Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Schiste Show

Ester Nin discusses what makes Porrera Schiste and Carinena vines so compatible.

In this business, there’s never a shortage of interesting tastings and events happening. For instance, I had the opportunity in early March to attend a fairly exclusive wine seminar in Manhattan, along with only 20 others, wherein the notable importer Eric Solomon hosted 2 very special guests. The Schiste Show, referring to the unique terroir of Spain’s Priorat, was a tasting and discussion of the wines of many of Eric’s most exceptional producers from that distinguished Catalonian region, including his wife Daphne Glorian (maker of Clos Erasmus) and her disciple Ester Nin (maker of Nit de Nin). Let me share with you as much of that afternoon as possible.

Eric began his talk with a bit of information I had not been aware of. Priorat (a place I have visited twice) is even obscure to the Spaniards. It’s not like Napa Valley is to San Franciscans. There is a sense of mystery in these dramatic hills, sprinkled with tiny villages of only a few hundred people per. Just 20 years ago, the region claimed a modest 20 producers. Today nearly 90 growers are responsible for creating a buzz that many sommeliers and consumers worldwide are just starting to tune into. And Eric’s very labels are the ones they’re (we’re) talking about and collecting.

Eric’s slide show, which was surprisingly attention-holding, was not nearly as exciting as witnessing Daphne and Ester, in the flesh, in an intimate setting, conveying to us why the Priorat is so special. These are true artisans with a passion for their craft. Their wines are in huge demand (even at wickedly-high prices), and they need to do very little promoting to sell off their bounty. Their presence in this forum was a special gesture that will be remembered and treasured by all who attended.

Here are some tasting highlights from that day:

’08 Nun $TBD
Ester’s single-vineyard, old-vines, biodynamically-farmed Xarel-lo from Penedes . Sweet and toasty but oxidixed in a very Catalonian way.

’08 Scala Dei Les Brugueres Priorat Blanco $35
100% Garnacha Blanca from 100-year-old vines. Pure and mineral from only tank fermentation. As classy as many Chateauneuf whites.

’06 Mas d’En Compte Priorat Blanco $20
By contrast, this Porrera blend of Garnacha Blanca with Pansal and Picapoll is aged in oak for 6 months. Very intense and modern.

’07 Black Slate Priorat $TBD
Less than half Garnacha, plus Bordeaux varieties. Pure and elegant, but seeming a bit French in taste and aroma.

’07 Marge Priorat $29
This similar blend to Black Slate is a 2nd label of Roquers de Porrera. Severely tannic and 1-dimentional for now, this may develop into a foxy little Priorat.

’06 Mas d’En Compte Priorat Tinto $45
This is my kind of juice. Mostly the indigenous Garnacha and Carinena from old vines, this complete and authentic Priorat really nails it. A note from the 5% Cab pokes right through.

’08 Terra de Verema Triumvirat Priorat $TBD
Ester’s Carinena-driven Triumvirat is big, bold and quite new-school. This is the kind of Priorat that will attract the Zin drinker. A touch of VA. Organically-farmed.

’05 Mas Alta La Basseta Priorat $90
Very serious Garnacha/Carinena/Cabernet blend. Black-fruited, potent and very much a Priorat. Baking spice notes, tons of mineral-inflected fruit. The new oak is surprisingly un-intrusive.

’05 Mas Alta La Creu Alta Priorat $150
Intense, fleshy and shockingly pure. Carinena, Garnacha and Syrah made by a Basque winemaker who has really figured out these Vilella Alta vineyards.

’06 La Vinya del Vuit “El 8” Priorat $130
Almost entirely Carinena, this beautiful, sweetly-fruited Priorat has complexly-flavored tannins and distinctive floral and herbaceous notes. Beautiful stuff.

’07 Nit de Nin Priorat $100
The buzz about Ester’s 3-barrel production is quite warranted. Organic old-vines Garnacha and Carinena from Porrera inspired a beautifully-knit wine with complexities of mineral, Asian Spice, Balsamic, olives and game. Meduim acidity, balanced, long. A total thrill.

Daphne Glorian treats us to answers to our questions about her mighty Clos Erasmus.

’98 Clos Erasmus Priorat $ Priceless
Mostly Garnacha plus Cab and Syrah, this is Daphne’s baby! This is clearly the best wine made in Priorat by one of the world’s greatest female winemakers. Served from magnum, the ’98 wreaks of pipe tobacco and incense. Developed but still youthful, this has the elegance and focus of a great St-Emilion. Flavors of raw berries, earth, licorice and more tobacco harmonize with tenacity in the mouth. The finish is forever. If you can find this, buy it!

-Michael Koehler


Bruno said...

Holy Schist! HA! That's only topped by the wine version of Culture Club's Karma Kimmeridgian.

Good stuff as always MK.

Bruno said...

Holy Schist! HA! That's only topped by the wine version of Culture Club's Karma Kimmeridgian.

Good stuff as always MK.

Bruno said...

Holy Schist! HA! That's only topped by the wine version of Culture Club's Karma Kimmeridgian.

Good stuff as always MK.