Bon dia amics meus!
Have you ever heard of the song ‘She’ll be comin’ around the mountain when she comes?’ Well, that’s the song that plays in my mind every time I cruise around the crazy curvy roads of Priorat. The terrain here is so tough and the wines are so naturally concentrated, many cannot imagine how one goes about harvesting grapes in such a wondrous winemaking region. So, in order to show you what Priorat is like through my eyes and to shed some light on how the 2013 vintage is looking so far, I decided to conduct a phone interview with Albert Costa, winemaker and owner of the esteemed Celler Vall Llach, to see what he had to say about the 2013 harvest. I’ve also included a couple of short videos clips that I took during a trip to Priorat last year and hopefully both items will be useful when it comes time to share the message of why the best wines from Priorat are rare (and often times expensive), delicious gems that are truly worth buying, and of course, drinking!
NA: Albert, can you please give me an overview of what the 2013 harvest and/or vintage is looking like so far?
AC: 2013 is looking very good. We had a lot of rain again this year, which is just what our old vines in Priorat need. We think it will be another stunning vintage like 2004.
NA: Are you finished with harvest yet? If not, when do you expect to finish?
AC: We will finish around the first week of November with our oldest vineyard block called Mas de la Rosa.
NA: Has it rained thus far during harvest? If so, what kind of impact did this have on your grape quality, if any?
AC: While 2013 was a rather wet vintage, we thankfully didn’t have any rain during harvest. In general, it was a humid year, especially right before picking, which almost always translates to a very good year in our dry and rocky Priorat.
NA: In your own words, how does the 2013 harvest compare to some of the best from the DOQ Priorat in the past – like 2001, 2004 or 2005?
AC: I think it’s going to be like 2004, one of the best for sure!
NA: Can you predict if this will be a small or large harvest? – how does it compare, volume-wise, to other harvests?
AC: It’s going to be medium-production year. We had less Garnacha than the other years and less production from our old vines as well.
NA: What is your day-to-day life like as a winery owner/winemaker/vineyard guru during harvest?
AC: During the day I walk the vineyards and taste the grapes to see if they are ready for picking – during the afternoon I’m busy with punch-downs, tasting the grape juice and the fermenting wines to see which are ready for pressing.
NA: How do you manage all those rocky vineyard blocks all at the same time?!
AC: We do so many microvinifcations (70-80 per year!), it’s like playing a game of Tetris in the winery to find space for all the small lots fermenting at the same time
NA: What differences did you notice between the grape quality and/or production in Mas de la Rosa versus your other old-vine vineyards?
AC: Mas de la Rosa is located at an altitude of 600 meters, so it’s colder than the other vineyards and receives the sea breeze every night, which makes it our last vineyard to pick. Mas de la Rosa actually contains the oldest Carinyena in Priorat, this and its 80° slope makes this site incredibly unique.
NA: What size are your fermenting tanks? Do you use purchased or native yeasts? What process is your wine in now?
AC: Our tanks vary from very small (340 L) to 10,000 L – small compared to other parts of Spain. We ferment all of our wines with native yeasts and right now at the time of this interview (mid-October), all of our wine is still fermenting and soon some of our Merlots will be ready to press.
NA: Is it true that you and your team perform a manual punch-downs?
AC: Yes, we ferment our top wines in open-top barrels and with these wines we perform manual punch-downs.
NA: If so, are your toes purple right now? J
AC: Hahah we punch down by hand, our hands are purple. And our skin is so smooth thanks to all of the antioxidants. J
NA: I know this is hard to predict, but comparing 2013 to the greatest vintages of all times in Priorat, how does this vintage stand up so far? Do you think it will age well?
AC: I think the wines of the 2013 vintage are going to have a long life because the acidity is high and the grape juice is so colorful.
NA: And finally, what is your favorite part about harvest time in Priorat? Mine was the smell of the decaying must in the vineyards while growing up in the Napa Valley…
AC: Receiving visitors at the winery, because it is the best time of year to show everyone what it takes to make our wines!