Updated: Dec 8, 2020
There is no such thing as a “Gran Montsant” but there should be because 2018 will be the best vintage yet for the Montsant D.O. in Spain. The red wines produced by the fiercely proud Catalonians are predominately Garnatxa, also known as Grenache, and Cariyena, also known as Caringnan. The Monsant wines have not made it big on the international markets yet but they’re about to make a huge splash in the wine world. A Spanish splash louder than Priorat, louder than Ribera del Duero and louder than Rioja.
In 2017, the Catalonians voted to succeed from Spain. The news was a blip on the American news channels but was a torrent of thunderous waves which rippled through Barcelona (the heart of Catalonia) to Madrid (the capital of Spain). The Spanish government, head-quartered in Madrid, responded by jailing and exiling the newly formed novice Catalonian government. Today, yellow ribbons scatter the Montsant mountain side that clearly state, “LLIBERTE!” The government in Madrid does not want an economic powerhouse, like Catalonia, to break away from Spain. It means losing approximately a quarter of their revenue. On the other hand, the Catalonians have made it known that they’re tired of paying more than their fair share and not receiving equal reciprocity of their hard-earned tax money.
But Catalonians are resourceful and stubborn people that can not be underestimated. They dig deep, like the winemakers of Monsant, into the pre-historic granite / slate / limestone / clay soils and plant the seeds of their future. They have chosen a patient path of passive yet active resistance through success. They’re making world class wines and the 2018 will not be denied of prestige.
The failure of the 2017 succession plan from Spain was not the first time the Catalonians experienced deep pain. In 1893, Phyloxeria wiped out their vines. It was a devastating time for Catalonian winemakers to watch their vines wither away as the microscopic bugs ate through the rootstocks of their vineyards. Everything was bleak, the locals were poor, the economy suffered, the Catalonians were marginalized by the Spanish government and civil war was on the horizon at the turn of the century.
But the resolve of the Catalonians gave a glimpse of what the future could be. Slowly and surely, by grafting their vines with thicker and more resistant American root stocks, their wine industry slowly bounced back. And the Priorat region was the first to gain international notoriety from Catalonia. Priorat’s success showed that there can be a future in Monsant because of the proximity. And although winemakers, like Pilar of Solpost, returned from their corporate jobs in Barcelona and chose to forge a path in Monsant with their families. They saved their euros, found a hardened plot of Falset land for a good price, cleared it to plant new vineyards, hand-harvested the vines and prepared the wines for your palate today.
The winemakers of Montsant and Priorat are one big family that work together, advise each other, help each other, warehouse for each other, and toil the Earth together. They haven’t forgotten their roots. The struggle to plant vines into high-altitude, hilly, rocky, challenging terrain is a testament to their fortitude, resolve and passion. “All the vines, because they’re steeped deeply into the hillsides, have to be pruned and harvested by hand,” said Pilar of Solpost, “no machines can pass through the vineyards, it’s impossible.” And instead of walking away from the challenge, the locals embraced it. They chose to educate their world with organizations like the Montsant Association. They’re creating the next generation of winemakers with a new enology college in Tarragona. And instead of turning their backs on their geology of limestone, granite, slate and clay; they encouraged it, planted it, loved it and they’re proving to the world that Monstant wines are as great as the greatest wines the world has to offer. They’re not shy to gamble their farms with Garnatxa and Cariyena because it reflects who they are as a people of sustenance and rugged grit. Every aspect of the wines produced from each soil type from lower levels in Falset to the great climbing mountainside of Siuranna reflects every nuance of the terroir. The heart and soul of the winemakers who decided to risk it all stems from a genealogy mired in strife, absolute resolve and ultimately, success.
- Silvio J. Lelli, Founder, Nationwide Wine & Spirits