02-12-2010

A Cold, Wintry Revisit to La Vinyeta

This is an article from our archives that was previously run on another site in June, 2009.

It was just a bit over a year and a half ago that I first visited the new (at the time) winery of La Vinyeta. What a difference 20 months makes. For starters, they now have their website fully up and running which does a great job of showing the design aesthetic that goes in to the look of all things Vinyeta, which are created by the winemaker’s brother. It was a bit hard to convey that in 2007 as the winery wasn’t finished and they only had a couple of releases. The winery is indeed done now and open for visits most of the week, although they generally follow the sun, meaning that winter hours are shorter and summer hours, longer. Visiting in the winter probably isn’t allowing this region of Catalonia to be all that it can be. Upon getting out of the car, it was like getting clocked by a sack of ice cubes as the Tramuntana wind ripped through every layer I had on, freezing me to the core until I got inside the winery.

But beyond all these superficial changes, there is the fact that the wines have matured and not just in aging; they’re massively more complex and I would say demanding a great deal of respect now. While winemaker Josep Serra Pla is youngish at 31 and it would seem that he is steadying his hand with his craft, it’s actually the material available that has changed the wines more than anything else. In my prior visit, he still wasn’t harvesting from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot vineyards. This means that the Heus Negre was good in 2007, but not outstanding. This has solidly changed. The addition of blending the grapes from his new vineyards has made this wine delectable. With a blending of 27% Syrah, 26% Merlot, 25% Samsó, and 22% Garnatxa, the Garnatxa is not as pronounced now and it’s creating a more round wine with chocolate touches to it, as well as bold, unwavering depth to the body. The best part is that it’s still high enough in tannins to be great with food and only 6€. If I ever live in the region, I think I know what my daily drinker is going to be.

But there are more wines to his lineup now and what’s great is that they just build upon each other. The Llavors (pron. Lya-bors) takes off from the Heus and presents an even stronger wine, albeit still smooth. Comprised of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Samsó and 12% Merlot and 8% Garnatxa, it spends five months in an oak regimen of French, Hungarian, and Romanian barrels. It is firm in the mouth with touches of boysenberry and strawberry, yet it pulls back enough to still be had with foods.

The Puntiapart, with it’s very clever boxes you can see here, is the boldest of all the reds that Josep is making. This blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Samsó, 23% Merlot makes for a strong wine, yet oddly enough, it’s the smoothest of the lot. It goes through a grueling, slaving, absolutely treacherous 13 months of lying in the oak to reach the point where you get what you taste from the bottle; a delicately balanced wine with a great deal of substance to the body. It is at once both mineraly and tannic, but not harshly so. While I feel it would be best enjoyed on its own, it would pare with with a nice grilled lamb or pretty much any grilled meat with a lot of character that would pick up the notes of the wine. Chicken need not apply, although the Heus could get cozy with the bird.

Lastly of course, there is a sweet Garnatxa, because in Catalonia, you’re just not officially a winery until you’re producing a sweet wine, or so I think. The Sols is an equal blend of red and white Garnatxa from the 75 year old vines that Josep has. And while I’m usually always a Moscatell man when it comes to Catalan sweets, if you put up a bottle of Moscatell and a bottle of this Sols and made me choose just one, I would be very, very unhappy. It’s a mighty fine sweet. It’s aromatically nutty in the glass and has a pleasant, lingering sweetness, that sticks in the mouth after the swallow and slowly slips away as the perfect close to a meal.

Ah, let’s not also forget that La Vinyeta is also putting out an olive oil, which is just as natural a progression for a winery as producing a sweet. It’s all from locally grown olives in the Empordà area. Yes, it’s aromatically fantastic and of course it tastes great. Toss in a little jamón with some pa amb tomàquet and you’ve really got yourself the quintessentially perfect Catalan meal.

Learn more about the wines, wineries, and history of Empordà in our Empordà, Catalonia enotourism guide