Profile: Clos Figueras

[ Priorat – Spain ]

Reviews & Tasting Notes

[ Story: ]

John Hanna & Sons Ltd. has worked hand-in-hand with Clos Figueras owner Christopher Cannan for more than 30 years. Known around the world for his tireless efforts exporting some of Europe’s greatest wines through his Bordeaux-based wine merchant company, Europvin S.A., Christopher helped established names such as Emilio Lustau, Vega Sicilia, La Rioja Alta and Guigal – to name but a few – in dozens of export markets around the world. When he decided to lay down roots in Priorat and establish his own estate winery, we enthusiastically jumped on board recognizing that there are few people in the world of wine who understand quality quite like Mr. Cannan.

The site of the vineyard is magnificent with sweeping views over towards the Ebro river valley and the mountains of Bajo Aragon beyond. To the rear looms the massif Montsant mountain range and the famous Hermita hill, topped by an ancient – and still inhabited – chapel. While still in its youth, Clos Figueres has a promising future, ranking with the leading names of the appellation. The poor schist soil ensures low yields resulting in intensely aromatic and complex wines. The vineyards are tended with ecology in mind and as little intervention as possible.

The foundation of quality at Clos Figueras began with a superb vineyard site, home to the classic ‘llicorella’ soil, in the famous Gratallops zone of the Priorat appellation. Close neighbours include Clos Mogador, Clos Martinet, L’Ermita and Clos Erasmus. The Cannan family acquired this property in October 1997 on the recommendation of René Barbier, owner of the renowned Clos Mogador estate and founder of the “new wave” Priorat movement during the late 1980’s. This initial purchase encompassed some 10 hectares of abandoned terraces and was followed by a further acquisition in 2000 to complete the 18 hectares estate.

From the original vineyard a small plot of old Carignan vines was saved. The remainder of the estate was replanted with Grenache, Syrah and very small parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Viognier. The second purchase included some 2 500 old vines Carignan and Grenache, some of which are more than 60 years old. The latest plantings included small additions of Touriga Nacional, Grenache Blanc and Chenin Blanc. The final blends, with the various grape varieties, are chosen by Christopher Cannan with the advice of his close friend Alain Graillot, of Rhone Valley fame.

[ The Priorat DOQ: ]

Wine has been produced in the Priorat since Roman times. During the middle ages – and right up to the mid 19th Century – the entire area was exploited and controlled by the monastery of Scala Dei. Located in Catalonia, about 25 kilometers inland from the Mediterranean and the ancient city of Tarragona, just 2 hours South West of Barcelona, the region is home to a unique landscape, amazing history and incredible natural beauty.

The vineyard area consists of a series of rugged hills dominated by the Montsant mountain range. Priorat is known for extremely poor (inorganic) soil, consisting of pure schist. This combined with the warm, dry Mediterranean climate produces wines with a unique personality. These vineyards offer amongst the very lowest yields in any wine producing region, due to the difficult terrain, harsh climate and poor soil.

These factors conspire to create wines with great depth of flavor, aromas of ripe red fruits and a distinctive minerality. Altitudes vary from 400 to 700 metres above sea level, offering cool nights and ideal conditions for full maturation of the grapes. This in turn ensures wines have good acidity, delightful freshness and the ability to age for more than 20 years.