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Spanish and Portuguese Schist!

What is Schist? To answer that question, I found a great article about Schist, written by Bill Nesto, MW. Everything you could possibly want to know about this soil type can be explained in the previous article. However, I want to talk about Schist from the perspective of taste. A few days ago, I tasted a wine from the Priorato, which was fun, complex and really pleasurable:

  • 2002 Mas Igneus Priorat Barranc dels Closos – Spain, Catalunya, Priorat (1/1/2006)
    Clear rich burgundy color.The nose shows Strawberry, rhubarb, anise, raspberry and some light smoke. There is even a touch of yeastiness. Medium strength on the palate with tannins that are firm and a high acidity. In the mouth, the nose is mimicked with sour cherry, chalky pepper, and as it opens more and more Port like. Possibly from the schistous soil.

    4 grape

What interested me most when I tasted it, was the last two lines of my note. The Priorato claims that the secret to their success is a soil locally called Llicorella – a type of Schist.
Knowing this, I’ve always had a thought in the back of my head saying, “wow, two places with schist, must be the related in someway”! My naivete is quickly revealed if you took the time to read Bill Nesto’s article where he mentions that schist is actually very common and shows up in many of the world’s great wine regions. Unfortunately, this information meant that while geologically the same, the wine I had tasted was not related to Port wine in any other way than taste alone. In fact, the grapes used to make Port wine and Priorat wines are not even the same. Content to leave it at that, and admit I had just seen a similar flavor and made a hasty conclusion, it was then that I found this article on Catalonian wine and food. If your like me and take the time to read through the whole article you will find an interesting passage on page 3.

The soil that seems so unforgiving is volcanic and contains slate and quartzite (mica) in a mixture locally called llicorella, which allows vine roots to penetrate deep down into schist. (Llicorella imparts the hint of licorice that marks the best Priorat wines.) The same stratum of schist runs right under central Spain and pops up again beneath the world’s best port vineyards, in Portugal’s Duoro Valley. Such is the felicity of geology.

Huh?!?! Did I read that right, the same stratum of schist? Well off to Google I scrolled and search after search I ran, and in the end what did I find. Nothing. Not surprising really with the exactness of the detail I’m looking for. But there are other ways of finding things out, in fact the best way is to ask a question: If anyone out there can find me a map, image, story or information about the link between the regions of Priorat and the Douro Valley’s soils, I would greatly appreciate it.

Now, I know that I might not be crazy after all, when at the end of a Priorat tasting note, I found myself writing, “hints of port wine”. Or maybe in the future, all of my Port wine notes will contain a trailer, “finishing with hints of Priorat”

Till soon, Ryan Opaz

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