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

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