Vin-terra Incognita, The Wines of Celler Piñol

21st Century Wines from Inveterate Vines in Terra Alta

February 23, 2012


If Bordeaux, Napa and even Malbec have your nose wedged in the close-minded glass of life then Terra Alta is certainly not on your radar. Just a stone’s throw away, as the crow flies, a singular and estimable cradle of wine civilization promulgates in the commingling regions of Montsant and Priorat. Stretching its legs from out of the shadow of proximate antediluvian cellars, Celler Piñol aims to broaden horizons, roll over stones, reset the compass. Organically motivated, Piñol is a vintner for the New World. Here nine wines tasted at Barque Smokehouse with partner in wine Jascha Baraness, the indubitable Juanjo Galcerá Piñol and markedly too legit to quit, Spirit Tasting Challenge Winner Mark Coster of Profile Wine Group.

Juanjo Galcera Pinol

L’AVI ARRUFI 2009 ($32) the Garnacha Blanco immortalizes Piñol’s patriarch abuelo. A bold (14.5% alcohol) statement and in tune with the old vine style (Beaucastel) of the Southern Rhône. Composed in peachy, tree-fruit floral tones, the Arrufi tastes like almonds soaked in cider and mel de romani. Essence of white Mediterranean wine. Ancient. Sephardic. Biblical.  91

LUDOVICUS TERRA ALTA 2010 ($14.95) molds Cariñena, Merlot and Syrah around a 50% frame of Garnacha. Grizzled vines for this entry level beauty claw, scratch and rope-a-dope their way through arid and unforgiving limestone soils. A fighter this Ludovicus. Dusty, rocky, bearded and sharp-dressed for the neoteric world. Climbs to the top of the hill and rips off a riff.  87

RAIG DE RAÏM 2010 ($14.95) with increased Cariñena in the mix is a deeper, darker, hemic descendant and displays more bullish animal. Cabernet Sauvignon here too joins Merlot for a cigar note. Begs to be paired with fatty meat, drippings and seared on spice.  88

PORTAL 2009 ($20.95) while not defined, is essentially a Reserva, composed of 50% Garnacha, 20% Cariñena and the remainder Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah. Jascha says “feral” so I think of the King of Limbs, “…abstract, loopy, throbbing.” Foggy, hat wearing portal to the brain of a braised landscape, demanding short rib, rich broth, slow wine. “Take it easy.”  91

Portal 2009


SA NATURA 2009 ($21.95) is a blend of 50% Cariñena with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tempranillo. The qualities imparted by geomorphic wacke, anticline crag and orogenic Keuper translate to a natural wine, down to earth. Another Piñol made in the vineyard despite the varietal bag.  90

L’AVI ARRUFI VI DE GUARDA 2007 ($39.95) spends 16 months in French oak so the power of 60% Cariñena is unleashed. Combined with 30% Garnacha and 10% Syrah, the Guarda is an architecturally driven, linear and precise specimen. Menthol, eucalyptus and chewy, resinous berries swim out from the arid, desert soils where little rain falls, the days are hot and the nights cold92

MATHER TERESINA 2006/2007 ($49.95) is indeed a blended vintage bottling, now a lost art and set to disappear. 40% Cariñena and 30% Garnacha are joined by indigenous Morenillo and the combined effect is an early Cubist smoke, ash and tar affair. Cocoa and cream too.  90

FINCA MORENILLO 2009 ($64.95) is the diamond in the rough. No other wine in the line up buzzes as much with the warmth from humidity that is maintained in Terra Alta’s Mesozoic soils. Made from 100% Morenillo, this Pinot Noir like, thick-skinned, late-maturing grape here shows as a wine of distinct clarity. Very cherry, reminiscent of Bierzo but precisely concentrated and elegant. Here the Canaletas flowing gracefully to the Fontcalda Spa93

Finca Morenillo 2009

JOSEFINA VI DOLC 2009 (500 mL, $29.95) is black cherry pie, orange peel scented, late harvest dessert anti-syrup. While the pecan pie match is certainly viable, 76% chocolate would do just fine. That and a Persian Princess.  91
Good to go!

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