I've been meaning to spotlight this exceptional Catalan producer in the hills above Tarragona for ages. Those who have come across its compact, well-made reds will already know their signature taste of slate, presumably outcrops of the same licorella that characterises the much more expensive wines made next door in Priorat. At last, from the 2001 vintage, this area on Priorat's doorstep has its own DO, Montsant, named after the local dominant mountains. Capçanes is by far the pre-eminent producer.
Capçanes is a former co-op with an enviable reputation locally for quality. They make a wide range of different blends of red from the various grapes that are dry-farmed around here - and all of them have the marked dry tannins of water stress. But the winemaking is skilful enough to deliver sufficient fruit to distract us from that, even when tasting these wines pretty young.
Mind you, I take my hat off to any producer who is able to deliver a wine from a vintage as relatively 'old' as 2001, generally excellent in Spain, at such a low price. This is one of the humbler wines in their range but one of my favourites. It's a predominantly local blend of 35 per cent Garnacha, 25 per cent Tempranillo, 25 per cent Cariñena (which does unusually well in Priorat) with 15 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the vines are grown on much richer, flatter, alluvial soils with altitudes of all vineyards varying from 150 to a cool 450 metres above the Mediterranean, but you can taste the same sort of earthy minerality as is evident in all good red Priorat.
(Had a white Priorat for only the second time in my experience of Priorat's recent history the other day - a very big, slightly heavy, Morlanda Blanco 2002 from Freixenet made mainly from unoaked Garnacha Blanca post prolonged skin contact. Novelty value mainly, I'd say.)
The definitively red Mas Collet 2001, given nine months in French and American barrels, is very intense, ripe and full but very interesting, and could happily be cellared for another year or two. Drink it with strong-flavoured food, and water for it is, perhaps inevitably, 14 per cent alcohol.
According to winesearcher.com
this relatively sophisticated wine is available in Spain for under five euros a bottle, in Germany for under seven euros, and in the UK from Booths and Waitrose Direct at well under seven pounds. In Belgium it seems more expensive.
The following UK stockists are cited by the bodega's UK importer:
EH Booth James Nicholson
Ha HA Wine bars (part of Yates)
Cambridge Wine Merchants
And these are the bodega's international importers:
European Wine Cellars
Morandell Intl. GMBH
Wörgler Bogen, 13-15
A 6300 Wörgl
905 Ave de Lorimier
H2K 3V9 Montreal
La Casa del Vino
Wijnimport J Bart
Post Bus 231
01440 AE Purmerend
The Spanish Acquisition
Tel 0408 841060
Kobayashi Wine Importers