Across the square from my home sits the family winery of Sangenís i Vaqué. It was founded by Pere Sangenís and his wife, Conxita Vaqué, who have run it for years, thus the quite reasonable cellar name. They had four daughters, two of whom studied enology and have been taking over more of the winery duties as time carries on and their parents move in to retirement although the thought of Pere retiring is as impossible to imagine as a rooster piloting a nuclear submarine.
As the story goes, the older of the two sisters, Maria had to create a project wine while studying enology. As her family only makes reds (this is Priorat after all) she decided to do a white and thus, Lo Coster Blanc (the white slope) was born. It’s a lovely wine with a base of White Grenache and while fermented and aged in barrels that give it no end of balanced backbone, it forms a large break from the rest of the family wines.
The Sangenís i Vaqué wines are quite unique in Priorat in that while they can often see lengthy oak regimens (their top-end Clos Monlleó is usually 18 months), they cellar the resulting wines until they’re fully-integrated and ready for the market. Thus, this top-end wine is now only seeing the 2007 as its most recent vintage. It’s a novel and finest of Rioja approach in this day and age of wines being made for early consumption or then sold too early with the idea that you’ll cellar them. Like that ever works–it doesn’t.
So it was at the end of last year that Lo Coster Blanc was joined by a new sibling, Lo Bancal de Granatxa (the plot of Grenache) which takes up both the Western Catalan use of ‘lo’ for the article and ‘granatxa’ as the way people apparently used to spell ‘garnatxa’ in Priorat. I have to admit, this was a new one in terms of spelling, but not that shocking given how far-flung Grenache is. But, much like the white, it is a marked break from what has been the traditional series to date.
All of their reds are blends, although their top wines are solely 50/50, Grenache/Carignan, which is delicious. This wine is 100% Grenache although it’s still from one of their vineyards called, La Cometa. As mentioned before, their wines usually see extended aging. This saw six months in oak and is from 2015, being released just a year later. Then of course there are the smaller items like it and its white counterpart being in Burgundy bottles instead of Bordeaux bottles, the latter of which are needed to allow for easy stacking of wines that will sit for years.
I know the Sangenís i Vaqué wines very well so given this, let’s say, “experiment” as only 1,766 bottles were made, I really didn’t know what to expect. Indeed, it’s very Grenache-centric but it’s interesting to see that it’s quite broad on the palate at this point. It was only after decanting it for an hour that it began to evolve rapidly as it’s easy to see it’s a wine to lay down for more time and let evolve as it has loads of potential waiting to come out. This seems to be a hallmark of these family wines whether made by the parents or the children and it’s something I hope won’t change as the offer a much different take on Priorat.