If you want to taste really old vine Samsó (and we’re talking 120 years here), try this. Dense, complex, minerally and wild with freshness to balance the concentration and high alcohol. This comes from the plain, but tastes like a mountain wine, with sweet red fruits, a touch of volatility and appealing minerality.
2007 Castillo Perelada Finca La Garriga, Empordà( E19, 15%, El Celler Petit )
Sweet, oaky, concentrated Samsó that still demonstrates the variety’s characteristic freshness and wildness. The oak is a little too obvious (some might call it seductive), but this is a big, dense, stylish, modern wine with notes of sweet Mediterranean herbs and Angostura bitters. Needs food. The volatility might be too high for some.
2010 Espelt Terres Negres, Empordà( E13, 14%, El Celler Petit )
Espelt is the second biggest winery in Empordà after Perellada. This Carignan-dominated blend from old vines in Rabós is marked by volatility, but it works in a wild, herby Medieterranean sort of way. Medium bodied and fresh, with sweet red fruits, some liquorice, slightly baked fruit and a lifted finish.
2010 Marti Fabra Masia Carreras Blanc, Empordà( E13, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )
There’s clearly something special about the village of San Clement Sescebes (and not just as the place where lots of Spaniards did their military service) as it’s home to two of the region’s best producers (Terra Remota being the other one). This highly unusual blend of Garnatxa Blanca, Picapoll and Samsó (aka Carignan) is a big, umami-rich white with a dry finish, some tannin on the palate and masses of grip, density and flavour. A very serious bottle of white.
2011 Mas Llunes Nívia, Empordà( E8, 13.5%, El Celler Petit )
A wine that is a little too marked by oak at the moment, but has good underlying texture and concentration. Floral, saline and concentrated with toasty oak and good minerality. Needs a year or two in bottle, but I love the notes of fennel and wild rosemary and the strucuture and muscularity of the finish.
2011 Vinyes dels Aspres, Empordà( E13, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )
Sourced from the frontier village of Cantallops, this is a rich, powerful, wild wine that is almost unruly on the nose and palate. Even for a young wine, this is starting to show secondary notes of honey and marzipan, but there’s massive concentration and acidity to back it up. A slow burner of a wine, very dense, minerally and herbal with a salty, food welcoming finish.
2005 Sinols Emporadlia Coromina, Empordà( E9, 13.5%, El Celler Petit )
An unusual wine: mature, unoaked Samsó (Carignan) that was fermented and aged in cement. It’s on the rustic side, with a hint of volatility, but there’s no denying that the wine is true to its varietal with chunky, slightly drying tannins but lots of gutsy personality.
2008 Oliveda Furot Crianza, Empordà( E6, 13%, El Celler Petit )
Good, honest drinking Samsó from high altitude vineyards on slate soils. There’s a little bit of oak here, but it’s not remotely intrusive. The wine shows aromatic red fruits, fresh acidity and attractive raspberry and cherrystone notes. Try it chilled with a plate of tapas. I did.
2007 Mas Llunes Rhodes, Empordà( E11, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )
A chunky, full-throated red made from Samsó and Syrah (sort of trips off the tongue, doesn’t it?) this is still on the young side. Aromatic, herbal and firm on the palate with tannins that really need protein to show at their best. Wait for the winter before you pull the cork.
2010 Clos d'Agon Amic, Empordà( E14, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )
Rich, wild, slightly volatile notes on the nose, with sweet red and black fruits and a warm, palate-coating finish: it could only be Grenache. Or rather Garnatxa (along with Merlot, Cabernet and a few other things). Aromatic, very primary, with notes of liquorice and blackberry, smooth tannins and a long finish. Needs time.
2010 Terra Remota Camino, Empordà( E14, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )
A fruit salad blend (if that doesn’t sound pejorative) of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Tempranillo and other varieties, this is another delicious release from this brilliant winery. It’s like a cross between a red Burgundy, a new wave Rioja and a Châteauneuf, with silky tannins, sweet raspberry and wild strawberry fruit, lovely oak integration and a lift of acidity and white pepper. Superb winemaking with noticeable French flair and finesse.
2009 Mas Vida 32 Merlot, Empordà( E11, 14.5%, El Celler Petit )
Merlot from Empordà? At 14.5%? It doesn’t sound promising. And yet this is a more than decent red showing the slight grassiness of the variety, even at higher alcohol levels. The finish is a little dry and hot, but there’s a freshness beneath it, with grainy tannins and textured, fruitcake notes.