Sara Pérez, winemaking soul of Priorat’s Mas Martinet

Sara Pérez Mas Martinet

We recently talked about the Priorat and especially Mas Martinet winery. Today we talk with Sara Pérez, the house winemaker.

Good morning, Sara and thank you very much for your cooperation. I am so passionate about Priorat and I have always liked the character that Grenache and Carignan show here. Where this comes from?

Well, it is very possible that you are attracted by the strength of Priorat’s expression, so profound, so ferric, so particular and so unique, so well expressed through these two traditional varieties of our area.

These are two grapes that we find both together in blends and on their own in single-varietal wines but some other varieties are not frequently seen in this same high proportion. What is the contribution of Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah to your wines?

They contribute to my wines as they contributed to the change in the Priorat during the late 1980s. Some of these varieties were planted here just after phylloxera in a small proportion, and then they increased greatly in the early 1990s, as they were the base of the change for the wines of the Clos generation. Thus, Clos Martinet is elaborated with Grenache and Carignan and also with Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot.

It is not WHAT these varieties provide to particular wine, but HOW the generation of my parents explained the world, using these varieties as a springboard for change.

Keeping them in the Clos Martinet blend is a tribute to that generation, just as it is a tribute to the post-phylloxera generation, to have trusted Carignan and to have rescued it from oblivion, loss of prestige and emptiness.

Your wines go through long periods of aging that are not so common in other places around.

For many decades, the regions of great wines have conducted long ageing periods to ripen, polish and stabilize the wines. It is a measure of time different from the one we are using nowadays… Previous generations believed that good wines, like many other things in life, need time… And I share that belief.

What are you looking for using clay amphora for ageing? And what about the use of cement? What do they bring into your wines?

The quest is not about the amphora or cement themselves. Clay is a material that, like wood, concrete or glass, serves me as tool to accompany and enhance the expression of a plot, a vintage, a wine. The material, its shape and volume of each vessel modulate, interfere, accompany, diminish, enhance, add, purify, modify and respect the expression of the wine.

I try to understand which is the potential of each plot, what expression each vintage has, and what each generation tries to tell. And then I try to put it all in a bottle.

Which variety do you enjoy the most working, or which one is the best?

Variety is another tool I work with. In itself, a variety is not either good, nor bad, nor better nor worse… I do not understand a variety without a landscape, without an objective…

How is the process of ageing and assembling a wine like Clos Martinet, i.e. the different varieties are vinified separately and then they are assembled at the end or they are vinified and aged all together?

Clos Martinet is a single-vineyard wine. It is a single plot with five different varieties. Each variety is pruned in winter in different weeks, respecting their long or short cycles, to arrive at the moment of harvest at the same time. So I can do co-fermentation and vinify the plot as a whole. I mix all the grapes of the different varieties until the varietal character disappears…, and at that moment, the expression of plot is born.

How is the Els Escurçons vineyard? What’s so special in it?

You have to come, climb, walk and feel it. It is a magical place. And ancestral. A place that connects you with the essence, with history and with nature.

Where do you enjoy your work more, in the vineyard or in the cellar?

Uff! I do not understand the one without the other!!!! The cycle in the vineyard is one year, and in the cellar is longer and more relaxed. I go out, I go in, I go in, I go out… But the wine, I see it and I understand it from the vineyard…

If I could choose a Clos Martinet from a particular vintage, which one would you recommend me?

It depends… I have some mythical vintages because of situations and moments lived… vintages that in their youth were spectacular or some old ones that surprise me and against all odds take me to ecstasy…

Keeping this in mind, and right off the bat, I would say 1993, 1994, 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2015.

What differences there are between working a single-varietal wine and a blend?

Uff… it depends… In my case, I work with Els Escurçons (monovarietal Grenache) and Clos Martinet (blend of five varieties)… In both cases, I seek to show the character of each plot, its expression in a determined vintage through some vines that someone decided to plant with a goal in mind.

So I would say that finding the complexity in the single-varietal and unity in the blend would be the most significant difference, to reach the same point. It is like walking from different starting points trying to reach the same end.

Do you have plans for producing rosé or white wines in Mas Martinet?

We are producing a white wine using Picapoll, White Garnacha and Pedro Ximénez from the Camí Pesseroles vineyard since 2008. However, I have never sold it. Someday it will come out. Now it rests, ages, grows, and shows us paths to follow.

Rosé… we will see…

In La Universal in the Montsant you elaborate Venus with Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, Dido with Syrah and Merlot/Cabernet and Dido Blanc with Macabeo, White Garnacha and Cartoixà. A pink wine, La Solució Rosa with White, Grey and Garnacha Tinta, Cariñena and Macabeo. How do the Garnacha and the Carinyena grow in the Montsant as compared to the Priorat?

Different soils, different climates… Two different worlds.

The elegance, the freshness and the complexity these varieties so deeply show in Priorat can also be shown in Montsant, it gives you goose skin. The old vineyards of Carinyena in Montsant need between 15 and 17 years in the bottle to awaken our senses… and when they do, the journey is sublime.

What is your personal seal, what makes a Sara Pérez wine?

Wines are first and foremost a place and a moment. And I hope I do not recognize my hand in them, though I take my decisions. Decisions that have to do with respect, diversity and time. The wines in which I am involved have a part of a creative process, which we do not recognize in wine, but it is part of its path. And mine too.

Thank you very much for your cooperation, Sara.

Photos (c) Josep Oliva