Chris Boiling, who runs wine tastings for hens, stags and private parties in Brighton, continues his quest to find the city’s most interesting wines. For January he recommends a Spanish red he discovered in Brighton’s leading vegetarian restaurant, Terre à Terre.
Wine of the month: Barranc dels Comellars, 2012
Winery: Mas Igneous, Priorat DO, Spain
Winemaker: Caxiraxi Velazquez Barreto
Grape variety: A Garnacha-dominant blend that also includes Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot
Tasted in: Terre à Terre, 71 East Street, Brighton, BN1 1HQ (01273 729051; www.terreaterre.co.uk)
Price: £17.25 to takeaway or consume with a meal in the restaurant on a Monday or Tuesday evening from January 11 to March 29 (2016); £28.25 in the restaurant at other times.
This fruity red wine is a little beauty from the picturesque Priorat region in Spain. It’s made from the area’s signature red grape, Garnacha (Grenache in France), plus others. Most of the other top wines from the region that I’ve tried have been a blend of Garnacha and Carineña (Carignan) or Cabernet Sauvignon but this one also includes some spiciness from Syrah and a boost of fruit flavours from Merlot.
The wines are fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in French oak barrels for just three months, so it’s the fruit flavours that stand out – blackberries, blueberries and brambles, with a hint of herbs. I liked it because it wasn’t overly powerful or complicated, it was simply a delicious example of a modern-style Priorat.
On Monday and Tuesday evenings from January 11 to March 29, you can drink it with a meal at Terre à Terre, Brighton’s top vegetarian restaurant, for £17.25 – the same price as it is in Terre à Terre’s takeaway section. Yes, this award-winning restaurant also has a retail side offering vegetarian and vegan wines to take home.
As you would expect from a wine at Terre à Terre, the ruby red Barranc dels Comellars is organic and suitable for vegetarians (meaning it is made from organic grapes and the winemaker, Caxiraxi Velazquez Barreto, doesn’t use isinglass (fish bladders), gelatin, casein (milk protein) or albumen (egg whites) to clarify and stabilise her wines before they are bottled). It’s made by Priorat’s pioneering organic producer Mas Igneous, a winery started in 1996 by two wine producers – Josep Maria Pujol Busquets of Alta Alella and Josep Maria Albet of Albet i Noya in Penedès – and the local cooperative, Poboleda, which pulled out of the venture in 2004.
That’s when Mas Igneus built its own avant-garde sheet-metal winery on the outskirts of Gratallops, one of the main towns in this small but highly-regarded appellation in Catalonia. The main reason for the region’s fame is its soil, which is depicted on the bottle of the Barranc dels Comellars. The soil on the steep-sided, infertile hillsides is called ‘llicorella’ in Catalan and comprises tiny bits of red and black slate. This, combined with the hot and often windy climate, gives the wines their distinctive flavour, and makes the region suitable for organic grape-growing. However, the steep slopes of most of the vineyards make hand-weeding between the bushvines difficult and forces most grapegrowers here to rely on herbicides to combat weeds. Mas Igneus goes a different route, ploughing the weeds up with caterpillar tractors.
Terre à Terre’s extensive organic wine list also contains a lovely full-bodied white wine from the same wine producer. The white Barranc dels Comellars is made from Grenache Blanc grapes and goes well with the restaurant’s vegetarian dishes, as the intense flavours and textures in Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor’s cooking can easily overpower lighter white wines.