Matching food and Priorat
I was reminded about my trip to Priorat almost exactly two years ago by my recent visit to the Roussillon which has a similar terroir. And I think the wines would go with similar kinds of food. These were my suggested pairings at the time . . .
Priorat has some of the most expensive wines in Spain but they're also high in alcohol and reflect their wild, untamed terroir. There's a marked difference between wines from 'hot' vintages like 2003 and 2005 and the more recent fresher cooler wines of 2007 and 2008 and between older vintages and younger ones. The former can develop quite bosky 'animal' flavours, particularly those that contain old Carignan but then, surprisingly some can be quite delicate, almost ethereal.
In terms of comparison with other wine regions I would think Châteauneuf is a better reference point than Bordeaux despite the presence in many wines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Although they obviously appeal to the Asian market to me they're not the obvious bottle to reach for with subtle, delicate cuisines such as Cantonese or Japanese (although some of the top winemakers are making wines that would match well). The whites (which are again similar to those of the Rhône) are more suited to cooked shellfish, fish and vegetable dishes than to raw or lightly cooked ones.
Like most great wines most would benefit from being served with simple food and as full-bodied reds, grilled and roast meat, especially lamb and beef. The bigger, more broadshouldered wines would pair well with meat served rare with a degree of charring; older vintages with slow roasts like slow roast shoulder of lamb. Lighter more graceful wines from higher vineyards or more recent vintages could work with dishes like braised rabbit. (I particularly liked Sara Perez Ovejero of Mas Martinet's suggestion of pairing her sumptuous Els Escurcons with braised rabbit wih olives and herbs)
In fact furred rather than feathered game seems a good direction to go. I'd also like to pair Priorat with venison, hare and wild boar (or rare breed pork), again slow-cooked. Think oxtail too. I found a slightly funky 2004 Vall Llach absolutely transformed by a dish of braised oxtail with Priorat and prunes, bringing its primary fruit once more to the fore. It just seems the right thing to do with such strongly terroir-driven wines to pair them with food from the region - or across the Pyrenees with dishes from south-west France. Priorat and cassoulet? Priorat and Toulouse sausages with Puy lentils? Priorat with duck confit? They'd all work.
Then of course there's cheese. We didn't have much while we were away but Priorat, which has much in common with rich, brambly wines like Amarone and those from the Douro, would make a good companion for stronger, more challenging cheeses, especially blues. And on the basis of successfully pairing a mature Manchego with some of the wines I'd definitely look at some of Spain's other excellent sheeps' cheeses.
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