For centuries mountains were obstacles to human endeavor and places of wild unchecked natural forces. Now from California to Sicily and Spain, mountains are no longer seen as an obstacle but a desirable place for viticulture. A short list of the benefits of altitude would include: interesting geology, drainage, poor soils, diurnal temperature shifts and higher UV exposure resulting in greater color and tannin. So when Tomas Cusine (Cervoles and Castell del Remei), Xavier Cepero (formerly Espelt) and Eric Solomon started working on a project there was no doubt that a mountain would be involved – and Spain is blessed with plenty of mountainous terrain.
They found just the spot in the Sierra Prades in the DO of Conca de Barbera located between the Priorat and Costers del Segre. Like many DOs in Spain it has an ancient history of winemaking dating back to at least the middle ages if not far earlier. And like many other wine growing regions with a lengthy history, the hard to farm plots on steep slopes were the first to be abandoned in favor of growing grapes in alluvial soils closer to home. Now for a multitude of reasons people are moving back to these elevated vineyards throughout Europe, in part due to a desire to reconnect with the past and to uncover unique expressions of terroir, but also out of necessity due to climate change.
The vineyards of Cara Nord, quite literally “North Face” are located on the north-facing slopes of the Sierra de Prades from 350 to 800 meters above sea level and surrounded by a national nature preserve. Here vines are challenged by continuous temperature changes, intense UV exposure and poor stony soils. The region has a complex geology where rocky slate gives way to limestone and gravelly clay and where the climate is influenced by the warm interior of Spain and the moderating influence of the Mediterranean. The geology of the site, combined with the diurnal shifts in temperature, means Cara Nord can produce wines from grapes that are fully mature, but retain a high level of natural acidity and completely ripe tannins.
The oldest vines are head pruned, 80 year-old Macabeo with the remainder of the vines averaging 15 years-old. Apart from the Macabeo the property grows Chardonnay, Albarinyo, Garnacha, Syrah and Garrut. Farming practices are sustainable with an eye to promoting biodiversity in the area and to prevent erosion. Each grape variety is harvested and fermented separately with the whites being aged on their fine lees for 3 months before blending while the reds go into French oak barrels of various ages for six months. The goal with the winemaking is to promote elegance and balance over extraction or alcohol. The winery is located within the walls of Poblet monastery – a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Cara Nord is offered through Verity exclusively in Pennsylvania.