For those of you who remember and are fans of the 70s rock group Led Zeppelin are sure to remember one of their most loved songs: Stairway to Heaven”? Well did you know that the Stairway to Heaven actually exists? It’s is to be found n the heart of Spain’s Priorat wine region and starts in a village of the same name (Scala Dei).So the big question is did Jimmy Page vist the Priorat, sample the wines and get inspired by Scala Dei and then went on to write this cult song?
Back in the 70s the wines were pretty potent and mostly sold in bulk. Infact, Priorat wines used to be made for the troops just before battle to get them in the mood . Priorat wines today, though still powerful have elegance and complexity as we quickly discoverd during a visit to the Conreria d’Escala Dei winery.
Jordi Vidal, the head winemaker and a large partner in the business of La Conreria D’Scala Dei, met us as we walked in. Excited to share the new building and give a tour, he launched in by telling us the concept behind the architecture and entrance. Wanting to give the visitor a sense of being in the action, the main entrance allows one to see the
three key parts of the winery and what happens in each. Looking up and around to the right we saw fermenting tanks. Looking to the left we saw bottling machines, bottles and ready to stick labels. Then looking under our feet we noticed a glass window that looked down on hundreds of French oak barrels in the cellar. Walking to the back and outside the main loading dock, we were confronted by vines just a few feet away – we really did get the whole picture of how things worked!
Jordi continued the tour by sharing with us the trials of starting a winery from pleasing the customer to working with the grapes to bringing on partners. It was one of the more candid tours we have enjoyed and the most personal touch, which we might never have seen without our hosts at Wine Pleasures. We tasted wines still fermenting in the tanks and Jordi explained how these juices would continue to develop and what he strived for in the end product. For any wine consumer or professional it is a treat to have the winemaker/owner be the guide – something not often experienced in most winery tours.
Ending the tour we arrived at a tasting bar just off the main entrance where we tasted four wines all from the Priorat DO. The Les Brugueres 2009 was first. This 100% Grenache blanc wine was lemony and creamy on the nose – with a little bit of an acidic and short finish. Next was the La Conreria 2008 made from a blend of red varieties. With blueberries and raspberries on the nose, it was a nicely fruity wine. Moving on, we tasted the Iugiter 2006 that wafted aromas of peppers and dark fruits with a tannic and chewy mouth feel. Finally we ended with the Iugiter Seleccio de Vinyes Velles (old vine selection). With aromas of dark cherries, oak, and vanilla the richness of the old vines came through. Joining us half way through was a Belgium couple touring the Priorat and had found the winery by chance. We enjoyed comparing notes and hearing their opinion of the wines as well.
Finishing the tasting, we thanked Jordi for such great hospitality and took one last look around the grounds before heading off to lunch at Restaurant Els Tallers in the Hotel La Siuranella in the lofty village of Siurana.
Here’s a video of the Belgium couple tasting a wine and telling us about their wine club back in Belgium. Sorry we can’t give any links for the wine club – we lost the card so if you are reading this please get in touch!