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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Vinya l’Hereu de Seró Petit Grealó

Spain (Costers del Segre)

syrah, merlot, cabernet sauvignon

This is a graphic wine.

Start with the label — severely black-and-white, boldly unadorned, unhesitating in its simplicity. It announces a no-nonsense wine. Declares itself off the map.

And begs the question: So, where is Costers del Segre?

Costers del Segre translates as “banks of the Segre.” The Segre river flows south from the Pyrenees into Catalonia, in north-eastern Spain. It’s a relatively new (1988) and lesser-known DO (Denominación de Origen) surrounding the small city of Lleida. Vinya l’Hereu lies in its Artesa subzone, at the village of Seró (population 92), 125 km inland from Barcelona.

Here the summer days are scorching hot, the winters cold, the rainfall meagre. Traditional Catalan grape varieties tend not to do well, giving way to a broad mix of international grapes. For the moment it is a region dwarfed in reputation by Priorat to the south of it.

I have no idea what to expect.


Vinya l’Hereu de Seró Petit Grealó 2004

From the beginning I sense something elemental, wine-making in a tradition that stretches back centuries.There’s a mineral/vegetal presence accentuated by a whiff of smoke, a sense of the soil at work on a hot day, a concentration of fruit that encouraged minimal intervention. The acidity is still fresh, the structure evolving. On the palate there’s a flavourful integrity. Not polished, but that wouldn’t be the intention here. Instead, a pure sense of  earthly goodwill. A graphic liveliness.  $

It has soundly won me over.

The wine-makers of the 14 hectare estate are a trio of brothers — Anton, Jaume, et Joan Pijaun Tarragona. (That’s an exuberant Joan in the photo.) The vineyards are 450 m above sea level at the base of the Monsec mountains. Here the soil is a limestone-clay mix. The Pyrenees are an influence of course, but the sea is less of one than it is for the DOs to the east. The climate is given to extremes, with a broad gap between day and night temperatures. It is a rough, challenging terroir.

The bodega produces only two wines, both red, and in total just 60,000 bottles per annum. Unlike its more expensive sibling, the Petit Grealó sees no oak. Maceration and fermentation take place in stainless steel tanks. Pigeage is manual. For a year it is aged on its fine lees in the tanks, before being bottled unfiltered.

Spanish wine at its basic best, with lasting character.


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