73/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Montsant – Venus “La Universal” – Dido La Universal 2011
she’s got it! Yeah baby she’s got it! Dutch one hit wonder, and still going strong. The big difference is that Venus “La Universal” is not a one hit wonder, rather…., everything made is a wonder. She’s got it, would be referring to Sara Perez, owner and winemaker. Again one of the fantastic young wine makers of the Priorat/Montsant area, it is like the climate here breeds amazing wine makers. They are drawn to each other, by each other, to exchange experiences, learn and share amongst the wine loving community in the mountains. Let’s face it, not much else to do here, professionally or otherwise. Wine, wine, wine and more wine, not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially not when the wine is as good as it is here.
The cellars of Mas Martinet and Venus have one thing in common, Sara Perez! It has been more than thirty years since the Perez family decided to move to the mountainous and, at the time, ghostlike Priorat. Nobody, not even the people still living there, were making wine. That was confined to 7 cooperative cellars, making bulk wine and just hanging in there. Now there are 104 cellars and counting.
Today, it is thriving and Sara, amongst others, has put new life into the otherwise starched wine style of the Priorat and the Montsant. Call it radical changes if you want, but the fact is that every winemaking region needs rejuvenation once in a while. If Sara were a politician, she’d be working for the UN by now, as ambassador. Fortunately for wine lovers, she’s making wine and not politics!
The family lived a healthy life in Barcelona up until 1981, when the Prirorat started to call. Sara was nine at the time and the eldest of four siblings. The vineyards of Carignena and Garnacha became their new home, and their daily views were those of a harsh but beautiful valley surrounded by narrow terraces on which ancient plants yielded small harvests. But by the 1980s, depopulation and the infestation of insects that laid waste to many vines across Europe had depleted the vineyards and soured Priorat’s reputation.
Sara is now the chief winemaker at Mas Martinet, the vineyard she took over from her father in 1996. An entire year’s harvest may produce just 14,000 bottles, but the small scale of her vineyard is typical of Priorat, now home to Spain’s most expensive reds.
Besides Mas Martinet, she runs her own independent vineyard called Venus. She lives here with her husband, René Barbier Jr., also the son of a winemaking family. Together, they are the face of the new Priorat. Sara named her new cellar Venus – after seeing Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery while on a tasting trip to Tuscany. Presence at the two wineries is achieved by travels between Venus and Mas Martinet, a ten-minute drive along a narrow mountain road, in an old 2CV painted the same yellow as Venus’s labels.
When Sara’s parents came to Priorat, their plan was to work with Garnacha grapes, the traditional varietal of the area – but they also planted tried-and-tested imported plants such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Gradually, Sara is removing those non-indigenous plants and replacing them with Carignena and Garnacha, effectively making her wine more “at home”, more Priorat and Montsant, more Catalan.
Dido La Universal 2011, 75% Garnacha, 15% Syrah, 5% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
A young red wine with good character and a very interesting expression of color, aromas and flavors, the work of Sara Perez is noticeable. The aging as follows, 40% aged in concrete tanks and 60% in French oak barrels for 16 months. Vivid Cherry red color, intense with a garnet edge. The nose is fruity, fruity in the sense ripe fruit. Mineral notes slightly floral scents and spiciness. Lively in the and quite expressive. Nice balance, fresh and certainly fruity. Long aftertaste.
308 to go!