Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Priorat Find

I won't pretend to have tasted every new wine at the recent Martin Scott fall portfolio showing a week ago, but of the wines I did taste, there was one find that stood out.

This was the new Ferrer-Bobet, a youthful new vineyard in the Priorat region of Spain. It's run by two friends, Sergi Ferrer-Salat (who was at the tasting, a tall, gangling young man with curly black hair and thick black glasses; a picture of the young hip winemaker if there ever was one) and Raul Bobet. They preach respect for Priorat's terroir and are committed to showing it in their wines. The duo are using some of the oldest wine in the Priorat region, including 100-year-old Grenache and Carignan wines. The wines are at high elevations and primarily lie on slate soil (known as "llicorella" locally, and a type of slate soil supposedly only seen in Priorat). The height allows for optimum ripness while preserving acidity. Each parcel is vinified individually. The wines are aged in French oak barriques for a minimum of 15 months and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

These guys seem to put a lot of thought into everything. Their winery building is itself both a wild modernist thing and a gesture toward environmental harmony. Perched on a cliff overlooking a steep valley, its curved lines look like the hull of a ship about to set sail into the Spanish air. Only one story, housing the visitor center, is visible to the eye. Most of the winery is located underground, like some top-secret lair. Alien could have designed it, then left Earth, leaving us mortals to wonder what they were up to. Yet, it melds seamlessly into the landscape, like just another rocky outcropping.

Six years of work produced the two men's first two bottlings: Ferrer Bobet 2005 and Berrer Bobet Seleccio Especial. The 2006s were on offer at the Martin Scott event. I found both to be marvelously well-balanced, structured wines, fresh-tasting with deep and complex fruit and soil flavors, marvelously redolent of their terroir. On first taste, they reminded me of the wines of another nearby producer, Capcanes, located in the southeastern appellation of Montsant, particularly their excellent Peraj Ha'abib, which also uses Grenache and Carignan. The Ferrer Bobet is 70% old Carignan and 30% Grenache with 15% alcohol. The Seleccio Especial is 95% Carignan and only 5% Grenache. It is aged in barrels 18 months and in bottle 11 months. Again, it is 15% alcohol, yet the wine is nimble on its feet.

The leading wine magazine in Spain has called Ferrer-Bobet the best wine in Spain for two years running. They don't seem as well known in the U.S. yet. That can't last, particularly since the entry level wine is priced well below what it goes for in Spain.

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