. The bunches, which are very small and loose, go through a sorting table and the selection is stricter. Nothing less than perfect makes it into the fermentation vats. I saw a beautiful video of the 2013 harvest, which happened later than ever, on November 5, which was breathtaking. Going back to the 2010, the grapes were picked on October 29, and the final yield was a tiny 7.8 hectoliters per hectare, which resulted in 1,254 bottles and a bunch of magnums (and bigger-sized bottles) from the 1.40 hectares of vines. The grapes fermented in oak vats and then aged for 16 months in new French oak barrels. The wine presents itself with an incredible freshness, the nose full of citric notes of blood orange (Alvaro talks about grapefruit), Mediterranean herbs, licorice, violets and aniseed, pure elegance and subtly, with electric, lively acidity (according to the technical data, it has a pH of 3.3, a figure far more common in whites than in reds), pungent flavors, and very good grip. Graceful, elegant, vibrant. The oak is imperceptible, fully integrated into the wine, both in the nose and the palate, as only the very best grapes in the world can do: this is a truly world-class wine, and one of the best (if not the best) L’Ermita ever produced. It’s approachable now, but it should age and improve slowly and for a very long time.
Luis Gutierrez - Wine Advocate - Issue#211 Feb 2014

The Grape

Grenache/Garnacha

Grenache/Garnacha

Grenache (Noir) is widely grown and comes in a variety of styles. Believed to originate in Spain, it was, in the late 20th century, the most widely planted black grape variety in the world. Today it hovers around seventh in the pecking order. It tends to produce very fruity, rich wines that can range quite widely in their level of tannin.

In many regions – most famously the Southern Rhône, where it complements Syrah and Mourvèdre, among other grapes – it adds backbone and colour to blends, but some of the most notable Châteauneuf du Pape producers (such as Château Rayas) make 100 percent Grenache wines. The grape is a component in many wines of the Languedoc (where you’ll also find its lighter-coloured forms, Grenache Gris and Blanc) and is responsible for much southern French rosé – taking the lead in most Provence styles.

Found all over Spain as Garnacha Tinta (spelt Garnaxa in Catalonia), the grape variety is increasingly detailed on wine labels there. Along with Tempranillo, it forms the majority of the blend for Rioja’s reds and has been adopted widely in Navarra, where it produces lighter styles of red and rosado (rosé). It can also be found operating under a pseudonym, Cannonau, in Sardinia.

 

Beyond Europe, Grenache is widely planted in California and Australia, largely thanks to its ability to operate in high temperatures and without much water. Particularly in the Barossa Valley, there are some extraordinary dry-farmed bush vines, some of which are centuries old and produce wines of startling intensity.

The Region

Priorat

Priorat

Priorato, or Priorat, is one of the stand-out Spanish wine regions, with an extraordinary leap in wine quality, reputation and price over the 1990s. This small wine appellation, with 1,700 hectares of vines and just over 60 bodegas, lies to the west of the province of Tarragona in Catalonia

It includes the municipalities of Scala Dei, Gratallops and Falset, where vines grow on steep terraces at varying altitudes of 100 to 700 metres. The climate is continental, and the region blessed with an exceptional schistous terroir (mostly llicorella with layers of slate and quartz). This schist is part of the same stratum found in the finest vineyards of the Douro, Toro and Ribera del Duero. It provides ideal conditions for growing vines and also contributes to the much-lauded mineral-rich character of Priorato’s wines.

The region’s wines were revolutionised through the efforts of René Barbier. In 1989 he joined forces with a group of eight other winemakers to produce wine from eight plots (or clos), planting the best grapes using modern methods, and harvesting at extremely low yields. This original group included such distinguished bodegas as Alvaro Palacios (Finca Dofi), Costers del Siurana and Mas Martinet. 

The group later split up, but the legacy and the international acclaim their wines generated has attracted significant interest and investment in the Priorato region. It is now recognised as one of the great fine wine regions in Spain, rivalling Rioja and Ribera del Duero. The Priorat wines are typically powerful and full-bodied, with a warm, ripe fruitiness and impressive levels of concentration and minerality. The wines are made in all categories from Joven to Gran Reserva, undergoing the same oak ageing as Rioja.

The efforts of the Barbier group proved that old-vine, low-yielding Cariñena and Garnacha is the most planted variety here, followed by Garnacha. Both provide the backbone of the region’s wines, augmented by international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  

White varieties (i.e. Chenin Blanc, Macabeo, Garnacha Blanca, Viognier and Pedro Ximénez) occupy less than five percent of the vineyard area.

Recommended Producers:
Combier Fischer Gerin (Trio Infernal), Clos Figueres, Alvaro Palacios (Finca Dofi)

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