2017 Hammeken Tosalet

2017 Hammeken Tosalet (Photo by the brand)

Wine Standard

Spain has two options in its highly regulated wine quality standard “Denominación de Origen Calificada” or “qualified appellation of origin.” The DOCa or (DOQ in Catalan) quality classifications are controlled by the “Consejo Regulador,” or Regulatory Council, which is responsible for determining and enforcing the standards.

The two designations, Rioja and Priorat, represent distinct regional and quality standards. Rioja is reserved for wines from the La Rioja region, an autonomous community and province in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. Its wines are comprised primarily of Tempranillo and Grenache grapes. The Priorat DOCa lies in the province of Tarragona in the northeast corner of the country and is known for powerful red wines, mainly from old-vine Grenache and Carignan grapes. Age and genetics result in deep roots well suited to the region’s climate, offering high drought resistance.

Priorat

The distinguishing factor in Priorat is the unique mineral-rich but nutrient-poor shist and slate soil called llicorella (an alliteration of the Spanish words “mud” and “slate”). These soils impart minerality to the wines, retain water during ripening, and encourage deep root penetration. This allows these old plantings to reach deep underground moisture sources unavailable to younger plantings due to drought and climate. Vines in this region generally have extremely low yields, resulting in sometimes sky-high prices, especially coupled with harvesting costs – the vines are planted on steeply terraced slopes that make machine harvesting all but impossible.

Wines from Priorat offer concentrated aromas and flavors, high fruit intensity, persistence in the finish, and the aforementioned llicorella-imparted minerality. Bottle age is a key factor for Priorat wines, with the highest quality examples aging beautifully for 20 years or more. In short, they’re nearly the perfect library wine!

Hammeken Cellars

Hammeken Cellars, started by trained cellarmaster Dane Nicholas Hammeken in 1996,  has fine-tuned its focus to make quality Spanish wines at every price point. The 1990s was a time of modernization and innovation in the Spanish wine industry, both vineyards and wineries. This created an opportunity for Hammeken to thrive and grow his product into what it is today. Hammeken Cellars has grown into one of Spain’s leading wine exporters, selling over 1.8 million cases of Spanish wine annually to over 37 countries. It sources fruit from over 20 regions in Spain, with a team of seven overseeing the actual winemaking. However, Tosalet Vinyes Velles 2017 (DOQ Priorat) signifies Hammeken’s most significant achievement and, by many accounts, a shining example of what a Priorat wine can be.

Tasting Notes

Produced from 80-year-old Carignan vines, this wine was aged for 18 months in new 500-liter French oak barrels. Powerful and full-bodied, this wine embodies a classic, high-quality Priorat wine. The nose evokes an earthy, mineral muscularity, backed by black fruit (blackberries), spice notes, and toasted oak. The minerality persists from the aroma to the palate, expressing a flintiness backed by herbaceous notes of eucalyptus/menthol. Ripe, firm tannins and tertiary flavors of tobacco and coffee round out this complex and meditative wine, one with an aging potential of 15 years or more.

Availability

This extremely limited wine is available (if you can even find it) at a retail price of $89. However, it appears to be available in the aftermarket primarily and generally at a significantly higher price!