If you’ve not yet gotten to know the En Numeros Vermells wines – well, are you ever in for a treat! Priorat is an unbelievably rugged wine region in Catalonia, a couple of hours inland an up-country from Barcelona.
The climate is Mediterranean, with hot sunshine partially moderated by altitude and wind. The vines grow on steeply sloped hillsides of fractured slate – often you have to dig through a foot or more of broken rock to get to the shallow soils where young vines are planted.
An Overlap with Chateauneuf
If the notion of soil hidden by stones brings to mind Chateauneuf du Pape, you’re on the right track. Except the rock if splintered granite instead of rounded off river stones. The main grapes overlap with Chateauneufs – Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan predominate – and ripen to the same big, bold, levels you find in the Southern Rhone. But Carignan – or Carinyena as it’s called here – plays a much bigger role (about 17% of AiAiAi’s blend). So you can think of Priorat as CdP but with more blue/black fruit character. And a more firm and powerful spine. And with an utterly unique and captivating sense of dusty slate on the nose, palate and finish.
Silvia Puig has been planting vineyards, growing grapes and making wine in Priorat for her whole adult life, and for the past 10 years or so she’s been creating some of the region’s most exciting, handcrafted, wines under the En Numeros Vermells label. Until recently, she’s made her tiny lots of bold, rich, reds and whites (from a few hundred to 3,000 or so bottles of each wine) in the cellar of her home in the heart of Priorat (as of this vintage, he old co-operative winery in Gratallops).
Tiny Production (and a Home at Chain Bridge Cellars)
With such tiny production levels and a loyal customer base (like us – we sell more of Silvia’s wines than anyone!), she doesn’t have to present her wines to critics for review. But somehow Josh Raynolds of Vinous got his hands on a bottle of the 2014 AiAiAi.
From that much more difficult vintage, he wrote:
“A heady, exotically perfumed bouquet evokes ripe red and dark berries, potpourri and Indian spices, along with suggestions of cola and smoky minerals. Concentrated yet lithe, showing strong energy and focus to its juicy black raspberry, lavender pastille and spicecake flavors. The floral quality gains strength with air, carrying through a very long, sweet and gently tannic finish that leaves sappy berry and mineral notes behind.” Vinous (Raynolds) 92 points
Sound good? Well 2019 is a much better year and this is an even more exciting wine. In fact, even though this is Silvia’s “entry-level” red, it easily outshines most Priorat wineries’ top reds.
And the name? It comes from Silvia’s experience making wine in the basement of her house while tending young children playing in the cellar. “AiAiAi, get off those barrels.” “AiAiAi, don’t fall in the vat!” But the name is just as apt as a description of your reaction when you taste this stunning 2019: “AiAiAi! That’s delicious!”