Merce Wine Festival — Top 5 Wines

Awful handwriting to deter would-be thieves. Genius.

As documented in my last post, I spent pretty much the entire of the Merce Festival at Arc D’Triumf drinking Catalan wine and having a good time. There were a lot of wineries I knew there, some I had heard about and not drank and quite a few that I’d never heard of before, including some very high quality wineries that I was delighted to stumble upon. I believe I tried somewhere in the region of 30 wines over the few days I was there, mainly aiming at new wineries and products of wineries I knew that were out of my ‘frivolous drinking’ price range. Below are my 5 favourites with a small write-up and tasting note for each. Where possible I’ve tried to attach a price point for the wines, as I believe this is a very important and sometimes overlooked element, but of course this will vary depending on where you find it. Naturally choosing the best means these tend towards the pricier side of Catalan wines but there are 1–2 that are still excellent value. In no particular order:

1. Roc de Foc — Clos Pons — Costers del Segre A real treat for the nose; lemon tart, golden apple, pears and peaches. Sweet vanilla and brioche give hints as to the production method and add an extra layer of flavour.
Soft and rich on the palate — lemon tart, stone fruit and a wonderfully pronounced and smooth body. The 13.5% alcohol is not obvious and is well balanced by the body and acidity.

Probably the most pleasant and complex 100% Macabeo wine I have ever tried with both lees ageing and 12 months seperately in 2000l French oak barrels. Clos Pons was a new discovery for me and my favourite of the festival — a very high quality production that had somehow escaped my notice prior. Situated in Les Garrigues south of Lleida, Clos Pons is a relatively new project aiming at Terroir centric wines under the guidance of Oenologist Martí Magriñá i Poblet. The team I met at the stand were enthusiastic, professional and were clearly proud of their products. At around 25 euros a bottle, unfortunately this will have a limited market in Spain but definitely worth searching out if you have the inclination to experiment with high quality Catalan whites.

Picture ‘borrowed’ from @jmenacristo. Thanks!

2. 811 2011 — Clos Pons — Costers del Segre
Beautifully expressive on the nose — blueberries, bramble and plums are prominent over sweet vanilla and a light smokiness. Garrigue, mint and balsamic notes compromise the rest of this intriguing bouquet.
The palate is light and fruit driven fading into balsamic flavours, garrigue and minerality. Elegant but powerful — supple tannins allowing a lighter style of wine. Lovely!

From the same producer, this was the real ‘Wow’ wine of the entire festival for me and something completely new, 100% Marselan aged in 300l new French oak barrels. Marselan; I had to look it up! Apparently a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, grown in southern France and with the potential structure to age… where can I find more of it?! Not easily unfortunately. A very limited production of 800 bottles per year plus a 60 euro price tag means this is unlikely to grace my fridge anytime soon. Still, if you get the chance — an excellent and very original style of wine from Catalunya.

3. Clos Abella — Marco Abella — Priorat
Deep, profound and oh-so-Priorat on the nose. Cooked red and black fruits, deep licorella minerality, warm liquorice, vanilla, smoke and black pepper — a real coupage of developing notes. This really opened up further after a little time
Rich and tannic on the palate — so smooth and well integrated. Surprisingly fresh at the start with quite a high acidity, this wine is fruit fading into spice and liquorice. Very elegant and with a bright future — with another few years of bottle age this could be superb.

In terms of what would be considered a quality wine, this was structurally the best of the festival. Marco Abella is a winery ran by a husband and wife team, David and Olivia, and named after the founding figure of Ramón Marco Abella. A new style winery using only ambient yeast from the grape skins and with a modern winery designed to use gravity to move liquids between tanks and floors, this is truly a blend of the new and the old steered by Oenologist José Luis Ruiz. Apparently this wine won a blind taste content quite recently in Hong Kong — I can understand why although I believe some extra ageing would benefit the overall experience. At 40 euros, really quite reasonable for a flagship wine from Priorat and well worth the purchase, particularly if you have the space/patience to age this for a few more years.

4. Mirgin Brut Nature Gran Reserva Cava — Alta Alella — Alella
Huge concentration of aromatic fruit on the nose; peaches, apricots, melon rind and green apple skin. A stoney minerality is complimented by toast with honey — clean and intense.
Lively and fruity on the palate fading to pronounced minerality. Again this cava surprises with clean and intense fruit whilst maintaining elegance and poise. A fine mousse rounds off an excellent cava.

My favourite cava of the entire week. Alta Alella is known as an ‘urban winery’ because it is so close to Barcelona; from the top of their vineyards you can see the buildings of the city below quite clearly! Quite a recent addition to high quality wine in Catalunya, the winery is a father and daughter(s) team who are slowly moving towards biodynamic and organic wines and have a huge portfolio of wines ranging from mono-varietal still wines to top end dessert wines served in Michelin Star restaurants. Mirgin is excellent and indicative of a recent trend by high quality producers to starting to use the Chardonnay grape on a more consistent basis. At 35 euros a bottle, actually well worth the price and for a special occasion, you will find this style of cava appeals to almost everyone compared to the lean and serious minerality of traditional Gran Reservas. Also: If you get the chance to visit the winery, do so — a great experience and a lovely way to spend the day!

5. Clos del Music 2009 — Mas Blanc — Priorat
In comparison to the +7 from the same winery, this is slightly richer and more brooding. Cooked plums, blackberries and cherries are prominent with notes of leather, smoke, char, liquorice and a deep minerality running through the nose.
A real mouthful — prominent and smooth tannins are in balance with intense flavours of leather, cooked fruits and liquorice. Like it’s younger brother, +7, the alcohol is not overwhelming and the finish is extended and savoury.

Mas Blanc is the extension of Bodega Pinord into Priorat; their most recent expansion and also their first 100% Demeter certified biodynamic winery. Having had a chance to visit the winery back in May, I can speak for their enthusiasm and friendliness, so far the best winery trip I have been on, as well as the high quality level of their entire range of wines. A modern Priorat blend of Carignan, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot and Syrah but one of the best I have tasted at this price point: 22 euros. Excellent, value for money and well worth looking at if you can find it.

Wine Cuentista: The literal translation is ‘Wine story-teller’. We run high quality wine tastings in central Barcelona, Borne area, with the intention of tasting and learning about high quality Spanish and Catalan wines in a relaxed atmosphere — perfect for a fun evening out in Barcelona! If you would like to get in touch or see our services, check out the website here: Thanks!