Tast del Decenni 2019: The DOQ Priorat 2009 vintage
In 2009, the heaviest shoe of the Global Financial Crisis had finally fallen. All the maneuvering, consolidating, and bailing of companies and governments truly came to a head for and was deeply affecting European countries, especially, Spain. In May, we had to keep this backdrop in mind as we tasted a selection of DOQ Priorat’s top wines from the 2009 vintage during the Tast del Decenni of the 24th Fira del Vi.
For previous backstory, you can read up on 2008, 2007, 2005, and 2004. I attended the 2006 tasting in 2016 as well but it never was written up as I was accompanying an American importer who I had to help through the tasting given that it’s in Catalan.
In terms of numbers and statistics, when compared to the 2008 vintage, 2009 was actually a good deal cooler. There were 440ml of rain in total which was about a third higher than average and it was a very wet April which helped vine health a great deal. Frost was hardly an issue, only appearing in January, February, and December when the vines were dormant.
But 2009 was a very interesting year as it essentially marked the end of the previous phase of DOQ Priorat. For starters, the Q in DOQ was finally approved by Spain, thus elevating the region to the highest classification alongside Rioja who both remain the only two in the country to have attained this level. 2009 was also the launch of the “Vi de Vila” wines, although wines that were traceable could be certified back to 2007.
Above and beyond these meaningful, yet still very bureaucratic items, this was when we saw a huge shift to the region being more terroir driven. By way of example, 2009 was the first vintage of Mas Doix’s 1902 which was followed by the creation of Vall Llach’s Mas de la Rosa the next year. It seems that this collapse of all things money in the Financial Crisis (“la crisis” in Spain) led to Priorat winemakers focusing on what matters: high-quality vineyards and the grapes that come from them.
It would be easy to say that it was born of necessity as wineries couldn’t afford new barrels or schmancy equipment but the reality is that this had been an evolution in the making for several years. There is no better proof of this gradual clarity to get at the core of the wines and showcase the excellence of the region. The Mas de la Rosa (which was still the Vall Llach – Vall Llach) in 2009 had its final vintage along the classic blending approach that had dominated Priorat in the 1990s and 2000s and shifted to a pure Carignan composition which it continues with, a decade later.
Priorat is a region constantly in flux and in this case, that’s a good thing. Things have in fact gotten so bustling that this tasting event shouldn’t be held during this annual wine fair, Fira del Vi. The amount of participants was down and DO Montsant couldn’t even hold theirs as it clashed with people being away for Fenavin in Madrid. One can only hope that they move it outside the fair days as the 2010 tasting next year will need a most mighty of celebrations as this was the start of Priorat’s current phase.
Now if only they could stop doing a blend of the bottles into one “homogeneous” wine from each cellar that submits to the tasting as the organizers admit that everyone is not in agreement with this and in actually no one should be. You simply can’t mix wines of this age together given that there will absolutely be bottle variation and attempting to dilute this by blending only leads to an overall muted wine. Hopefully, there will be serious pressure to change as you can see that I’ve noted in some of the wines below that they were muddled and not showing well most probably due to blending the samples.
Note that all wines were tasted fully blind.
Portal del Priorat - Tros del Clos 2009
Quite vibrant dark ruby color, little rim variation. Ripe dark fruit, mature plum, lovely structure, bit of currant, very light raisin notes, lots of floral aspects, violet and cocoa notes, sweet orange peel, and oak vanilla, brett but doesn’t overwhelm. Full palate with primarily dark plum and currant notes, but an underlying green stalky tinge, very long finish, complementary acidity that really pushes the wine as the tannins are nearly full integration. Excellent for now, wonderfully balanced, and has more life in it yet.
100% Carignan · 14%
L'Infernal - Aguilera 2009
Light rose blush at the rim, good deal of color evolution. Oxidative notes on top of dark fruit component, underlying fig and truffle notes, very spicy, jammy red fruit, strawberry, light touch of buttery components still, very light menthol. Bright red fruit on the palate, full barrel integration with fine, delicate tannins, medium plus acidity, long finish, slight bit of tar in the finish.
100% Carignan · 15%
Mas d’en Gil - Clos Fontà 2009
Red cherry and strawberry, hot fig, red licorice, red peppers, rosemary and a light note of garrigue. Much softer on the palate, good integration overall despite there still being some distinct wooden notes to the finish, albeit a nice, lifting acidity.
Grenache, Carignan · 14.5%
Vall Llach - Vall Llach 2009
Dark ruby with minor garnet rim. Spiced dark cherry notes with fig jam, rum, gingerbread and Christmas spice, great deal of cracked black pepper, and light toasted notes as well as a wispy hint of vanilla. Spicy on the palate as well, very dark fruit, drifts much more towards prune with fine yet still tight tannins. Needs more time to evolve yet.
65% Carignan, 20% Grenache, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon · 15.5%
Clos Mogador - Clos Mogador 2009
Dark ruby, garnet hue. Dark cherry, fig, bit of tar, milk chocolate, good hit of garrigue, while overall quite potent, offers up a good deal of depth. Structured fruit on the palate, chocolate is more prevalent as well as the barrel notes, licorice present and a medium plus finish but still dominated by tannins. Needs additional time to integrate.
44% Grenache, 21% Carignan, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Syrah · 14.5%
Mas Sinén - Burgos Porta - Coster 2009
Dark ruby with a minor rim. Dark cherry, currant, plum verging on prune. Good deal of baking spice and old wood, red chili pep with a slight note of chewing gum mintiness. More red fruit dominant on the palate, bit hollow in the mid palate but with a lingering finish of red forest fruit.
Carignan, Grenache · 15%
Mas Martinet - Els Escurçons 2009
Medium ruby with a garnet rim. Dark and red fruit, mix of forest berries, bit of boysenberry and blackberry, cured red cherries, sweet herbal notes, bit of bay leaf, anise, licorice, underlying buttery notes. Very light red fruits on the palate, slightly sweet aspect with alcohol thriving underneath, long finish and tannins showing development but still closed and tight overall.
100% Grenache · 15.5%
Hidalgo Albert - 1270 2009
Dark ruby, little rim variation. Big, stewed fruits, prune, dark cherry compote, menthol, thyme, good dose of slate mineral notes still holing on, butterscotch toasted oak notes. Full, red fruit palate, alcohol is quite high, although doesn't dominant as the tannins are still very tight and grippy.
Álvaro Palacios - Clos Dofí 2009
Dark cherry with a touch of oxidative notes, dried herbs, rosemary, thyme, bitter chocolate, very light touch of red forest fruits. Bit sweet and simplistic on the palate, red fruit dominant but very tight tannins and a touch vegetal.
70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon · 14.5%
Clos Figueras - Clos Figueres 2009
Medium ruby with a garnet rim. Dark cherry with a good deal of licorice, spicy anise, sweet vanilla, baking spice, very barrel dominated in terms of aromas, probably new oak treatment, bit of nail polish as well. Mix of dark and red fruit on the palate, quite heavy tannic grip to it that still hasn't integrated and shows no sign of letting up. Mixing bottles for this tasting has done this wine no favors.
Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot · 14.5%
Gran Clos - Gran Clos 2009
Dark cherry, light bit of prune, good deal of buttery oak aspects still, very spicy in the nose, hot licorice, alcohol quite prevalent. Big punchy dark fruit on the palate with sweet buttery notes, fine tannins, but a bit over the hill in terms of wine character.
Mas Doix - Mas Doix 2009
Dark ruby with a light garnet blush at the rim. Darker fruit, light touch of prune, tar, more aldehyde notes come up, quite a bit of nail polish, leathery, appears to have a tinge of brett but also might be the evolution. Dark fruit on the palate as well but quite oxidized, short finish.
Carignan, Grenache · 15%
Mas Alta - Cirerets 2009
Lighter ruby color, very light red fruit, red cherry notes with a wisp of raspberry, quite alcoholic in the nose, tar and light slate mineral notes still present, but very fiery. Sweet red fruit on the palate, caramelized strawberries, equally alcoholic on the palate, short finish. Note: Have tasted this on many occasions, found it considerably better, and fear that sample blending led to a very unbalanced wine.
50% Carignan, 50% Grenache · 14.5%
Terres de Vidalba - Tocs 2009
Garnet color, evolved rim. Sweet red cherry with a light raspberry note, delicate toasted brioche that drifts a bit more wooden with air, light forest herbs, slatey bits but a bit downplayed aromatically. Nice red fruit attack on the palate which gets caught up in the rather rugged tannins and a shorter finish.
Marco Abella - Clos Abella 2009
Dark ruby color. Quite a lot of funk in the nose, animal, dank, reductive notes of cabbage as well, spicy anise and dark licorice, notes of newer oak still linger, but this chewy bell pepper aspect stays prevalent. Very flat fruit on the palate, tannins still quite tight and grippy but with little push for the finish.
50% Carignan, 50% Grenache · 15%