234/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Terra Alta – Batea – Celler Casa Mariol – Vintage Merlot Reserva 24 Mesos
Vintage Merlot Reserva 24 Mesos
Deep bigarreau cherry red colour with red hues. The nose consist widely of wild forest fruits, bigarreau cherry, ripe fruits and soft notes of vanilla and cacao. It is a well structured wine with a great body and soul. The taste is dry and velvety, medium bodied with a lingering aftertaste. It has been aged for 24 months in American and French oak casks after which it has been allowed to take a well deserved rest in the bottle.
When you’re born in a beautiful mediaeval village of two thousand inhabitants surrounded by vineyards, in the heart of a family that makes wine, you one day wonder (or reaffirm): I was born to do this. That is surely what various generations that have been living and working in Casa Mariol for over a century must have thought.
In Batea, the village in question, vineyards and wine are religion, and Casa Mariol is a home to the pious parishioners. The village’s inhabitants live in houses that were built centuries ago to store wine. They take care of the fields as if these were their gardens, and the celebrations of their patron saint, San Miguel, are postponed so as not to coincide with the grape harvest If we were to compare it with a contemporary example, we might say that Batea is a village where the trending topic is the grapevine, and tweets are taken literally.
When speaking of a company called Casa, terms can be confused. The organisation chart is pure genealogy. As a company, it was born in 1945, founded by José María Vaquer Bes. In his home, they had always made wine, so José María began to sell it using his brand new Opel Blitz car. The Mariol wines from Batea began to reach important markets such as those of Reus and Barcelona, and on the barrels from the city wine merchants it was common to find “Batea” written in chalk, together with the number of José María’s second truck, a Chevrolet with a 77777 number plate which they said was famous in Catalonia.
In the 60s, the production of wine ceased to be made in Casa, and a modern winery was built. By then, José María’s sons were already grown up and he could count on their help. Josep Vaquer Aguiló, the middle child, not only inherited the name, but also his dedication to the company. In 1971, José María died in a work accident in the middle of the grape harvest. Four months later, Josep married Emilia Llop, from Casa Rams, another family of peasants and winemakers from Batea. With them, a new era would begin at the winery, with Josep taking care of management, and Emilia in charge of production.
In the 80s, the Mariols used to watch Falcon Crest on TV, which was a fiction like any other. Their great challenge was to install the first bottling plant of the region in Batea and to begin to make wines for new channels such as the catering trade. With the bottling plant, the first foreign varieties were made, such as Cabernet, Merlot, or Chardonnay. But it wasn’t until the mid 80s that Casa Mariol decided to launch the first varietal Syrah wine aged in Spain.
In the 90s, the winery expanded and began to commercialise the new bottled wines in their local market -the Costa Dorada and Barcelona-, where Casa Mariol would open their first two shops in 1997. During these years, their facilities expanded, but it wasn’t until the year 2,000 that Casa Mariol opened a new winery exclusively for the reception of grapes and the production of wine.
The decade starting in the year 2,000 also brought about a new generation to the winery. Josep María and Maria Vaquer Llop, grandchildren of the founder, had just finished their studies in oenology. Josep María would later be in charge of viticulture and oenology, whilst his sister Marta would take care of production. With their children’s help, the Mariol family, almost in its entirety, opened a new bottling plant in Móra la Nova -a pioneer in bottling plants of the region-, which would be key for them to offer quality wine at more competitive prices and therefore begin to export all over Europe.
In 2,007, Marta and Josep María, together with Miguel Angel -the youngest brother and latest addition to the company-, launched JO! Catalonia’s first Verdejo wine, and Casa Mariol’s first experimental product. With this curious product, the Mariols caught the attention of the whole Spanish wine industry, clearly illustrating their company philosophy and pointing to a new wine culture.
For the new millennium, the Mariols have great challenges to meet. Among others, to continue to be a family dedicated to their vineyards and their wine. They have inherited the knowledge for making quality wine at a good price, and have the desire to spread their new wine culture everywhere; theirs is a religious love of wine, of what they do, and of who they are.
147 to go!