Rene Barbier at Clos Mogadar
We continue with our summary of the outstanding wineries that we visited in the Priorat and Montsant wine regions, on our Press Trip for the Digital Wine Communication Conference, in October of this year. On a warm sunny afternoon, our caravan of two off-road vehicles carrying 14 wine bloggers arrived at the famed vineyards of Clos Mogador in the village of Gratallops. It is here where we meet the legendary Rene Barbier, and perhaps you might say, the Robert Mondavi of the Priorat wine region. As we stroll along his Garnacha vines, he speaks with passion about his land and the wines he produces.
In the early 1980’s Rene Barbier, along with Alvaro Palacios (Bodegas Palacios in the Rioja) and a few others, became fascinated with the potential of the Priorat becoming a great winemaking area. They knew that there was a unique terroir, great climate and slate soil. The area’s vineyards had been devastated by Phylloxera in the early 1900’s, and then came the Spanish Civil War. People left in droves and there was no thought of revitalizing the vineyard land until Rene Barbier and his friends came along. 1989 was the first vintage of Rene’s Priorat wine. It only took a few more years before wine critics around the globe became enamored with the Priorat wine.
In a beautiful setting, with the village of Gratallops as the backdrop, Rene Barbier explains that we are looking at a Garnacha vineyard like no other in the Priorat. This vineyard has many vines that are up to 100 years old, but interspersed are new vines that are only 2 years old. In the back of the vineyard are 15-year-old vines, and to the right are 35-year-old vines. Rene is constantly replanting. He also allows many wild plants to grow among the vines, believing that biodiversity is good for the soil and the vines. He is also planting many “cereal plants” among the vines, expecting that they will be beneficial to the vines. All his old vines are dry farmed. Newly planted vines do receive some water but once the roots take hold they are dry farmed.
In 2005 this Garnacha vineyard was given the highest possible designation. In the U.S. any winery can label a wine as a single vineyard wine. All we know about that wine is that it came from one vineyard but, of course, we know little about the quality of that vineyard. Rene’s Clos Mogador Vineyard has been given the estate vineyard designation by the Spanish government. Only the grapes from that vineyard can go into that wine. If the vintage is not good that year, the wine cannot be produced. The wine produced from this vineyard is called Clos Mogador.
Some distance away Rene also has a vineyard that is all Carigane. From those grapes he produces a wine called Manyetes. It is mostly Carigane and highly regarded. He shows us a house above the hill and tells us that is a vineyard from which he makes a unique white wine called Nelin. It is prominently Garnacha Blanc, but has a blend of four other grapes including Pinot Noir.
We stroll around a corner of the vineyards and in front of us is a wonderful tasting area. The table is old millstone and the bench has been constructed from stones. Here we taste the lineup of the Clos Mogador wines. Included in the tasting are back vintages of the 2001 Clos Mogador and the 2001 Manyetes. The wines are all amazing, deep, dark colored, rich in flavors and highly complex. We taste a back vintage of the white Nelin wine and it is lush. How often does one get a chance to try wines of extreme high quality alongside their legendary winemaker in the vineyards from which they were made? Memorable!