Priorat Wine at Finca Mas D’en Gil
In terms of international esteem for Spanish wines, those from Priorat DOQ are unfairly overshadowed by the wines of the bigger and more well-known La Rioja DOC. There’s no doubt that Rioja deserves every bit of its popularity, but Priorat is the only other region with Spain’s highest designation for quality wine (DOC and DOQ mean the same thing in Spanish and Catalan respectively). Priorat deserves to be just as well-loved as Rioja. Let me tell you why.
On a map of Spanish wine regions, you’ll need to look in the top right-hand corner of the country, in the lower half of Catalonia. The Priorat DOQ wine region is nestled into the heart of the larger Montsant DO. Imagine a fried egg; if Montsant is the white, then Priorat is the yolk. This analogy works on every level because these wines are generally richer and more complex than those from Montsant. Wines from Montsant DO have plenty to recommend them, but that’s a story for another day.
Last month, when we visited Wines Direct’s producer the fantastic Finca Mas D’en Gil, we found out just what makes Priorat DOQ special, and what sets Finca Mas D’en Gil apart within the region.
Historically, wine grapes have been grown in Catalonia since the 12th century. But it wasn’t until the early 1990s that they started to produce outstanding wines in a style that made the most of the region’s natural advantages. This renaissance was pioneered by René Barbier, a winemaker whose family came from Gigondas beside Châteauneuf-du-Pape in France’s Southern Rhône region. So, it’s not just a geographical coincidence that Priorat DOQ wines share some characteristics of the best Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
While this new generation of Catalan wine was winning praise around the world a local woman, Marta Rovira Carbonell was contemplating an engineering career in Germany. Thankfully, she realised her true calling was as a winemaker on her family estate, and she returned to Finca Mas D’en Gil where she produces the amazing Priorat wines, including Bellmunt and Coma Vella.
Finca Mas D’en Gil is a special place. Marta and her head winemaker Antón Lorenzo care for the estate’s 35 ha of vines using biodynamic methods, a decision influenced by the wisdom of Marta’s grandmother. Biodynamics has given Mas D’en Gil a resilience and depth beyond that of neighbouring vineyards – even in challenging years they produce great wines. But what really sets Finca Mas D’en Gil apart is the freshness and elegance of their wines; a contrast with the dense power and over-ripeness of some other Priorat producers.
Bellmunt and Coma Vella integrate their power with grace. The intensity of Carignan and Grenache is balanced by the minerality of the Mas D’en Gil’s terroir (black slate known locally as Llicorella) and the drying influence of a wind called the Garbinada. With enough intrigue and complexity to rival the best Rioja Gran Reservas, Finca Mas D’en Gil is an excellent representative of this region.