Joan d’Anguera of Montsant, Spain

xMontsant is a demarcated wine zone of north-east Spain that curves around the better-known Priorato, in the Tarragona region south and west of Barcelona. Montsant wines are most familiar to UK drinkers from the exemplary co-op called Cellers de Capçanes, but the family-owned estate of Joan d’Anguera is 200-year-old, now run by brothers Joan and Josep d’Anguera, who have taken over winemaking from their father Josep.

Joan d’Anguera has established a formidable reputation in this small and new wine D.O. Several of the wines have been anointed with 90+ points from Robert Parker, and though the estate
boasts some wonderful old-vines Grenache and Carignan, there is much excitement about the Syrah made here. Josep d’Anguera senior introduced a Syrah clone to these northern Spanish vineyards in 1980, which he obtained from UC Davies in California, after much experimentation with clones from the Rhône and elsewhere. 

xIn this baking hot region which I visited in November 2005, the Joan d’Anguera vineyards benefit from plantings at altitude on mostly north-facing slopes. Cabernet Sauvignon is also grown, and the line-up includes a fortified sweet red, much in the style of Banyuls just across the border into southern France, but it is Syrah that seems to excite the brothers most, and their top-of-the-line cuvée called ‘El Bugader’ will be 100% Syrah from the 2005 vintage on. Bugader is an old Catalan word for a riverbank where clothes were washed, and grapes for this wine come from a selected riverside vineyard. Left: brothers Joan and Josep d’Anguera.

Clearly, whatever their father has done here to make Joan d’Anguera one of the most exciting estates in Spain, the brothers will not rest on their laurels. They are tinkering with blends, switching from American oak to French, and selling off much of their grape production to local producers so that they can concentrate on quality. The superb wines of Joan d’Anguera are made in relatively small quantities, but are well-priced, and worth seeking out.

The wines

Joan d’Anguera (Spain) La Planella 2004
40% Cabernet, 30% Garnacha, 20% Mazuela, 10% Syrah. This has quite a vivid nose, with a slight note of fish oil/mackerel, and a schisty quality, with some dusty black fruit coming though. There is a little toast and caramel in the background. The palate it has lovely fruit; a juicy quality with blackcurrant and a touch of juicy, ripe black plum. Some liquorice in the tannins, with a fine bittersweet note, and fine charry quality in the finish but the pure, fresh fruit stays focused. Very good value at under £10 a bottle.

Joan d’Anguera (Spain) Finca L’Argata 2003
40% Syrah, 35% Cabernet, 15 Garnacha, 10% Carinena aged in a mix of new and old French and American oak for 12 months, but Joesp says they are moving to 100% French from the 2004 vintage. It has lovely smoky, elegant, schist and blackcurrant-marked fruit, with a touch of black olive and thyme. The palate has a smooth, supple black fruit juiciness, with dry savoury damson fruit and a nice tannic structure. There’s a real lip-smacking juiciness to this wine, with plenty of plumskin and cherry acidity and a fine, long, lightly smoky and spicy finish. Superb. Around £12 per bottle.

Joan d’Anguera (Spain) El Bugader 2002
The top cuvée, made from 80% Syrah, 15% Garnacha and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, though from 2005 this will be 100% Syrah, from the originally planted, 25-year-old vines and harvested at a very low 15hl/ha yield. It is aged in all French oak for 14 months, half new, half one year old. A touch closed, with possibly the merest touch of reduction, this would benefit from decanting or aerating. Lovely blackberry nose emerges, with a beautiful juiciness and touches of earth and charcoal, and some very attractive violet notes. The palate has such fine, ripe, pure black fruit. It has a juiciness and a lean, muscular, very structured palate bit with masses of black fruit at its core, and such good, tight, supple tannins. Good acidity too, with a really clean, racy finish. Very racy and fine, a real savoury food wine with great quality. Only around 2,800 bottles were produced in the difficult 2003 vintage, but as many as 9,000 are made in a bigger year, when the Syrah performs well. Around £25

Joan d’Anguera (Spain) El Bugader 2004
Barrel sample. Very pure blackcurrant and blackberry pastille fruit on the nose. Fine, cedary, and very attractive. A touch of earth and very nice fudge background. Lovely palate too, with terrific fruit sweetness and concentration. Very high acidity and powerful tannins; plenty of bite and a dry, dusty savoury quality. Lots of dry extract. And finishes with lovely fruit and tannin complexity. 6,000 bottles. All barrel-fermented from 2004.

Joan d’Anguera (Spain) Vi Dolc 2001
Fortified wine from 50 year-old Grenache which is very low yielding. Picked overripe (at the end of October, rather than the early September for dry cuvées) there is around 80 – 90 gm/l of residual sugar. The wine is matured in barrels in a hot environment, and has a lovely pale colour and a fine little rancio note. There’s a walnut and raisin character and a fine raspberry and orange peel, with a touch of leaf tea. Beautiful fruit freshness, with a delightful, pure fruit, notes of red cherry and blackberry, but that lovely warmth of walnut, vanilla and dried fruits comes through. Fine chocolate and tobacco notes, with delightful acidity and still a lick of very fine tannins against the sweet, intense fruit and all that orange pithy acidity. Terrific wine with fantastic length. Around 24 Euros, but unfortunately not in the UK – only 400 bottles are produced.

Cellers Joan d’Angeura
C. Major, s/n
43746 Darmós