11-05-2017

Tast del Decenni of 2007 in 2017

What is now my fourth sojourn into the world of Priorat wine with a decade to its name, I attended the Tast del Decenni or “Decade Tasting” last week. You can read the notes of 2004 and 2005 if you like but in brief, each year a group gathers to taste the wines from 10 years previous. It provides an excellent window to how the wines in both DOQ Priorat and DO Montsant age and the previous tastings were quite informative. If you’d like to just jump to the meat, go to the 2007 DOQ Priorat tasting or the 2007 DO Montsant tasting.

Last year saw one of the biggest changes to the format as Priorat and Montsant were each given their own day. To date, this hadn’t been much of an issue as Montsant wines were only starting to be labeled as such in 2003. With each approaching year, more wines worthy of aging were coming up and thus one of the last tastings of the two together was something like 28 wines and with the ensuing discussion afterwards, it made for a very long morning, especially as there are some local wine “personalities” who don’t know when they should stop spouting off their opinions. The change was quite needed and undoubtedly, starting in 2008 and 2009 when more boutique cellars began to pop up in Montsant, there will be a longer list.

Another interesting change was that this was the first year with two whites in the Priorat tasting. This shouldn’t actually come as a shock given that when made using a good barrel aging, the whites of Priorat (or Montsant for that matter) are capable of lengthy aging and we’ll see more of the whites start popping up in the future.

I was looking forward to this tasting for some time as 2007 is regarded as a strong vintage. It also happened to be the year just before the shit hit the fan with the Global Financial Crisis which made it one of the last peaks of Priorat production and thus, a great many wines were made. I’ve tasting many, many bottles from 2007 and have indeed found them to have aged quite nicely, although I still say that 2004s have held up better.

With this taken into account, I have to say that I was a bit let down by the tasting overall as the wines largely didn’t show as well as I’d have thought they would. Maybe it was because I’d just come off the Decanter judging which can put one in a very critical mood, but I think it went beyond that. In terms of lunar calendar thingness, both days were flower days so it was theoretically a good time to taste.

Personally, I think most of it came down to a practice that the organizers do which needs to be stopped immediately which is to take three bottles of each wine from the cellars mix them and then serve this blended wine. A number of cellars mentioned this to me last year and said they wouldn’t be participating anymore as this is ridiculous. I would concur as with this amount of time, each bottle has developed very independently and you can’t just mix them in this matter or they cancel each other out. This serves only to detract from the individual wines and it’s little surprise that one of the wines that showed the best was the Vall Llach that had come from a magnum.

Another aspect that has caused me ire over the years is the self-congratulating aspect of the event. Half of the attendees are winemakers and as the wines are tasted blind, I feel that few want to be critical as they might be criticizing their own wines. A wine importer from the US that I brought to the tasting last year mentioned this right away.

But there is also a call by those leading the tasting to “only be positive”. This I found the most shocking as here we have a situation where your wine is being judged by your peers and in theory others who know about wine. It’s a time to look at the wines an analyze what has gone well or not gone well and improve, but they’re not doing this and I think they’re the worse for it as again, the 2007 didn’t show nearly as well as they should have and more reflection on past vintages needs to happen in both Priorat and Montsant. There are many winemakers who do in fact do do this and it was not ironic that their wines weren’t seen at this tasting…

2007 DOQ Priorat tasting | 2007 DO Montsant tasting