Red wine Barrel. 12 months in foudres. Winery: Scala Dei. D.O.Q. Priorat. (Catalonia) Variety: Garnacha Tinta
Red wine Barrel. 16 months in foudres. Winery: Scala Dei. D.O.Q. Priorat. (Catalonia) Variety: Cariñena
Red wine Reserva. 18 months in separate containers. Winery: Scala Dei. D.O.Q. Priorat. (Catalonia) Variety: Garnacha Tinta and Cariñena.
Red wine Young. 6 months in an inox tank. Winery: Scala Dei. D.O.Q. Priorat. (Catalonia) Variety: Garnacha Tinta
Red wine Barrel. 12 months in French and American oak barrels. Winery: Scala Dei. D.O.Q. Priorat. (Catalonia) Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha Tinta, Syrah and Cariñena.
Rosé wine Young. Winery: Scala Dei. D.O.Q. Priorat. (Catalonia) Variety: Garnacha Tinta
White wine Barrel. 12 months in foudres. Winery: Scala Dei. D.O.Q. Priorat. (Catalonia) Variety: Garnacha Blanca and Chenín.
Red wine Young. Winery: Scala Dei. D.O.Q. Priorat. (Catalonia) Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha Tinta and Syrah.
D.O.: D.O.Q. Priorat
Already in 1775, British traveller Henry Swinburne stated that: “in the region of Reus, the best wine you can drink is the one made in the Carthusian mountains.” Two hundred years later, these mountains are still cultivated with vineyards, and since the founding of La Cartuja (meaning charterhouse), viticulture has been carried out in some of the farms of Bodegas Scala Dei.
La Cartuja was an initiative of King Alfonso II, when the Carthusians arrived from Provence settled in Scala Dei in 1163. However, the properly refurbished charterhouse was not inaugurated until 1215. It consisted of the church and 12 individual cells. Progressively, the charterhouse started to gain privileges, having protection from the royalty and some of the most powerful families in the country. In 1263, the monks acquire land in several municipalities, and became interested in practising viticulture. Later on, the charterhouse (Cartuja) created its own manual to plant vines, where they state: “Not all plants are good, and they do not ripen because the soil is cold. Regarding the harvest of red varieties, only the Grenache and the Mataró are worth planting.”
In 1835, the monks left the monastery due to the confiscation of Mendizábal. The people from Priorat, angry and tired of having to pay, assaulted the monastery, which was completely destroyed in a few years time. The Carthusians never returned to this land they had inhabited for more than six hundred years. As a result of the confiscation, the charterhouse and the surrounding lands were auctioned, and five families shared the ownership of the land. These new families who owned them founded the Agricultural Society La Union in order to put unproductive land into production, and boost the cultivation of the vines. This is the origin of what is now Bodegas Scala Dei.
History of the winery
The families who owned the old charterhouse bottled wine in 1878. These were the first wines that were bottled in Priorat. The labels specifically state that these wines are from the Priory of Scala Dei, which is already a claim for the area and its land. In that same year, the wines that were bottled as Priorato de Scala-Dei took part in the Universal Exhibition of Paris, winning the gold medal. Ten years later, at the Universal Exposition of Barcelona in 1888, they succeeding once again, earning a gold medal. However, and despite the success of the wines, in 1974 Bodegas Scala Dei is re-founded and launches “modern” wines of Priorat on the market. The winery also ventured into making an ambitious advertising campaign. For years, and until the winemaking boom of the early nineties, Bodegas Scala Dei was one of the few private wineries that bottled Priorat wines. In 2000, the Grupo Codorníu joined the company with 25% of the shareholding. A few years later, Bodegas de Scala Dei takes a new leap forward with the renewal of its technical team and the introduction of important changes in the production of wines.
Currently, in the old facilities of the Carthusians, which were restored and equipped with modern production systems, we can find the centre of activity.
In total, the winery has 288 Bordeaux-type barrels made of French and American oak, with a capacity of 225 litres each. The arrival of Grupo Codorníu Group has meant the extension and modernization of the facilities, as well as the implementation of a project that consists of the specialisation in Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva wines, due to the nature of the vineyards and the area. The project has provided Scala Dei wines with quite a renewed image, while respecting the austerity of the region of origin.
The production of all the wines is carried out under a meticulous process, respecting the own virtues of the grape of the region. The underground caves, destined to the ageing of the wines, are constructions of the 17th century, with stone walls that are over one metre in thickness. Scala Dei has 90 hectares of vineyards. Most of the vines are over 25 years old, and are of the Grenache variety, although they currently also cultivate Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chenin.
The wines of the Priorat winery are mostly reds. We can highlight the Masdeu 2011, made from different Grenaches from historic farms in the region; the Scala Dei Prior Criança, made with red Grenache and a small amount of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon; and the Scala Dei Cartoixa Reserva, made with Red Grenache. The oenological part is responsibility of Ricard Rofes, who has the challenge of getting the best out of the vineyards of an area that, in a dew years, has managed to attract the interest of the world specialized press thanks to the quality of their wines. The wines are made in a traditional way, which implies that they are of very limited production, incredibly powerful, and with a wide complexity of flavours that age well.
In the 90 hectares that Scala Dei owns in 40 different locations, 4 varieties grow: Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, the latter cultivated more recently. The grapes this winery uses to make wines come from vineyards that are around fifty years old, on average. They are part of almost sixty hectares of Grenache and Carignan, mainly, distributed throughout 42 different farms. Quite often, they have nothing to do with each other, so they have to be cultivated from their respective uniqueness. Plots are located between 400 and 800 metres above sea level, which is why they are some of the highest vineyards in Priorat. The vineyards are planted on different types of soils, including slate, clays and calcareous soils. Thanks to the abrupt terrain of the area, they have all the possible orientations. All this allows them to have a wide range of nuances in the production of wines. They pay attention to the smallest details of the winemaking, given that the winery itself controls and cultivates the farms directly.
The fermentation takes place in small tanks of different capacities, according to the land of origin of the grape to improve the complexity and to intensify the flavours of each vineyard. Then, the wines age in new barrels that add another flavour dimension.
Wines from Scala Dei
Following is the list of wines made by Scala Dei:
Scala Dei Negre is mainly made with Red Grenache, a prevailing variety in the Scala Dei vineyards. They are planted on clay soils, located on the foothills of Sierra del Montsant. The production of Negre de Scala Dei is carried out in small open deposits of 7,000 kg. No commercial yeasts are used for its fermentation. Once the fermentation has ended, and the tasting has been performed, they decide when the pressing will take place. Depending on the vine where the grapes come from, the contact of the skins with the must/wine can range between 12 and 16 days. The wine remains 6-8 months in stainless steel deposits until it is bottled. Aromas of ripe red fruit, fresh and attractive at the same time. In the mouth, it is a round and full wine, with honest nuances of fruit found on the nose, and with the typical minerality of the licorella soils of Priorat.
Scala Dei Cartoixa is a photograph of the Scala Dei landscape. It combines two aspects of production: on the one hand, the classic production with stems, in cement deposits and ageing in large volumes, and on the other hand, the modern Bordeaux production method, enhancing the fruit and the extraction. This wine is made from selected Grenache grapes (75%) and Carignan from the best plots. Each variety ferments separately, and aged for 18 months in 1,400-litre foudres, 500-litre butts and 2,100-litre cement deposits. It is a wine with intense and persistent aromas of ripe black fruit, plums, and a floral touch of violets that mix with evident mineral notes from the llicorella, which give it a typical characteristic of the Priorat. The ageing gives it spicy aromas, and in the mouth, it is a powerful, unctuous, soft wine, with intense ripe tannins, a full body, long and persistent over time.
Scala Dei Pla dels Àngels is a rosé wine made with Red Grenache from young and old vineyards of the higher areas of Scala Dei. They are planted on clayey soils that preserve the acidity and therefore the freshness of the grapes when they are harvested. To preserve the aromatic features of the Grenache, the grapes are cooled on arrival to the winery until they reach 2ºC. The pulp and the seeds are separated, and after 3 hours of maceration with the skins, they proceed with the saignée to achieve this pale but attractive colour. Later on, the wine goes through a settling process, and the fermentation is carried out as if it were a white wine. After the fermentation, it remains 4 months in the deposit until it is bottled. This wine has a very pale colour, with subtle aromas of red fruit, and very fresh citrus notes. In the mouth, it is an explosion of freshness and sensations, strawberries, grapefruit, and aniseed notes. A refreshing mid-palate and an enveloping finish.
Scala Dei Garnatxa combines three concepts: freshness, fruit and simplicity. It is made mainly with Grenache from the plots of Maset, Parada, Closos, Escorial and Forsans, where the red clay soils and the altitude of the vineyards located at the foothills of Sierra del Montsant give this wine its freshness. The licorella soils provide a genuine imprint that shows in this wine in the form of personality from Priorat, minerality and acidity.
Scala Dei Prior is made with Grenache 60 %, Carignan 15%, Cabernet Sauvignon 13% and Syrah 12%. It is aged for 1 year in French (80%) and American (20%) oak barrels. Intense and persistent aromas of red and black fruit, forest strawberries, blackberries, floral nuances of violets, all wrapped in subtle spicy touches and roasted notes. It is a wine with body, finesse, silky in the mouth, and with mature and elegant tannins that are complemented by the mineral aromas provided by the licorella.
Scala Dei Masdeu is made with Grenache and Garnacha Peluda cultivated in Masdeu, on terraces that go from 680 to almost 800 metres of altitude. On the lower part, the first terraces are of red clay. As we move further up, calcareous presence increases until we reach the last terraces, where the soil is entirely calcareous.
It is a historic vineyard. At the beginning of the 17th century the monks of the charterhouse Cartuja de Scala Dei decided to build a “Mas”, the Mas Deu, to expand and control the cultivation of this area. It is a wine fermented with 100% of the stems, since they ripen at the same time as the grapes, giving the Grenache complexity, tannin and freshness. It ferments in cement presses and ages in large volumes, 16 months in 1,200-litre foudres.
Scala Dei Garnatxa Sant Antoni wants to recover the production heritage that already existed in the Priorat, and which takes us to the fist bottling of Cellers de Scala Dei. It ferments in small cement deposits of 3,500 litres, imitating the temperature peaks typical of the fermentations from last century, without added yeasts and pressed in the cement deposit itself. Later on, the fermentation takes place for 14 months in 1,400-litre foudres.
It is made from the Sant Antoni plot, located above the Cartuja de Scala Dei, on a small plain with terraces that end at an impressive cliff over the monastery. Soils are entirely clayey, in the shape of an amphitheatre with one part facing east, another to the west and the central part facing south, at 580 metres of altitude in its lowest part, and 610 metres in the highest. It is one of the vineyards that the monks already planted with Grenache almost five centuries ago. The current vines were planted in 1945, and we can find at least two types of Grenache: peluda and país.
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