Sara Perez’s 2012s are the product of the second dry Priorat vintage in a row. However, in contrast to the 2011s, the 2012s are not all about power. The stresses that two dry vintages place upon a vine are born out in these wines – the very character of each cuvee rests in a delicate, or fragile balance, the product of a vintage that demanded the full attention of Sara and her team.
It is of course in vintages like this that the true brilliance of a vigneron like Sara Perez is so abundantly obvious. The various techniques that Sara employs to retain freshness in the finished wines, from covering the vineyards in hay, or training her vines in elaborate fashion, to winemaking techniques like co-fermentation, often with the stalks of Grenache, give her wines a traction and lift that so many wines from Priorat are missing. The unmistakably different characters of the single vineyards bottlings of Escurcons (fermented and aged in Amphora – 93 RP), Cami Pesseroles (in wood – 93RP) and Clos Martinet (in mixture of concrete, amphora and large old fuder – 95RP) are writ large this year, while Menut 2013 and Martinet Bru 2013 offer the ideal stepping stones into the magical world of the wines of Mas Martinet.
Over a dinner early in June, Sara poured a number of her wines to a small group of clients. What amazed most, apart from Sara’s unquenchable passion for this region and its wines, was just how drinkable these wines were at all stages of their life. Wonderful balance renders alcohol levels practically undetectable, while the naturally low pH from the Licorella soils provides a captivating breath of freshness, even in wines just three or four years old. However, should you want to age these, the brace of older wines proved that these can and will age admirably. For some the 2004 stole the show, a mixture of precision, clarity and minerality, while for others the 2005 a powerful, more masculine counterpart won out. Both proved beyond doubt that the fine Priorats of Mas Martinet are both hard to resist young, and eminently cellar worthy.
A guide to the cuvees:
Escurcons, from the highest Licorella vineyards in Priorat was a project started by Sara in 2001. It represents the pre-phlloxera when locals would plant at height to gain the cooling effects of the wind and harness the freshness that altitude brings. Historically referred to as one of the greatest vineyards of the area. The vineyard is 100% Grenache planted in a combination of terrace and contour. Sadly recently affected by a fire in the surrounding forest.
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.
Menut – Sara’s entry level wine, and the only wine in her range that comes from a variety of sites. Juicy and ripe but still fresh, dark fruits and cocoa nib, the ideal opening gambit providing an almost quaffable taste of Priorat character at a very affordable price point
*Luis Gutierrez, Wine Advocate #219
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