I Love What Sara Pérez Does For Me   2 comments

Only she doesn’t know it.  Doesn’t know I love what she does and doesn’t even know it’s for me.

Image DetailBefore I dig a hole too deep to climb out of, a clarification is probably in order.  What I really love is the vision and passion she brings to her wines.   

Certain winemakers have it– that ability to put a little extra magic in a bottle.  They know when to let the wine go, as you would let a child go, so that the soil may speak.  The few bottles I have had of the Mas Martinet wines have that special quality. 

Some winemakers also have an ability by sheer power of their personalities to explain in passionate terms what it is that they are trying to draw out of the juice.  I have seen her speak and her passion is irrepressible. 

Of course, she does not make the wines by herself, but her fingerprints are all over the place.  The wines are imbued with a sense of presence, an intangible to be sure, but I don’t know how else to say it.  Even the most humble of the bottles have that.  Concentrated and balanced.  Exhibiting power and finesse– an iron fist velvet glove kind of thing.  But an iron fist that does not lash out– one that provides a reassuring if firm caress. 

A few nights ago, I was looking for a little something to have with some leftover Memorial Day grub.  Tada!  I found a forgotten bottle of 2006 Martinet Menut.  The last time I had this wine a couple of years back, I liked it.  It was a solid effort delivering good value.  But now with almost 6 years of age, I feel like it is just finding its stride.  Those additional two years have made a big difference.  It may not be her greatest wine, but it will let you know that it means business.  Sadly, it was the last bottle I had. 

So what’s in the bottle? 

Martinet Menut 2006 from Priorat ($20-$23).  A concentrated blend of 60% Garnacha, 30% Merlot and 20% Syrah.  Menut is a blend of Martinet’s younger vines, and parcels not used for their five single-vineyard cuvees and some Merlot.  Aged 15 months in 3, 4, 5-year French barriques followed by tank aging.  It has a woodsy almost cedar like nose overlaying damp earth notes; it is all about the black arts– introducing itself to the palate with a calling card of black licorice scented dark fruit.  What emerges next is the minerally, stoney quality that I find so appealing in wines from Priorat.  And finishing with supple tannins and satisfying long finish.  Rated ***

As I started doing some research for this post, and while staring at the label with its watercolor and ink drawing of a bird with a Pompadour and a jaunty little hat, I discovered an interesting little factoid: Martinet Menut is the Catalan name for a bird found in Spain.  Known as the Little Egret, it is a member of the heron family.  But I am no John Audubon and have no aspirations to become a birder.

Still speaking of the study of birds, I am reminded of a story told to me by a long ago acquaintance who attended one of those Ivy League Institutions.  During an ornithology exam in a massive auditorium classroom, the professor flashed images of various beaks, claws, tail feathers and such on a movie screen.  Using only these limited perspectives of birdy bits, the students were required to identify the fowl in question– common name, genus, family, order, species, etc.  Midway through the test, one fellow rises from his desk proclaims so all could hear, “I quit!”  He then turns heel and starts making his way up the aisle toward the exit.  Startled, the professor calls out to him, “You there!  What is your name?”  Almost at the exit, the frustrated student stops.  He turns back, strolls half-way down the aisle and plops down on one of the steps.  He removes a singular shoe to the puzzlement of the class.  Then he peels off his sock.  Triumphantly, with both hands, he holds his naked foot up in the air and calls back, “You tell me!”

I will give you more than a beak to stare at.  If you see that blue-winged Martinet Menut on a label in a wine shop, do not hesitate to buy.  If it is from the 2006 vintage all the better.

For tomorrow’s test, here is a little history of the relatively ancient yet radically new Priorat appellation that I pulled from winewatch.com:

The first recorded evidence of grape growing and wine production dates from the 12th century, when the monks from the Carthusian Monastery of Scala Dei, founded in 1163, introduced the art of viticulture in the area. The prior of Scala Dei ruled as a feudal lord over seven villages in the area, which gave rise to the name Priorat. The monks tended the vineyards for centuries until 1835 when they were expropriated by the state, and distributed to small holders.

At the end of the 19th century, the phylloxera pest devastated the vineyards causing economic ruin and large-scale emigration of the population. Before the phylloxera struck, Priorat is supposed to have had around 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) of vineyards. It was not until the 1950s that replanting was undertaken. The DO Priorat was formally created in 1954. The seat of the DO’s regulatory body was initially Reus, some 30km to the east of the wine-region, rather than in Priorat itself.

In the decade from 1985, the production of bulk wine was phased out and bottling of quality wine phased in.

Early on, winemaking cooperatives dominated. Much of the development of Priorat wines to top class is credited to René Barbier and Álvaro Palacios. Winemaker Barbier, then active at a winery in Rioja owned by the Palacios family, bought his first land for Priorat vineyards in 1979, convinced of the region’s potential. At this stage, there were 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of Priorat vineyards. In the 1980s, he convinced others, including Palacios, to follow suit and plant new vineyards in suitable locations, all named Clos. For the first three vintages, 1989-1991, the group of five wineries pooled their grapes, shared a winery in Gratallops, and made one wine sold under five labels: Clos Mogador (Barbier), Clos Dofi (Palacios, later renamed to Finca Dofi), Clos Erasmus, Clos Martinet and Clos de l’Obac. From 1992, these wines were made separately. In 1993, Palacios produced a wine called L’Ermita sourced from very old Priorat vines, which led to an increased interest in using the region’s existing vineyards to produce wines in a new style.

The Catalan authorities approved of Priorat’s elevation from DO to DOQ status in 2000, but national level confirmation from the Spanish Government in Madrid only came on July 6, 2009. In the period from 2000 to 2009, when it was approved as DOQ but not yet as DOCa, despite the fact that these designations were exactly the same but in Catalan and Spanish, respectively, the situation was somewhat confused. A new set of DOQ rules were approved by the Catalan government in 2006. The regulatory body moved from Reus to Torroja del Priorat in 1999.

The vineyard surface of Priorat has been continuously expanding since the Clos-led quality revolution in the 1990s. At the turn of the millennium there was 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of vineyards, with an equal amount of planting rights secured. As of 2009, there are close to 1,800 hectares (4,400 acres).

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Posted June 1, 2012 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

2 responses to “I Love What Sara Pérez Does For Me

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  1. Good post and funny story.

    Also interesting just how much impact Phylloxera has over the history of wine appellations. Much of what we consider “classic” or quality simply has to do with time since a Phylloxera blight…

  2. Many thanks for visiting and your comment.

    Unfortunately, with respect to the more fabled vineyards, we won’t really know what the wines were like before Phylloxera struck. Interestingly, one place that has not seen Phylloxera is Chile and some of the varietals there were much planted in Europe bere the scourge.

    An example of this is Carmenere which was native to France, though it was wiped out by the phylloxera epidemic that destroyed France’s wine country. Of course, France recovered from phylox by grafting different varietals such as cabernet sauv and chardonnay onto American root stock. Carmenere by contrast did not graft particularly well and was as a result abandoned by the French. However, it was introduced to Chile before phyloxera and to this day is still cultivated there because phylox has never made it to Chile because of its remoteness. That may happen at some point as the world gets smaller.

    Carmenere also does well in a place like Chile becasue of the longer growing season as compared to say, Bordeaux. So drink these up while you can– who knows if this will one day disappear.

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