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Mas Martinet, “Clos Martinet” PrioratCatalunya, Spain 2017 (750mL)

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Mas Martinet, “Clos Martinet” Priorat Catalunya, Spain 2017 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
Acid
Alcohol

I have seen the vineyards of Priorat with my own eyes, so I know what José Luiz Pérez must have felt when he and a few other wine visionaries began reviving wine culture there in the 1980s: awe. Both the place and its wines are awesome to behold, and there are a handful of Priorat estates, Mas Martinet among them, that have become the region’s “first growths.” Climbing to the top of Priorat is not easy, literally or figuratively, but Mas Martinet got there early and has only become more compelling under the leadership of José Luiz’s daughter, Sara Pérez. 


The scores from critics have remained consistently high, as has the demand from serious collectors, but the style of the wines has subtly evolved. As Priorat re-emerged from obscurity in the late-1980s and early ’90s, it became known for luxurious, Bordeaux-inspired reds with an “international” sheen to them, yet while Sara continues to employ varieties such as Syrah, Cabernet, and Merlot, their presence has been reduced—as has the influence of oak. There’s still plenty of luxurious fruit in Sara’s 2017 “Clos Martinet,” the estate’s flagship wine, but there is also a vital component many such “cult” wines lack: soul. Driven by 65% Garnatxa (Grenache) and full of dusty soil character, this wine re-connected me with Priorat in a profound way—and for much, much less than I would have expected. To all the collectors out there: Pounce!



Located about 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean coastal town of Tarragona, with a climate best described as “harsh”—bitingly cold winters and dry, hot summers—Priorat is often described as an “extreme” terroir. Its vineyards are perched at high altitudes in distinctive-looking soils of fractured slate called llicorella, and the earliest wine-growers to brave its rocky, terraced slopes were Carthusian Monks of the Scala Dei (“God’s ladder”) abbey. The name “Priorat” is Catalán for “priory,” in honor of those intrepid 12th-century monks.


Yet for all its history, Priorat wine in the modern era was largely forgotten, and its vineyards mostly abandoned, until a handful of producers led a comeback. In 1979, René Barbier, a native of Tarragona, convinced a band of like-minded aspirants to join him in exploring the rocky bluffs of Priorat. Having trained in Burgundy and worked in Alsace and Bordeaux, Barbier introduced the concept of the clos (small, enclosed, walled-in vineyard) and soon this handful of dreamers had their own mini-estates bearing names Clos Mogador, Clos Erasmus, Clos de l’Obac and Clos Martinet. José Luiz Pérez was one of Barbier’s original Priorat crew and he established Mas Martinet in 1989. “Clos Martinet” is the flagship wine from their 15-hectare estate in the village of Gratallops. Since 2001, Sara Pérez has managed all activity and guided their entire estate holdings to fully organic viticulture since 2008. 


In the winery, Sara has shifted to vinifying the wines using only natural yeasts, and occasionally including some grape stems in her fermentations. The aging takes place in a mix of French oak foudres (larger than the barriques of the past) and some clay amphorae. The varietal mix in the ’17 Clos Martinet is 65% Garnatxa, 20% Syrah, 10% Cariñena (Carignane), 4% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, and there’s no doubt the Grenache is the driving force. In the glass, the wine displays a deep garnet red hue moving to pink at the rim (less inky than most modern Priorat), with aromas of red and black cherries, wild strawberry, mulberry, lavender, anise, aromatic herbs, warm spice, leather, and turned earth. It has a plush mouthfeel but stays away from becoming syrupy thanks to some great freshness. It’s always amazing to experience a full-bodied, concentrated red that is simultaneously light on its feet, and this one has a decidedly “Mediterranean” feel to it, slightly reminiscent of some of my favorite old-school Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. Pair it with an herb-slathered leg of lamb and enjoy it at 60 degrees in large Bordeaux stems after a 30-minute decant. An epic experience awaits. Enjoy!




Mas Martinet, “Clos Martinet” Priorat Catalunya, Spain 2017 - SommSelect

  • CountrySpain
  • RegionCatalunya
  • Sub-RegionPriorat
  • SoilSlate (llicorella)
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendGarnatxa 65%, Syrah 20%, Cariñena 10%, Merlot 4%, Cabernet Sauvignon 1%
  • Alcohol14.5%
  • OakMostly in Large Foudres

  • CountrySpain
  • RegionCatalunya
  • Sub-RegionPriorat
  • SoilSlate (llicorella)
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendGarnatxa 65%, Syrah 20%, Cariñena 10%, Merlot 4%, Cabernet Sauvignon 1%
  • Alcohol14.5%
  • OakMostly in Large Foudres
  • Temp.Serve at 60° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2028+
  • Decanting30 Minutes
  • PairingLeg of Lamb w/ Garlic & Rosemary