Friday, September 24, 2010

Montsant DO

Garnacha (as Grenache is called in Spain; Garnatxa in Catalan) is the most widely planted varietal in Spain and some of the most powerful representations of this wine issue from the old vines of Priorat.  These low-yield, bush vines grow on steep, slate-laden (llicorella) soils and produce big, bold red wines.  Almost surrounding the vineyards of Priorat, and also blessed with old Garnacha and Carignan vines, lie the lower-altitude vineyards of Montsant DO.

A subzone of the Tarragona region until it attained DO status in 2001, Montsant is comprised of 2000 hectares of vineyards yielding 7 million liters of wine annually.  The reds from the region can be almost as powerful as the Priorat reds (they are sometimes called "the poor man's Priorat") but, mirroring the trend in Priorat, are also being blended with Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon to soften and add complexity to the wines.

The Montsant vineyards sit at elevations ranging between 1500 and 2000 feet and while they share some of the slate soil characteristic of Priorat (3000 feet), limestone, sand, and clay soils are also thrown into the mix.  The climate is Mediterranean with some continental influences.  Summers are dry with annual rainfall (most of it occurring in the autumn) of about 650 mm.  Significant day/night temperature differentials, especially during the grape-ripening season, results in good sugar creation during the daylight hours and acid retention at night.

Wines sold under the Montsant DO carry a quality guarantee label on the bottle which signifies that the wine has successfully negotiated a two-part quality test.  The initial quality test is conducted by the Catalan Vine and Wine Institute (INCAVI) which seeks to ensure that alcohol, acidity, and sulfite levels fall within the DO parameters.  The second test is a blind tasting carried out by a team comprised of INCAVI technicians and Montsant winemakers wherein the visual, aromatic, taste, and back-palate properties of the wine are examined.

You could not go wrong by trying a Montsant wine for Interantional Grenache Day.

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