Selected Clos Dominic Seleccions

I have tasted often the wines of Dominic and Paco (see post) but never before in a session focused on the Clos Dominc Vinyes Altes Seleccions.

In the homely premises of Oscar Gallifa’s oenogarage (thanks for the pic!) a few friends gathered to better know these rare and personal Priorat wines. As a bonus, Dominic, in a wine tasting calendar based on moon phases, had rated that day as top.

We started with Clos Dominic blanc, not actually a Selecció, but also with very limited output. It was a 2008 in Magnum bottle. The old Garnatxa blanca and Macabeu, with a sprinkling of Picapoll and Riesling (sic), vines from La Tena release a deep golden, bright white after 12 months in French oak. In the nose the whole range of low bushes, and a funny tomato whiff now and then. Unctuous in mouth, with still noticeable acidity.

Seleccions, named after their children, represent the top of the winery production: only selected barrels, usually one or two every year, and from special zones of the vineyard are chosen. Twelve to eighteen months in French oak in special corners of the cellar are needed to produce the magic.

The first Selecció tasted was Míriam 2006. In normal 0.75 bottle, Míriam is basically Carinyena, with a small proportion of Garnatxa. It was the oldest of the night, and it showed. Rounded and fruity, with the typical minerality, and still youthful deep cherry colour. The most balanced.

Then came Selecció Ingrid 2007, 100% Garnatxa in Magnum. Closed at the beginning, with bright red colour, slowly released red and black fruit, balsamic notes, toast. Powerful yet rounded tannins, with lively acidity. A wine to keep for a few years more.

And last of all Selecció Andreu 2007, 100% Carinyena in Magnum. Dominic and Paco have probably special love for Andreu (he is the youngest child) as Selecció Andreu was the best of them. Still very closed, after decanting of four hours (as all others), it opened gradually with a lot of wristwork with the glass. Very deep red, with red fruit, mineral, spices . Enormous structure yet velvety feel, with long finish. Again, a wine to be retasted in five years.

An event to remember. Unfortunately, given the scarcity and cost of these wines (Andreu sells for 220 EUR the Magnum bottle) this pleasure cannot be repeated easily, unless Dr. Jay Miller declares them unfit to be drunk in his next review, something I personally tend to doubt...



Science and philosophy at Mas Martinet

Josep Lluís Pérez
When in the early 80s Josep Lluís Pérez arrived in Priorat to head the local Tech School, the zone was a stagnant, back of beyond winemaking region producing sturdy bulk red wine to be mixed elsewhere (see my previous post on the matter). But after establishing the first Oenology studies there, with the aid of his Biochemist wife, and together with the other four pioneers, he put Priorat upside down and in the radar of wine connoisseurs around the globe. Myself included; Mas Martinet were the first new Priorat wines I enjoyed, and Clos Martinet is since a given in my Christmas lunch.

A root struggles through the slate

A biologist by training, Josep Lluís has the typical scientific enquiring mind. He wants to know whats, whens and whys of everything, and experiments tirelessly to improve, defying conventional wisdom, even now at 75. In the beginning (early 90s) he established his Clos MartinetMartinet Bru wines in the first – second wine model of Bordeaux, using the best grapes for Clos Martinet. From the start, even being a big, dense, dark red wine as great Priorats usually are, Clos Martinet was one of the most elegant of the bunch. Martinet Bru was a good introduction wine at a more moderate cost.

But when in 2001 he surrendered the sceptre to his daughter Sara, she changed the concept. Wines would be single vineyard sourced, with the goal of expressing the terroir as much as possible. If her father is a scientist, Sara goes for philosophy.

Llicorella in Els Escurçons

Did Josep Lluís retire and relax after 2001? Not at all! He is very active experimenting and acting as consultant to other wineries, something he has done extensively in the last fifteen years. Present projects include making wine in unlikely countries like Egypt or Sweden. And if you meet him in his winery or at an event, he will ensnare you with fascinating descriptions of his methods and experiments, which include selective, timed watering of the vines, and closed circuit, anaerobic fermentation. A born teacher.

Mas Torrent, the vineyard of Martinet Bru
Nowadays Mas Martinet has four different plots and wines, as follows:
  • Martinet Bru comes from the vineyard of Mas Torrent, close to the Montsant DO, and planted with Garnatxa, Syrah and Carinyena. Grapes go to a separate facility, Mas Martinet Assessoraments. Relatively lighter, perhaps due to the vineyard’s closeness to Montsant; an excellent wine altogether.
  • Clos Martinet comes from the land around the winery. These are the vines at less height over sea level (200 m), with warmer nights and earlier ripening. A blend of Garnatxa, Carinyena, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Dark cherry, intense, more fruity than its cousins.

Serra Alta and the rain pool of Mas Martinet from Els Escurçons

  • Camí de Pesseroles comes from three neighbouring small plots along the path to Pesseroles. Two of them are planted with Garnatxa, and the other with Carinyena; all of them very old. Dark, mineral, concentrated, complex.
Els Escurçons
  • Els Escurçons (The Vipers) is a vineyard on top of a hill (600 m) with stunning views, including most of the plots of Mas Martinet. With increasing Garnatxa and decreasing Syrah grapes, it is lighter and more floral that Camí de Pesseroles.

Natural yeasts are used, and the wines ferment in concrete vats. Aging is done partially in oak foudres and partially in oak casks.

Serra Alta

There are two additional plots, Serra Alta and Mas Seró, used for experimental purposes and also to produce kosher wine. Serra Alta is remarkable because vines are planted more tightly and develop around iron rings of adjustable height. This disposition allows increasing by two thirds the number of vines per hectare and tripling the leaf surface, enhancing vine metabolism.

Weather monitoring at Serra Alta

All these are organically farmed, with the idea of giving back to the vineyard all that is taken away: skins, pips, stalks...except the wine, of course! Certification is expected soon.

In another post I may explain the other wines that Sara Pérez makes (not to mention her brother Adriá or her cousin Marc), alone or together with her partner, Rene Barbier Jr., son of the other great guru (imho) of Priorat. Guess what their children will be good at…

Sara Pérez


Oriol Rossell Brut Nature Reserva de la Propietat 2006: Cava for castellers

 The December selection from the Vins Noè wine club brings usually Cava. This year was not different, and a few days ago I poured one of the bottles, Oriol Rossell Brut Nature Reserva de la Propietat 2006.

The composition is 70% Xarel•lo, 20 % Macabeu and 10 % Parellada, with 5 % of the Xarel•lo aged in oak. Vines are 40 – 50 years old, and there is a double grape selection: at the vineyard and just before pressing. Only the first juice is used. After second fermentation, bottles are aged for at least 45 months before degorjat.

Colour is pale yellow, with small, persistent bubble. In the nose I could find apple and pineapple, together with pastries, balsamic tones and toast. Complex and elegant, not too intense.

In the mouth is still fresh, in spite of the ageing, creamy, with well integrated gas and acidity.

Balanced and versatile, can be enjoyed by itself or with a full meal without red meat. Price at shop: around 28 EUR.

Oriol Rossell, the founder of the winery, passed away recently, and he was mourned not only by the wine people, but by the castellers as well, as he was also founder of the Castellers de Vilafranca del Penedès, and member of their Consell de Savis, Council of the Wise. But what are castellers? Easy: those that build castells.

Castells were inscribed in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. I now quote the description of UNESCO:

Castells are human towers built by members of amateur groups, usually as part of annual festivities in Catalonian towns and cities. The traditional setting is the square in front of the town hall balcony. The human towers are formed by castellers standing on the shoulders of one another in a succession of stages (between six and ten). Each level of the tronc, the name given to the second level upwards, generally comprises two to five heavier built men supporting younger, lighter-weight boys or girls. The pom de dalt – the three uppermost levels of the tower – comprises young children. Anyone is welcome to form the pinya, the throng that supports the base of the tower. Each group can be identified by its costume, particularly the colour of the shirts, while the cummerbund serves to protect the back and is gripped by castellers as they climb up the tower. Before, during and after the performance, musicians play a variety of traditional melodies on a wind instrument known as a gralla, setting the rhythm to which the tower is built. The knowledge required for raising castells is traditionally passed down from generation to generation within a group, and can only be learned by practice. “

Castellers de Vilafranca at work

A pretty good description of a popular Catalan tradition that has special following in the wine zones close to Tarragona (with Valls as a center) and Penedès. Castellers de Vilafranca is one of the leading colles (groups) of castellers, toghether with those of Valls.

I can only encourage you to visit those parts, taste their wines and look up at the castells that rise amid the sounds of the gralles (see video below). An experience not to be forgotten.


Three generations in thirteen years at Mas Foraster

In the outskirts of the beautiful medieval town of Montblanc, walled since the 14th century and seat to a dukedom, sits the winery and vineyards of Mas Foraster. My wife and I had to attend a calçotada in the zone later in the day and we took the opportunity to visit one of my favourite wineries of DO Conca de Barberà.

Eating calçots
(For those of you unfamiliar with calçotades: in the lands around Tarragona, mainly around Valls, it is typical to gather in winter to eat calçots, young onions that are in fact slightly burned by a dried vine shoot fire. Eaters peel with bare fingers the burnt outer layers to expose the juicy, tender inside, which is then dipped in a special sauce and taken dripping to the mouth, with a vertical entry. A giant bib saves the shirt. A rustic yet delicious meal, a feast for onion lovers, followed by sausages and lamb, topped with crema catalana and wetted with red wine and Cava).

Ricard Sebastiá and his mother, Julieta Foraster

Since 150 years, the Foraster family has grown vines. Not until 1998 Josep Foraster took over from his father and decided to make and sell quality wine himself. Unfortunately, he died prematurely, just before the first bottles of his wine hit the market. But his sister Julieta carried on, and now her son Ricard Sebastiá is at the helm, reaching the goals his uncle had dreamed up.

The property has 32 hectares (a little over 79 acres) of vineyards at about 400 m of altitude, with wide temperature differences between day and night. Soils are largely sandy, with slate on the surface. Vines are generally trellised. Harvest is done mainly by hand. Output per vine is around 0.8 and 3 kg of grape; and 2’500 to 6’000 kg of grape per ha. Total yearly production is around 100’000 bottles, with a maximum of 140’000.

The winery houses a small but delightful museum of rural life and winemaking as it was a century ago, together with temporary exhibitions of modern artists.

Mas Foraster wine range starts with the white Josep Foraster Blanc Selecció. Garnatxa blanca and Macabeu, with a little Chardonnay, is partly fermented and kept in steel vats and partly in French oak, with batonnage. In this way the wine is complex, with a properly integrated wood, but fresh at the same time. Unctuous and long.

Josep Foraster Collita is a young red wine of the year made from Ull de Llebre (aka Tempranillo) and a little Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes are picked slightly underripe to accentuate freshness. The resulting wine is fruity, refreshing, easy to drink, with deep cherry colour with bluish overtones.

Josep Foraster Criança is for me the flagship wine of Mas Foraster. Coming from Cabernet Sauvignon and Ull de Llebre, with Syrah occasionally, it is aged for twelve months in French oak, and additionally twelve more in the bottle. A more complex wine, dark cherry with little evolution. Red and black fruit in the nose; also spices at the end. Full mouth, with rounded tannins.

Josep Foraster Selecció is the top wine of Mas Foraster. Produced only in selected years out of the oldest (20+ years) Cabernet Sauvignon vines, harvested in 20 kg boxes, with about 10 % Ull de Llebre. After the aging of 18 months in French oak and a similar time in bottle, the result is a dark red wine, with brown edges and good legs. Red fruit, wood and spice in the nose. Well structured and silky in the mouth. Limited production of around 4’000 numbered bottles.

Last wine in the market is Josep Foraster Trepat, made from 45 year old Trepat vines. This is a local variety, with medium colour intensity, a distinctive black peppery nose and great elegance. Five months of aging in French oak.

I guess that Josep Foraster, if he had the opportunity to look upon his winery, would be proud of the evolution.