el garbi, terra alta
In 2003 Liam Steevenson spent a summer in Priorat, writing a dissertation, the final hurdle in his Master of Wine exam. Whist fascinated by the region and its wines, the white Grenache of the smaller and lest know Terra Alta region nestled behind always fascinated. Working with a tiny family winery in the heart of the region he identified some outstanding Grenache growing at high altitude with incredible natural acidity. Picking on acid his decision was to ferment and age the wine in 500l new french oak from the master Tonnelliers Boutes in Bordeaux. It is a bold wine style, but very much reflective of this outstanding region and its unique terroir.
Terra Alta is the most southerly wine DO (Denominación de Origen) wine region in Cataloni, it also has the highest altitude, with the mountain peaks here reaching 3000ft (950m). Unsurprisingly then, its name, Terra Alta, means 'high land' in Catalan. The climate is a mix of Mediterranean and continental, with long, hot summers and very cold winters, when the temperature falls as low as 23F (–5C).The soils are clay and coastal limestone, with good drainage.
The winemaking is very traditional, high up in Terra Alta, technology is not abundant here, using equipment that is available is both limiting and liberating. Hand harvested grapes were fermented in tank, with temperature cooled to retain fruit elements. Transferred into new Boutes french barrels 400l free run juice and 100l heavy solids and stirred once a week to allow and also control reductive compounds. 5 months before bottling.
The Garbi is a warm Arab wind that blows hard across northern Spain and has a heavy influence on the vineyards of Terra Alta. Flushing through the canopy it ventilates, allowing a longer, cleaner hang-time. El Garbi the Catalan name alludes to this important factor that helps create this extraordinary wine.