We recently had the pleasure of visiting Clos Figueras, a winery and restaurant located in the tiny, yet famed, Priorat region of northeastern Spain. Spending time and tasting with proprietor Christopher Cannan, getting a first-hand look at his winemaking operation, and being introduced to the restaurant’s locally sourced and authentically prepared cuisine was a remarkable experience. Christopher was a gracious host, and throughout our visit we were treated like family.
Christopher and his wife Charlotte acquired the original 25-acre vineyard in 1997, and christened it “Clos Figueras” in honor of the magnificent fig trees on the estate. The vineyard had been abandoned for eight years, and while there were some salvageable Carignan vines, much had to be replanted — mostly to Grenache, Syrah, and small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, and Viognier. A later acquisition of adjacent vineyards added acreage and old (60+ years) Carignan and Grenache vines to the estate. Clos Figueras today comprises 45 acres — 30 of which are planted to vine. The winery produces three red wines and a single white, with an annual production totaling around 2,500 cases. Olive trees also grow on the estate — 135 of them, of the Arbequina variety, some over 300 years old — from which the estate produces an Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Priorat holds the prestigious Denominación de Origen Qualificada (DOQ), or Qualified Designation of Origin, which reflects the highest standard of winemaking in Spain. Growing conditions in the region are quite harsh, with sharp daytime-nighttime temperature variations, steep, terraced slopes, and rocky (mostly slate) soils. Aside from vines, not much else grows there except olive, almond, and hazelnut trees. The wines of Clos Figueras deftly showcase the special characteristics of this land, with aromas and flavors of fleshy dark fruit and savory herbs and spices — all framed by an intense minerality that speaks of the soil. We share our tasting notes on three of the Clos Figueras red wines we tasted, below.
Clos Figueres | 2008 | 93 Points
The winery’s namesake bottling from the 2008 vintage is a blend of Grenache and Carignan (totaling 85%, from 30-60 years-old vines), Syrah (10%), and Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon (totaling 5%). It is a deeply expressive red, offering aromas of brandied black fruit, tea leaf, and cola, followed by flavors of black cherry, sweet cured tobacco, and roasted herb — all framed by energetic minerality and subdued oak over a long, savory finish. The wine underwent “microvinification” — fermentation in 500-liter new oak casks (turned on their side with the top removed to form a small open-topped vat) — followed by 13 months of aging in new and one year-old French oak barrels. The result is a wine that is rich, fleshy, and (still) feisty on the palate. It is dry and medium-bodied, with moderate tannins and lively acidity. (300 cases produced.)
Font de la Figuera | 2011 | 92 Points
Font de la Figuera is a blend of Grenache (65%), Carignan (20%), and Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cabernet Sauvignon (totaling 20%) — all from 15-18 year-old vines. This is a vivid and complex red with great personality, offering suggestions of brandied, almost Port-like fruit on the nose; and on the palate, dried cherry, kalamata olive, and baking spices — all bound by slate-tinged minerality and subdued oak over a lingering finish. It is spicy and mouthwatering on the palate, and would pair well with spicy foods. It was fermented in 2,500-liter vats and matured in one year-old French oak casks for a further 12 months before bottling. It is dry and medium-bodied, with moderate tannins and acidity. (600 cases produced.)
Clos Figueres | 2012 | 90 Points
Like the 2008 vintage before it, the 2012 vintage Clos Figueres is dominantly Grenache and Carignan blended with smaller amounts of Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is stylistically consistent but more restrained, at this point, than the luxuriant 2008; with aromas of red cherry and raspberry, black tea leaf, and anise, followed by flavors of pomegranate and raspberry, dried herbs, and sweet cured tobacco. Here, too, the wine’s aromas and flavors are tightly interwoven with an assertive, chalky minerality and modest oak. It underwent the same approach to vinification and oak aging as the 2008; is dry and medium-bodied, with firm tannins and lively acidity. This is an exceptionally well-crafted wine, but it is not yet revealing its full potential. We look forward to tasting it again in several years’ time. (324 cases produced.)
Food Pairing: Serve any of these reds with assorted medium-to-sharp Spanish cheeses and cured meats, stuffed piquillo peppers, flame-roasted meats and vegetables, beef short ribs braised in red wine, and other hearty fare.
Visiting Clos Figueras: Clos Figueras is located just north of the town of Gratallops, in the heart of Priorat. The winery offers a variety of wine tasting, touring, lodging, and dining options by reservation. The restaurant — called “Les Figueres” — serves local cuisine, including vegetables grown on the estate, paired with wines from the estate and the surrounding area. For more information, visit them virtually at www.closfigueras.com, or call them at (+34) 977-262-373.