Gratallops’ Black Slate red unleases Priorat’s power

Black Slate is a Grenache-based blend from Spain. The deep , dark purple color is mesmerizing, as is the black fruit and herb flavors.

Black Slate is a Grenache-based blend from Spain. The deep , dark purple color is mesmerizing, as is the black fruit and herb flavors.

On the evening when I’m planning to drink a new wine from Priorat, the October issue of Wine Spectator arrives with a cover story titled “Great Spanish Reds: Alvaro Palacious Leads Priorat to New Heights.”
The Wine Goddess smiles, thinking I’m an “expert” able to spot wine industry trends, especially after I glowingly tell her I had purchased the bottle of Priorat Gratallops Black Slate 2012 red wine two months earlier.
Bella, the cynical cat, seated in my favorite chair, snickers. Looking into her beady golden eyes it occurs to me Bella might be the reincarnation of Gandhi, so I sheepishly come clean.
“Actually,” I tell the Wine Goddess, “Sam Messina at the Wine ConneXtion (North Andover) suggested the wine to me. He said it was delicious and a great buy ($16.99).”
The Wine Goddess moves to a glass cabinet where she opens a door and gently lifts two Bordeaux glasses from a shelf.
“Well, a least you had the intelligence to listen to Sam and buy it,” says my wife. “That’s what counts.”
Yes, I say to myself, that’s what counts.
When I turn to stare down Bella, I discover she’s vanished into thin air. Where’d she go? Incredulously, I think maybe Bella is Gandhi and decide it’s time for a drink.
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A good view of the Black Slate label which reflects the schist-like soil in Gratallops.

A good view of the Black Slate label which reflects the schist-like soil in Gratallops.

Priorat is a small wine district in Spain’s Catalonia region, located 100 miles south of Barcelona and near the Mediterranean Sea. Gratallops is a village in the south-central location with historic winemaking roots. According to Thomas Matthews’ WS article, “the vineyards climb steep hills that wind around small rivers.” The days are hot, the nights cold and the soil is black slate or schist, called llicorella. The soil is considered “poor” and yet the Garnarcha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan) vines grow purposefully to produce powerful, balanced red wines (95 percent of Priorat’s total wine production is red).
Overall, Priorat wines possess a gorgeous dark purple color, black raspberry and dark cherry flavors, and a nice touch of mineral and herbal essence. They can fetch up to $300 a bottle or more. The only problem for consumers is the Bordeaux-style labeling in which the grape varieties are not listed on the bottle. Rest assured, Priorat means a Grenache blend with other red grapes.
The Celler Cecilio Priorat Gratallops Black Slate 2012 will get smoother as it ages over the next 4-5 years, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying it. The Wine Goddess enjoyed its “rustic flavors” and fullness on the palate. It was still fresh on the finish, she said.
Black Slate has been rated between 89.9 points and 92 points from various entities, and usually sells for $23 a bottle. At $16.99, it’s a great deal. Even Bella would agree.

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