2003 Trio Infernal Priorat Cuvee No. 1/3

Trio Infernal Priorat Cuvee No. 1/3 If Priorat is Spain's "sleeping giant that has begun to awaken" (Robert Parker), then Trio Infernal is the wake-up call. In just its second vintage, this wine beat other Priorats nine times its price and won second price at a tasting of in which one of the judges was Rene Barbier, "the Godfather of Priorat." Barbier's the guy behind Clos Mogador, Priorat's most famous wine.

Trio Infernal is owned by three of the Rhone Valley's most talented Syrah producers--Laurent Combier (Crozes Hermitage), Jean-Michel Gerin (Cote Rotie), and Peter Fischer (Coteaux D'Aix). Every two weeks, these three vignerons meet at 2 a.m. in the Rhone; while one drives the 500 km to Priorat the other two sleep in the car. They arrive just after dawn, spend the entire day working in the vineyards, then turn around and drive back home through the night. After a few of these "road trips," the local Catalonians began inventing colorful nicknames for the trio; one was "Francescos locos" ("crazy Frenchmen"), the second name --"les tres infernales"--stuck.

Map of PrioratPriorat benefits from a very hot, very dry, sheltered, and hilly microclimate, and low-yielding, very old Carinena and Garnacha vines. What's more, Trio Infernal's old Garnacha and Carinena vines are planted in Priorat's characteristic red schistic soil, which is ideally suited to these varieties and keeps yields to a miserly 20 hl/ha--lower, even, than Grand Cru Burgundy.

Steve Tanzer says "Priorat has been on fire ever since the 1989 vintage and has earned a reputation for producing superconcentrated, high-octane wines." While we enjoy Priorats, we frequently find many them overly alcoholic and lacking balance. This wine, however, is the perfect marriage of Priorat power and Cote Rotie finesse.

The 2003 Trio Infernal Priorat Cuvee No. 1/3 is a blend of Garnacha (60%) and Carinena (40%). It's magnificently concentrated, yet elegant, and loaded with raspberries and bright red fruit. This is a wildly aromatic, powerful, and complex, wine and it seems to change faces with time in the glass. Drink now-2012.