In the Priorat you can find local families who have tended their vines for generations as well as newcomers drawn to the possibilities of this terroir. Even the founding members of the modern Priorat include representatives of both camps. The creators of Mas Alta, Michel and Christine Vanhoutte, originally from Belgium, became enamored with the early wines they tasted from the Priorat and decided to relocate to the small village of Vilella Alta with the goal of establishing an estate of their own. In the process they enlisted the help of Michel Tardieu and Philippe Cambie to start up their Bodega. Lest you think this is an entirely foreign affair they did hire Bixente Oçafrain as their winemaker, a name not common in either Belgium or the Rhône valley.
Bodegas Mas Alta, Priorat Black Slate Vilella Alta 2016
The 2016 Black Slate Porrera comes from a project of importer Eric Solomon focusing on the specific villages in the Priorat. The 2016 is 60% Grenache and 40% Carignan that was mostly destemmed and spent a full year in used barrels. Thrilling blue fruits, tar, rose petals, and a smoky, marine, iodine-like character all emerge from this full-bodied effort that opens up nicely with time in the glass. Tasting like it cost three times the price, it picks up more minerality with time in the glass, has beautiful balance, and great purity of fruit. It would be hard to find a better value. Drink bottles over the coming 3-5 years.
94 points Jeb Dunnuck