Old co-op, new tricks. La Vinícola del Priorat’s Vi de Vila.

On June 9th, La Vinícola del Priorat launched a new series of wines that are all certified under Priorat’s “Vi de Vila”. This certification establishes that 100% of the grapes from the wine came from one of the 12 villages within the bounds of DOQ Priorat which is noteworthy for several reasons. The first is that this is the only remaining cooperative within DOQ Priorat (DO Montsant still has several) which was formed in 2008 from the four that remained in the villages of la Vilella Alta, la Vilella Baixa, el Lloar, and Gratallops–where the main winemaking premises are now based.

Cooperatives formed a bridge from the 19th to 21st centuries not just in Priorat and Catalunya but in most all of Europe. Post-phylloxera and post-war, they allowed people to scrape together and survive. For the most part, the wines that emerged were not notable and this has largely remained the case today, especially as many have closed due to various grape growers pulling their best grapes out to start their own cellars. It’s a natural evolution as the co-ops have really run their course and it’s only very few that are producing wines of renown anywhere in Europe.

I have to say that while there are more titillating cellars in DOQ Priorat, they have prices to match and La Vinícola has, under the guidance of enologist, Sandra Estévez, been producing some quite reliable and well-priced wines for the region. If you know this winery, you’ll probably know it via their Ònix line, which is very good wine, priced very well. But, like any cooperative (or larger winery for that matter) they blend from all over the region to make their final wines which is why this embrace of the village certification is quite interesting and has lent a good deal of support to the DOQ’s ongoing work on the project.

I found out that they have however been dipping into Vi de Vila since 2012 as the Ònix Selecció was produced under it but honestly, I wasn’t really even aware of it. This new push, with fully-redesigned labels marks a pretty large break with how things were and presents an interesting change of thinking–including the wax capsule, reviled by sommeliers near and far…

These wines do what I’m of the opinion all the Vi de Vila wines do which is to use only Carignan and/or Grenache in the final wine. In tasting the wines, you can see quite clearly that these are the region’s true red grapes and should be embraced as such. As I mentioned in the previous article, it can be a bit hard to see a tremendous difference between the two la Vilella villages as they share the same climate and geography and I think that both of these wines are much like others in that while different, it’s more than likely do to the grapes and individual vineyards more than anything else. That said, both Gratallops and el Lloar demonstrate a keen difference in terms of profile and go a long way to support the premise of showing what works best in these villages and why this certification is important.

La Vilella Baixa 2016
The Ònix Selecció has morphed into this wine, made from four vineyards: “El Riuet” planted in 1924, “El Solà” planted in 1924, “Porta” planted in 1945, and “La Vinya” planted in 1900 which, in addition to having a rather unimaginative name (it means “the vineyard” in Catalan) is actually within Gratallops but is situated under VdV certification as la Vilella Baixa. Dark ruby in color, light prune, touch of fig, orange peel & blossom, earthy, licorice, touch of alcohol comes up in the nose. Good deal of red fruit on the palate, medium plus acidity, generally light palate. Needs a good deal more time to flesh out. 400 bottles produced.
14.5% 100% Carignan 40€
** 88+

La Vilella Alta 2016
Comprised of three vineyards: “La Font” planted in 1944, “Planes de Baix” planted in 1984 (in Torroja but via VdV is in la Vilella Alta), “El Clot” planted in 1920. Red and dark fruit, crisp red cherry, underlying jammy bits, light herbal notes, rose petal. Quite rich and structured on the palate, crisp fruit, long finish. 300 bottles produced.
14.5% 75% Carignan, 25% Grenache 40€
** 90

El Lloar 2016
From a single vineyard, “Vinya Vella” planted in 1920. Medium ruby color, very dark fruits, touch of tar, fig, bright sage aspect, very upright, direct, licorice and spice. Nicely balanced on the palate. Touch light with a medium palate but medium plus finish, well integrated, evolved very well. 200 bottles produced.
14.5% 100% Carignan 40€
** 92

Gratallops 2016
From two vineyards, “Mas Jové” planted in 1984 and “Mas d’en Claret” planted in 1940. Dark cherry, cured strawberries, licorice, fig leaf, touch smokey, quite a big hit of slatey mineral notes. Very dark fruits on the palate, buttery, touch of sweet spices, surprisingly light, touch of alcohol comes up in the back palate. 400 bottles produced.
14.5% 85% Carignan, 15% Grenache 40€
** 90