Sa Natura (formerly known as Sacra Natura) is an estate-bottled wine made by Celler Vinos Piñol with organically grown grapes in the high-elevation region of Terra Alta, located south of Barcelona. Certified organic, Sa Natura is a great example of “liquid geography” because the wine speaks eloquently of Terra Alta terroir. From the bottles aromas, it seems as if the wine is blended with bunches of thyme, rosemary, chamomile and graphite, all things you can smell during a walk through the Piñol familys vineyards. An uncorked bottle of Sa Natura is a sensory experience filled with new aromas and flavors. The story of Cellar Vinos Piñol mirrors the ascendance of Spanish wines in world markets over the past ten years, a story of how a reverence for old, treasured vineyards and the best family traditions have been combined with new winemaking methods to make the finest wines possible. Similar to Yecla and Vinos de Madrid, Terra Alta is one of Spains up-and-coming wine regions with an identity built on exciting projects and progressive innovation. Juanjo G. Piñol and Toni Coca are the winemakers. Juanjos mother Josefina remains in charge of the family cellar.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE? A $20 wine that drinks like it costs $45. Made with organic wine growing and estate-owned grapes. The wine is made in Terra Alta, just south of Priorat. It has a mineral, pure, silky and bright character. It will age very well for a decade or more. The wine is made by the fourth generation of the Piñol family.
RATING HISTORY: 2012 91VN; 2011 92WE & Editor's Choice; 90RP & IWC; 2009 90IWC; 2008 90RP
GRAPE: 50% Carinena, 20% Garnacha, 20% Syrah, 10% Merlot. Organically grown (certified) vines planted from 1968 -1988. Tended in clay and limestone soil at 356 m (1,168 ft) elevation.
PAIRING SUGGESTIONS: This will pair just fine with a rare beef cheddar burger, and the wines fresh black and blue fruits will pair even better with a lamb or turkey burger with a slice of Yarlsberg. If you are grilling sausages, go more toward the sweet pork and veal rather than spicy or beef examples. In general, white meats are good pairings with Sa Natura due to their inherently sweeter characters. This is also a good pair with dishes in mushroom sauces.
VINIFICATION AND AGEING: Each variety was hand harvested at different times, depending on the optimum ripeness of the given grape. After selecting the best grapes from each bunch, the grapes macerate with their juice for 4 days at 6C (43F) for greater fruit expression. Soon after, fermentation is carried out at a temperature of 27C (81F). Maceration and skin contact lasts for 25 days. Malolactic fermentation is performed, half in oak barrels and half in stainless steel tanks. The 2009 vintage is aged for 12 months in 300-liter French, American, and Hungarian oak barrels, 50% new, 25% one year old and 25% two years old.
PRODUCTION: 3,000 cases
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE: The vineyards are located a few miles southwest of Priorat, within the Terra Alta DO (Zone 5) in Catalunyas Tarragona province in northeastern Spain. In this remote region, the winemaking tradition dates back to the Romans, around the 2nd or 3rd Century. The winery and vineyards are in the town of Batea, situated at 356 meters (1,168 ft.) elevation. The soils are composed of 95% limestone and 5% clay. For climate, the average temperature from April-October is 67.3F. The hot day and warm-to-moderate night temperatures make Terra Alta a drier and warmer region than Montsant or Priorat. These conditions produce bright purplish-garnet hued wines with greater weight and ripeness than wines from other areas within Zone 5. The low average yearly rainfall of 16.3 inches is less than neighboring regions.
TASTING NOTES: Bright purple. Cherry, licorice and dried flowers on the smoky nose. Fresh and supple in texture, with attractive floral lift to the blackberry and candied licorice flavors. Finishes with building, chewy tannins and lingering sweetness. Give this wine a little air.
All photos: Friederike Paetzold