Vespres is this month’s feature and the most traditional of Josep Grau’s Montsant offerings. Moreover, the 2016 Josep Grau Vespres, which has garnered 91 points from Vinous, is the most exciting Vespres since Grau’s outstanding 2010 Vespres, a wine that continues to delight. Born of old vines of Garnacha (80% Grenache) and Samsó (20% Carignan), many of which are 100 years of age, the 2016 Vespres sports an opaque purple robe, an enticing, sensual aroma, and a boatload of flavors that flow joyfully from the glass. Fragrant with an alluring bouquet of freshly picked raspberries, woodland blackberries, and wild violets infused with touches of exotic spices and a hint of wood smoke, the bouquet of this wine is nothing short of alluring. The wine’s palate appeal is equally gratifying as layers of ripe fruit unfold in the mouth, bolstered by firm, juicy tannins that provide energy and freshness. Add a pleasant minerality and just the right amount of oak from 10 months in barrel and the 2016 Josep Grau Vespres positively sings from the glass… all of which made our tasting panel beg for an encore. Allow Josep Grau’s outstanding 2016 Vespres Montsant at least 15-20 minutes of aeration before consuming it at cool room temperature (no more than 60°-62º F). We bet you, too, will soon be begging for more. Enjoy!
Flavorful, sophisticated wine such as Josep Grau’s 2016 Vespres Montsant begs to be paired with hearty foods of comparable quality. The finest cuts of meat, complex sauces, or even simple fare made from the freshest ingredients provide all that the 2016 Vespres needs to work its magic. Roast Leg of Lamb, prepared with a marinade of rosemary, thyme, olive oil, garlic, pepper, and lemon juice; Beef Tenderloin, broiled to perfection; Loin Veal Chops, served with shitake mushrooms and an herb pilaf; and Roasted Quail, stuffed with apple-smoked bacon and mushrooms, served over a corn based risotto, all provide wonderful companions to Josep Grau’s full-bodied Montsant. Regional Mediterranean specialties such as Chicken with Black Olives and Capers, Parmesan Risottos, and Porcini Mushroom Crepes also complement a bottle of the 2016 Vespres. Buon Provecho!
Josep Grau founded Vespres more than a decade ago in the venerable Priorat region of Spain’s Catalonia. Grau purchased old vines of Garnatxa (Grenache) and Samsó (Carignan) in the traditional Priorat villages of Marca, Cacanes, and Falset. Many of these vines are over 100 years of age. Subsequently, Montsant, the equally intriguing horseshoe-shaped appellation that encircles the original Priorat D.O., received its own status as a D.O. or appellation. Priorat and choice parts of Montsant, too, share a unique soil called llicorella, the Catalan word for licorice, chosen to describe the black, somewhat shiny rocky substrate that permeates the region. The special terroir of these appellations is high in mineral content, which allows for a refined interplay between ripe, flavorful fruit and subtle minerality, a winsome combination in Grau’s outstanding Montsant.
Grau is an engaging, passionate man who obviously loves his work. We have had the pleasure of visiting Priorat and spending time with Grau at his winery and charmingly restored bed and breakfast in Montsant, surrounded by vineyards and in plain view of the forbidding mountains that encircle Montsant. Two things impressed us most about Josep: his modesty and his willingness to experiment with all of the appellation’s varietals in order to fully express the distinction and ultimate greatness of Montsant. Josep’s recently completed winery should assure a bevy of exceptional offerings for years to come.
Although many wine drinkers have become acquainted with the fine wines of Spain and the names Rioja and Ribera del Duero are now familiar entities in wine stores and restaurants, Catalonia’s Priorat remains relatively unknown except to serious, well-heeled wine lovers. A sparsely populated comarca (county) to the southwest of Barcelona, Priorat (pree-ohr-aht) remains off the beaten tourist track. The same obscurity can be claimed by the nearby appellation (Denominación de Origen or DO) of Montsant, which literally surrounds Priorat. However, all this may be about to change as these appellations are currently being hailed as “the new Tuscany” and “the source of some of the world’s greatest wines.” By adventurous travelers and savvy wine critics alike, Priorat and Montsant are touted as the next great travel destinations and the next must-purchase wines.
Priorat is the birthplace of Antoni Gaudi, the celebrated Catalan architect whose hand is imbedded in the skyline of Barcelona. Priorat and Montsant display a rugged, breathtaking landscape of high mountains and sheep-studded pastures in which every village and hamlet appears steeped in history. Here the first Carthusian Monastery in Spain was founded in the 12th century. And during the 20th century, one of the greatest and most decisive battles of the Spanish Civil War took place in Priorat along the banks of the Ebro River. However, what sets Priorat and Montsant above other, more renowned wine producing regions are their expanses of ancient, ungrafted vines of Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan, also known locally as Samsó) to which varying amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot may be added. The areas’ mineral-rich soils, most notably the black llicorella that characterizes Priorat, add complexity and depth. The results are lush, full-bodied, natural tasting wines of great distinction. Moreover, the best wines of Priorat and Montsant age remarkably well and can compete with the finest wines made anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the finest Priorat and Montsant wines are increasingly priced accordingly.
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