Acustic Celler, Montsant, Spain

Acustic Celler wine

The story of Priorat is one of the most amazing in wine.  An isolated, deserted rocky wilderness to the south-west of Barcelona it has been transformed from a forgotten rural backwater to the home of Spain’s most expensive wine in just over 20 years.

As recently as 1990 the Catalan government published a large book celebrating 1,000 years of viticulture in the region. Priorat did not even warrant a mention. With just one dirt track road connecting the largest village with the rest of Spain and rudimentary infrastructure no-one wanted to know about it.  Making wine here was hard work and you got little reward, as most was sold in plastic drums for pennies by the local co-operative.

It took a chap called Rene Barbier to recognise that these ancient gnarled vines clinging to unfeasibly steep slopes had the potential to make world-class wine. Today Priorat’s top wines sell for a couple of hundred pounds a bottle.

Priorat’s isolation is its greatest feature. A land that time forgot, with century-old vines, gnarled olive trees and a unique soil type called Llicorella, a cool dark-brown slate that sparkles with quartzite. It is this soil that gives the wines what Jancis Robinson describes as their “mineral essence”.  The wines are powerful and concentrated but unlike some other hot climate wines, the best Priorats are fresh and bright rather than jammy and cumbersome.

One of the benefits of having a Barcelona-based buyer is the local knowledge Stuart picks up whilst leaning on the counters of tapas bars dipping baby squid into Romesco sauce and eavesdropping on local wine enthusiasts. One such ‘tip off’ led us to Albert Jané Ubeda and Acustic Celler; the name taken from Albert’s unplugged approach to winemaking and his desire to see the terroir shine through in the glass unencumbered by excessive intervention.

Finding Priorat that isn’t a) extraordinarily expensive and b) seemingly made with 100 points from American critics in mind is not easy, but that is exactly what Albert produces. These are brilliant, expressive wines from one of Spain’s best regions that don’t break the bank and are refreshingly free of slick, oaky flavours.

The Acustic Tinto and the Acustic Blanco are powerful wines with intense flavours but both possess a level of minerality that is often sought and rarely found. These wines are a great example of the quality winemaking that is happening in Spain at the moment. This coupled with old vines, incredible terroir and beautiful wine labels means that would sit nicely on a wide range of wine lists.

Gareth Groves
10th October 2013

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