As a winegrower, Joan Lliberia is only interested in producing wines that reflect a place. His estate – Edetària – lies southwest of Barcelona and just inland from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Terra Alta, one of ten sub regions with Denominación de Origen (DO) quality status in the Catalonia winegrowing region of Spain. Wine has been cultivated here for a millennium and Lliberia continues this long tradition by producing wines that express a deep connection to the soils.
Terra Alta is the most westerly of Catalonia’s DOs which are clustered around Barcelona and include Alella, Conca de Barberá, Costers del Segre, Empordà (on the border of France), Montsant, Penedés, Plà de Bagés, Priorat (DOPQ) and Tarragona. Both Cataluña and Cava are broader designations that also apply to the Catalonia region.
The DO has two clearly defined growing regions: the valley floor and the high plateau. Edetària is sited on 38 hectares in the La Plana de Gandesa Valley and the high, limestone plateaus of the surrounding Pàndols-Cavalls and Els Ports mountain ranges.
The lower regions of the Gandesa Valley are composed of younger top soils deposited over a base of marl and sandstone, at mid-level there are fossilized dunes of fine, wind-blown soils and the higher elevations are characterized by older layers of marl, sandstone and calcareous (limey, chalky) terroir.
The complex marl soil types found here are a key factor in wine quality at Edetària. Marl is a chalky, clay-based soil that contributes acidity to wine and its presence throughout the region helps winegrowers like Lliberia maintain acidity in the warm, dry growing conditions. Humid off-shore winds called the “Garbinades” provide some additional moisture that brings relief to the vines during the height of summer.
The unique geology of the valley and Terra Alta’s dry, mild climate produce distinct, crisp white wines that show plenty of dry extract, a quality exhibited by many of the finest white wines around the world, and spicy reds with varietal typicity and vibrant Old World character.
With 24 hectares under vine, the majority of Lliberia’s indigenous grape varieties exceed 50 years of age and the indigenous red varieties like Garnacha and Carignan which are planted to south and southeasterly slopes of sandy “Tapàs” soils comprise the youngest sites averaging 25 years old.
Lliberia produces two brands, his flagship label, Edetària, and the winery’s largest production label, Edetana, that takes its name from an ancient Roman trade route, the via Edetana, that traversed Terra Alta’s vineyards centuries ago.
At Edetària, both international and indigenous varieties are carefully matched to the estate’s five distinct soil types. Garnacha, Carignan and Viognier perform well on “Tapàs” and “Tapàs Blanc,” porous, infertile soils over marl. The rare Garnacha Peluda clone is matched to deep, quick-draining, pebbly “Còdols” soils and Syrah to the estate’s deepest alluvial “Vall” soils over marl. The white varieties of Garnacha Blanca and Macabeu are planted on steep sites with deep, sandy, wind-blown soils known as “Panal” which are fossilized sand dunes.
With vision and a determined pursuit of quality, Joan Lliberia is producing wines of distinction from Terra Alta. In 2003, he built a modern winemaking facility and cellar where estate fruit is crafted into wines that reflect both the terrior and the intention of the winemaker.
His approach is one that respects each plot on the estate. He strives to make wines that are elegant and achieve a maximum expression of minerality and freshness. In doing so, each wine has a unique “personality” which Lliberia credits to the interaction of the different grape varieties and soil types, the microclimate of Terra Alta and precisely-timed harvesting.
Tasting notes for the winery’s current releases reveal both the finesse and the power of Lliberia’s blends and the potential for fresh whites and crisp reds being realized at Edetària.
Deborah Parker Wong’s Tasting Notes:
Edetana Blanc 2010 – 70% Garnacha Blanc, 30% Viognier
Sandy Tapàs soils layered with lime. Grenache is barrel fermented and aged for four months, Viognier is held on the lees. White flower and lime aromas with expressive, crisp minerality on the mid-palate, medium+ intensity and a pristine finish.
Edetana Negre 2009 – 60% Garnacha, 30% Garnacha Peluda clone, 10% Carignan grown on several distinct soils types. Lengthy skin contact and 12 months in new French Oak. Expressive mineral and clove aromas, darker black fruit flavors and fine, ripe tannins with sweeter grape tannins and flourish of cedar on the finish.
Edetària Blanc 2010 – 85% Garnacha Blanc, 15% Macabeu
Low-yielding 60-year old vines on sandy, wind-blown “Panal” soils. Barrel-fermented and aged for eight months in new French oak. Creamy oak aromas, lots of dry extract showing on a driving mid-palate and lengthy, focused finish.
Edetària Negre 2008 – 60% Garnacha Peluda, 30% Syrah, 5% Carignan, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from their respective terroirs. Lengthy skin contact and gentle extraction produce a contemporary style with plenty of Syrah fruit up front and structure from Cabernet Sauvignon on the mid palate. 80-year old Carginan vines add considerable lift and complexity to the blend.