When Sara Perez talks about her wines you listen. She is one of those infectious characters that manage to explain terroir in ways that are abstract yet wholly understandable. Her passion when talking about the vineyards she exploits is palpable and visible. Waving her arms and hunching her shoulders it is impossible not to be drawn in; it’s quite mesmeric. You understand just what she means when she throws her arms up like a spring bursting from the earth and says 'Escurons, it is life. It needs the cool breath of an amphora to truly allow it to express itself” And when hunches her shoulders and furrows her arms to the earth and says 'Pesseroles is elemental and needs some oak to give it some warmth' you get it too.
2011 here was a hot, dry vintage. There was precious little rain and as a result some of their vines suffered heat stress. Little things like Sara’s method for covering her vineyards in hay to keep the soil temperature down made a big difference. But really it is her passion for the health of her soil that makes the most difference. Resolutely organic, dedicated to finding freshness through vineyard health and not afraid of the new, Sara manages to imbue her wines with a sense of vitality that sets them apart from many of her peers. The wines are powerful yet open and display impressive floral notes alongside deeper richer more classic Priorat notes of smoke, salt and rich dark fruit. Vineyard definition in 2011 is once again startlingly evident with the wines sitting somewhere between 2009 and 2010 in style.
Priorat itself is a breath-taking region. Just 90 minutes from Barcelona it underwent an almost complete revival in the 90s when Rene Barbier, convinced of the potential in the region, established a handful of “Clos”, of which Clos Martinet was one. Prior to this production had remained pretty much unchanged for centuries. Old vines and sun-baked vineyards that sit on a very crumbly slate called Licorella, support the smallest of yields. Careful winemaking is required to tame the intensity and retain freshness in these highly individual wines. Grenache and Carignan, often from exceedingly old vines lead the way. Yet international varieties have a place here too, intrinsic as they are to the ‘re-birth’ of the region in the early 90s.
Escurcons, from the highest Licorella vineyards in Priorat was a project started by Sara in 2001. It represents the pre-phylloxeric era when locals would plant at height to gain the cooling effects of the wind and harness the freshness that altitude brings. The vineyard is 100% Grenache planted in a combination of terrace and contour.
Cami Pesseroles comes from a vineyard further down the valley. The very old vines and the larger proportion of Carignan in the blend talk of the era immediately post phylloxera, when growers vine holdings had been decimated and replanting had to be done at the minimum of effort and with high yielding Carignan. Now over 100 years old, Sara’s Carignan vines crop at very small quantities and produce some of Priorats most impressive and pensive wines.
Clos Martinet represents the modern era, when international varieties arrived in Priorat and investment returned to the area. Now made up of just 5% Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot. From a single vineyard, aged in a mixture of large oak fuders and amphora it is a glorious blend of power and high-toned refinement.
Martinet Bru is a blend of predominantly Grenache and Syrah with a little Carignan, Cabernet and Merlot. Since 2010 this has come from a single vineyard that sits just out of Falset. Produced to be approachable young, yet full of Priorat character and polish, this is one of the best value Priorats on the market.