November 2015 - Wine of the Month
GR-174 Casa Gran del Siurana 2014
“GR-174” is the name of a well-known hiking path that crosses Priorat, a small, dynamic wine region in Catalonia (north-eastern Spain) whose intense, fullbodied red wines have shot to fame in the past few decades. The classic Priorat wines are made from oldvine Grenache and Carignan, and have concentrated aromas of licorice, tar and brandied cherries. Alongside these traditional grape varieties, a number of Priorat winemakers also use international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah for their red wines. Red Priorat wine is one of very few world-class wine styles to be based on Grenache, a category in which it is joined only by red Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Rh ô n e wi n e r e g i o n , France) and the top-end wines from California’s Sine Qua Non. It has risen from being almost unheard of on the international wine market to being one of the world's most expensive wines. Vines from Priorat are very low-yielding, producing less than five hectolitres per hectare (hl/ha). To provide some context, the Spanish average is 25 hl/ha, while vineyards in cool, wet Germany yield closer to 80 hl/ha. Lower yields usually mean higher quality, and the reasons for Priorat’s super-low yields are climate, nutrient-poor soils and vine age. Regarding the climate, the particular combination of geographical factors makes Priorat region one of the warmest, driest areas anywhere in Spain. Soil is also of paramount importance to Priorat winemakers, and the region’s flagship soil type is llicorella, a free-draining, nutrient-poor soil made up of partially-decomposed slate and quartz (llicorella is the Catalan name for slate). Finally, most Priorat wines are aged in oak for at least 12 months.
The wine I have chosen for this month is a Priorat called GR-174 Casa Gran del Siurana 2014. It is a 15% alcohol blend of several grape varieties: Grenache (36%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Syrah (16%), Samsó (13%), Merlot (7%) and Cabernet Franc (3%). It has been partially aged in oak barrels, which means that it is a mixture of young and oak-aged wines, resulting in a product in which you can find a singular and pleasing combination of primary (from the grapes) and tertiary (from ageing) aromas. It’s colour is purple-red, with long slow legs. On the nose there is a great diversity of aromas: blueberry, a bit of blackberry, raspberry and fig. You can also find earth, new leather, slight notes of tobacco and some herbs. It is rich in the mouth, with a dominant taste of bright dark red and some black fruit. Ripe, juicy and supple, full-bodied and velvety, with a softly balanced acidity, medium chewy phenols and slightly firm tannins. The finish is long and good. In conclusion, GR-174 is a nice balanced wine, and each sip is bright and juicy. It pairs very well with steak, lamb and other red meat. It is also pretty good alone, but keep in mind that tannins are prevalent. If you like big, full, ripe wines, this is a good one, and although not being extremely complex, it is absolutely enjoyable. Serve at 16 °C.