Côtes Catalanes is an obscure wine region tucked into the mountains that separate France from Spain. Eight years ago, when I was on the editorial review team for the second edition of Barron’s Wine Lovers Companion, the region wasn’t mentioned. Not even once. I am now on the team for the third edition, and my first order of business is to give this wine region its own entry. Why the change? It’s because of bottles like the Shatter.
I didn’t discover the region. Joel Gott and David Phinney (the winemakers behind Shatter) did not, either. That honor goes to the Catalan winemakers there that have been making great wines for a few centuries. The rest of us simply didn’t notice until a few years ago.
Soils here are very similar to Spain’s Priorat, and the vines are mostly ancient (40+ year) vines. The region is both high-altitude and Mediterranean, which allows for a very long growing season. That means wines can easily hit 16+% alcohol and remain deliciously drinkable.
With that level of alcohol, you would think this wine would be named Shattered. In fact, shatter is the English term for coulure, a common vineyard hazard in the region: Grenache grapes don’t form consistent bunches, which decreases yields.
Full-on lush black fruit and gobs of fresh herbs roll into an avalanche of melting tannins and fleshy goodness. It’s like driving down the Pacific Coast Highway towards LA in a convertible while listening to a mashup of Punk Rock and 60’s French Pop. This is in-your-face stuff.