La Cartuja is a unique wine produced in the Priorat region, one of the most prestigious appellations in Spain. Priorat is special due to the unmistakable mineral identity that the licorella (volcanic Slate) imparts in its wines. When you taste a Priorat wine, you are not only tasting a grape but also a place. The mineral flavors of the place overpower the natural flavors of the grape. La Cartuja was born in 2007 with the objective of bottling a special wine that is able to capture the mineral identity of this unique territory. A second objective with La Cartuja was to make a Priorat that approachable and not alcoholic while young. Lastly and perhaps the most difficult of objectives to accomplish was to make a wine of this pedigree at an inconceivable price. La Cartuja is a small production cuvÃ©e made from organically grown and estate-owned, grapes located in the Carthusian Les Solanes estate. Most Priorat wines are expensive and require lots of time before they're drinkable. La Cartuja is a fresh vision of Priorat, a wine that is young and accessible. During medieval times, La Cartuja was the name given to a large geographical area governed by the Carthusian monks. Similar to the Vatican estates, this area had its own code of law. The whole of Priorat was a "Cartuja," a religious state rather than a civil domain. Priorat's winemaking heritage began with the Carthusian monks. For centuries they performed the backbreaking work necessary to care for these difficult, isolated vineyards.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE? Two things make this wine unique: the quality and the price. La Cartuja proudly proclaims the identity of the flavors of Priorat. The wine is made in an approachable style to be enjoyed young. It is neither alcoholic nor overly tannic. Made with organic, estate-owned fruit, it is aged in French oak barrels for only 6 months.
RATING HISTORY: 2015 91VM; 2013 90Vinous; 2012 93IWR; 2011 93RP; 2010 90IWC; 2008 90RP; 2007 90RP&IWC
GRAPE: 70% Garnacha, 30% Mazuelo (Aka Cariñena). Organically grown vines planted in 2002. Tended in licorella soil at 250 m (820ft) elevation
PAIRING SUGGESTIONS: This wine has enough â€
VINIFICATION AND AGEING: The wine undergoes two days of maceration followed by eight days of fermentation and ten days of extended maceration after fermentation. The wine is aged for 6 months, half in 225-liter and half in 300-liter French oak barrels.
PRODUCTION: 3,340 cases
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE: The vineyards are located in a 24-hectare (59 acre) estate named La Solana ("Les Solanes" in Catalan) within the heart of Priorat, between the towns of El Molar and El Lloar, 4.5 km southwest of Gratallops. The La Solana vineyard sits at 250 meters (820 feet) elevation with slopes that have a southeastern exposure. These steep slopes overlook the Siurana River at the bottom of the valley, 1.6 kilometers away, which joins the Ebro River 8 km further on. The famous Ebro runs through Aragon, Navarra and Rioja. The soils of this vineyard are composed of volcanic slate and sand, which impart the signature of Priorat's terroir- distinctive mineral and graphite flavors. Priorat's soils are poor in nutrients and have a low pH, which results in brighter, fresher wines. One of Priorat's distinctive characteristics is the combination of a cool climate's acidity with a warm climate's ripe tannins. If wine is â€
TASTING NOTES: Brilliant ruby. Ripe dark berries, licorice, smoky minerals and a hint of succulent flowers on the perfumed nose. Juicy, round and open-knit; a peppery note adds lift and cut to warm blackberry, bitter cherry and licorice pastille flavors. The long, mineral-accented finish shows very good focus and closes on a youthfully tannic note, leaving cherry pit and floral notes behind.-- Josh Raynolds.
All photos: Friederike Paetzold