The deep, intense 2008 Vespres Montsant ably represents the nobility of Montsant’s old vines. Comprised of 80% Garnacha (Grenache) and 20% Samsó (Carignan) from vines 40-100 years of ago, the 2008 Vespres greets the world with an opaque purple robe. Yet, no matter how attractive Vespres’s visual appearance may be, it serves as a mere prelude to the heavenly scents and savors that emanate from the glass. Fragrant with a cachet reminiscent of violets, blackberry, wild cherry, Asian spices, and spring woodlands, this wine captivates the nose. Better still, Vespres’s olfactory carries through completely on the palate where layers of ripe, sweet fruit unfold on a perfectly balanced bed of tannins – all of which are infused with subtle mineral tones and then deftly wrapped in a mantle of well integrated oak. Spot on from the time the cork exits the bottle, the 2008 Vespres Montsant barely needed time to breathe the days we tasted it, but after returning to it some hours after opening, it had evolved into something other worldly. Consequently, afford this handsome Montsant as much aeration as your patience will allow before consuming it at cool room temperature (no more than 68º F).
Full-bodied, sophisticated wine such as the 2008 Vespres Montsant begs to be paired with equally splendid morsels or nothing at all. The finest cuts of meat, complex sauces, and simple fare made from the freshest ingredients provide the hallmarks for great food and wine pairings. Consequently, Roast Leg of Lamb, prepared with a marinade of rosemary, thyme, olive oil, garlic, pepper, and lemon juice; Chateaubriand, 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 companionship to the Vespres Montsant. Regional Mediterranean specialties such as Chicken with Black Olives and Capers, Parmesan Risottos, and Crepes with Porcini Mushrooms serve equally well in the company of Vespres. Enjoy!
Josep Grau founded Vespres 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 Vespres’s outstanding Montsant.
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. What 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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