One very old Iberian wine cellar
For those who might have seen or remembered it, there was a great line from the 1980s TV series ALF which was, “You crawl under houses, you hear things.” The same can be said in winery visits in that if you happen to do enough of them, you very well may learn things you never thought possible.
Such a thing came my way when visiting the property of Finca Fontanals for the new DO Montsant book. While they make their wine up in Cornudella, their vineyards surround their old family houses that they rent out as “casa rurals”. And while they don’t have their own cellar, in a way, they do.
When a child, Albert Coll, the son running things these days, played around on this big rock with a circular groove on it. He didn’t think much of it until he realized that there was a space below the rock that had been filled with dirt over the years. Little by little he dug it out and found a small cave that’s maybe half by half a meter and a bit over one meter deep.
Curious what this was, he sent a photo to a historian at a local university who quickly became no end of excited. You see, similar such things had been found in the Caucus region where we are all currently assuming the wine we know today was “invented” some 8,000 years ago. This bit that Albert found probably dates back to 400 BCE, but they need to do more testing to affirm this and it shows that winemaking has been happening in Iberia for a very long time.
The system was quite genius and any hipster sommelier today would salivate as to how “natural” it was. Basically, the historic enologist would plop the grapes down in the middle of the circular groove. Then, they would crush them by foot. The juice would them dribble down in to the cave which would slowly be sealed up with clay at the entrance. They would then hungrily wait to get their drink on for a couple of weeks. Upon opening up the cave it was presto drunko with 3-400 liters of wine was on hand for the ancient Iberian man to quaff with glee.
Álvaro Palacios - L’Ermita 2016
Very light red cherry, raspberry, tea leaves, dried fennel, light touch of anise, bay leaf, dried flowers, touch of fig compote, truffle. Exceptionally light and delicate on the palate, very very fine red fruits, integrated tannins, plush with a slightly buttery, velvety aspect, very long finish.
85% Grenache 14% Carignan 1% "Others" · 15% · 1160EUR
Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
Álvaro Palacios - Les Aubaguetes 2016
Linear plum and dark cherry notes, powdery cocoa, orange peel and blossom, raspberry at the base along with minor vanilla and dark spice touches. Delicate on the palate, light touches of dark fruit, good wealth of tannins yet held in check, medium plus acidity, very long finish. Needs much more time in the bottle.
77% Grenache 21% Carignan 1% Grenache Blanc 1% Macabeu · 14.5% · 455EUR
Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
Aquila del Torre - Primaluce 2015
Bruised yellow apple, bit of fig compote, chalky mineral notes, and hazelnut. Light oxidized touches that work to embellish the wine. Rich palate that carries lovely texture with the age of the wine.
100% Sauvignon Blanc · 13.5%
Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
Terroir Sense Fronteres - Guix Vermell 2017
Crisp red cherry fruit, touch of spice, flecks of pepper, baking spice, compacted, wet earth. Delicate on the palate, stays fresh, surprising high wealth of tannins, long finish.
100% Grenache · 13% · 250EUR
Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL