18-10-2017

Lady strangler news, Escanyavella 2015

There exists an old grape in DOQ Priorat that sits in something of a legal limbo called, Escanyavella or essentially, “old lady choker”, or “strangler” depending on how poetic you might want to be about such things. You can read my initial account of finding a wine from this grape at the cellar of Ripoll Sans when writing the Priorat book and then a follow up once Vall Llach released a new wine that was majority Escanyavella as well.

Let’s be clear on the subject, it’s a microcosm of grape in the region in terms of production but at the same time, there has not been a DNA match with any other grape and this is both fantastic and troubling. It makes it a unique grape (not Merseguera as was once thought) but at the same time, it means that its path to full approval is much, much longer as it hasn’t historically existed in any European Union database like say, Chenin Blanc or Viognier which both found approval in Priorat relatively quickly despite their late introduction.

This is why when paying a visit to Marc Ripoll’s cellar in Gratallops recently, he was bouncing around in excitement as there has apparently been found another, much more significant plot of Escanyavella. A fellow to the east of Valls seems to have 1ha of it and in the form of 70 year-old plants. This is unique for many reasons. For starters, we’d only known of it being found in Priorat. This offers the possibility of trying different winemaking methods but it also offers the ability to find additional clonal variations which is very useful when it comes to getting at the optimal plant to propagate where it to be an approved variety eventually which taste wise, I am fully behind.

Whatever comes of this will be interesting to observe as Marc and his wife have been producing a very fine wine from this grape for several years now, although it falls under the “micro production” of an experimental wine for the region at some 700 or so bottles. Through various trials, they’ve found that the get excellent results from the Flextank. If you’ve never heard of these, then imagine what would happen if a Roman amphora were to have an illicit love child with 21st century plastics and there you go. While essentially a plastic form, they allow a certain amount of breathing to the wines aging inside and thus do exactly what barrels do but without imparting oakiness–this is the current rage in winemaking so as not to obscure fine fruit.

Marc’s Escanyavella is simply lovely and the 2015 has proven that this aging regimen is working very well, imparting a wonderful bouquet to this wine with an excellent acidity despite the warmer growing conditions of Gratallops.

Escanyavella 2015
Aromatically very expressive with vanilla, orange marmalade, orange blossoms, fresh green peas, and lemon pith. Thick and full on the mouth, very crisp acidity and a touch more than medium length. Very expressive, fine vintage worth aging if one can wait.

100% Escanyavella 14% 18€
**+