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Legitimate Celebrity
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Mar 24, 2015
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Marco Abella, Priorat (Spain) Clos Abella 2009 (Terlato Wines, $90):  I’m not one for following celebrity, whether its species be homo sapiens or vitis vinifera.  Therefore, when I received a bottle of this wine with a press release boasting that the Chinese magazine, Wine in China had named it the Best Wine in the World, the highest-scoring wine in the magazine’s 2014 wine competition, I naturally donned an attitude of skepticism.  But the proof, as they say, would be in the glass.

Of course, no one can determine what the best wine in the world might be, not only because the evaluation of wine is so subjective a process but also because wines themselves are always in flux.  This 2009 Priorat is certainly a contender for greatness, though. 

Marco Abella is a winery estate named after Rámon Marco Abella, who in the 19th century devoted himself to reviving the phylloxera-ravaged vineyards that his ancestors in the Priorat region had worked since the 15th century.  Rámon’s grandson, David Marco, runs the company today.  Marco Abella owns 56 acres of vines, consisting of four terraced hillside vineyards, each with a different orientation, at high altitudes of about 1500 to 2300 feet.  The estate is situated in the Porrera district, in the eastern part of the Priorat region.  The vineyards are farmed according to biodynamic principles.

Clos Abella is a product of a north-facing, high-altitude (2300 feet) vineyard with black slate soil -- a cool, late-ripening site in a warm region and warm vintage.  The 2009 Clos Abella is a blend of 50 percent Carignan, 39 percent Grenache, and 11 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.  Reading that, already I was impressed:  The dark, spicy, intense character of old-vine, low-yielding Carignan; low-yield, rich Grenache for smoothness and approachability; Cabernet Sauvignon for a refined note. 

Tasting the wine was pure pleasure.  The aroma is concentrated and intense, with notes of cherry, cassis, delicate flowers, exotic spices and strong mineral tones of ink, lead pencil and slate.  In the mouth, the wine is both powerful and fresh, both structured and approachable.  It’s full-bodied and has rich, velvety flesh within a sleek frame of clean tannin.  Its complex flavors of berries, chocolate, warm spices, and edgy minerals are concentrated and yet available.  Although the wine’s immediate impression is sweet, ripe fruit (which is true for many wines), the wine doesn’t end there; its complexity and structure builds and builds in the mouth and culminates in a glorious finish.

The 2009 Clos Abella weighs in at 15.5 percent alcohol but I do not find it at all excessive in weight or richness. It has delicacy and freshness despite its power. 

I can foresee this wine drinking beautifully more than a decade from now (even two), and yet its rich, concentrated fruity character makes it approachable now.  The larger your glass, the more approachable it is likely to taste.  But in any proper glass, the wine’s greatness will likely show through.

94 Points