Alfredo Arribas grew up and lived in Barcelona, and developed a successful career as an architect. He travelled the world working on interior design and architecture, and among other things had a hand in the Barcelona Olympics.
In 2001 he started his second life: in wine. There were two factors that led him this way. First, his grandfather was a viticulturist from Ribera del Duero, and Alfredo would spend summers with him. Second, he developed a passion for wine, something that his work travelling allowed him to nutrure. He spent his free time on wine. ‘I discovered Priorat,’ he says, ‘and it was a revelation to me. The landscape attracted me.’
So he bought a property in the heart of Priorat. 2004 was his first release, but before this came onto the market, he decided to start working also in Montsant, the neighbouring DO. It’s much more approachable (in terms of cost), and has some good old vineyards. So Alfredo started his Montsant project in parallel with his Priorat project. The two have separate emphases. In Priorat, he is making a vina de Pagos – wines from a single place, his Clos des Portal. In Montsant, he has collected 12 old vineyards of Carignan, Grenache and white Grenache, in the historical part of the region. He is also making a wine called Gotes, which is his version of freshness in Priorat, from Carignan and Grenache.
But Alfredo is particularly excited about a new project, which is from the high hills of Montsant at 700–800 m. There’s not a tradition of wine here. ‘But for me, it is something very interesting,’ he says. ‘The acidity of the wines and the character of the soils is not present in the rest of the region.’ This is SiurAlta.
‘High up in Monstant, the line between Montsant and Priorat is a straight one that doesn’t have any logic,’ says Alfredo. ‘In the south the border is where the slate ends and the clay starts. The border in the historical area is based on terroir, but in the north it is not defined like this. There are slate soils in the Montsant bit.’ Here there is twice the rain of Priorat, with 600-700 mm versus 350 mm annually. ‘It’s a totally different world, full of green plants.’
So he decided to experiment here, and in 2011 he started a separate company, Vinsnus, and a new label, SiurAlta. ‘These are wines with no history behind them,’ he says. Winemaking is non-interventionist, with just a little SO2 added at crushing and bottling, but he doesn’t want to be part of the natural wine scene. ‘We have discovered a place where the wines are different. We are following the conditions that the wines have given us.’ He doesn’t like long macerations. ‘You get this purity if you work without sulfites and without normal macerations.’
The first releases are three wines, one white and two reds. Antic was initially from one old vineyard (in 2012), but now two. It’s around 90% Samsó (Carignan), and the balance is what Alfredo thinks is Sumoll. His view is that this is Carignan in the style of Cabernet Franc from Chinon in terms of its character.
Rouge is 90% Grenache and 10% Trepat, made with whole bunches. For the Rouge, he picks early. ‘At the beginning the grapes were almost too green, but the wine is growing. Everyone is surprised how the fruit explodes after a while.’ But early picking doesn’t always work. ‘I won’t say it’s always a better idea to pick earlier. You can’t pick Carignan early: you won’t control the astringency. But for Grenache, people are picking it too late.’
And for the white, called Gris, Alfredo found a vineyard on top of Siruana village. The vines are mostly Grenache Gris with some red Grenache. ‘The bunches are orange colour and you can make red wine out of them,’ he says. The acidity is high. ‘If you ferment in oak the evolution of the wines is too fast.’ So he begins in barrel and then goes to 870 litre plastic eggs, which don’t give the saltiness you can sometimes get with concrete eggs. The lees are separated and then added back at the end to give fatness.
Vinsnus SiurAlta Rouge 2014 Montsant, Spain (cask sample)
Very fresh with lovely chalkiness to the texture. Fresh with some grip to the cherry and raspberry fruit. Very primary and vivid with lovely fresh fruit. Initially just simple raspberry fruit, but after a while you get much more detail, and the aromatics change. Lovely stuff. 92-94/100
Vinsnus SiurAlta Gris 2013 Montsant, Spain
No sulfites at bottling, pH 2.94, 8 g/l acid, 13.5% alcohol. Lovely matchstick/mineral edge to the nose. Very pure with lemons, nuts, herbs and some subtle toasty richness. There’s a faint saltiness but also a fresh mineral finish. I like the combination of richer notes with a lingering seam of acidity that just goes on and on. 94/100
Vinsnus SiurAlta Antic 2012 Montsant, Spain
14% alcohol, pH 3.08, 7.8 g/l acid. Picked at the end of October. Lovely aromatic pure black fruit nose. The palate shows pure, sleek black cherries and blackberries with freshness and some peppery notes. Very pure, primary and direct, this is fresh but not harsh, and it’s a beautifully integrated wine. 93/100
Alfredo’s wines are imported by Genesis in the UK
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