Josep Lluis Perez was one of the pioneers behind what was widely seen as the revival of Priorat. The Perez Ovejero family founded the Mas Martinet winery in 1989, paying special attention to the orientations, varieties, climate and soils of the area. Twenty years later, it is his daughter Sara who is now in charge, managing the vineyard, which is also home to olive trees and forests. The winery has worked to recover native and traditional varieties, using biological agriculture to ensure that they produce wines that are a real reflection of the landscapes, terroir and surroundings from where they came.
But to speak of Mas Martinet is to really speak of its founder Josep Lluis Pérez Verdú, a Valencian who with no future in his hometown decided to emigrate to Switzerland, where he worked in the restaurant of a friend. Following this he worked as a barber, as his father did, while studying at a distance learning school for Spaniards. He then enrolled at the University of Geneva to study human biology.
On returning to Spain he became a biology professor in Sant Cugat and subsequently became Technical Director at a vocational school in Falset. In 1981, he was made responsible for teaching oenology, so he sought for an oenologist, a technician in viticulture and formed a team, and also was required to travel to other wine regions such as France, Switzerland and Germany.
Then in 1986, Josep Lluis Pérez Verdú met René Barbier in Priorat, asking him for help and advice, since by this time Josep Lluis was the technical advisor for the Institut Català de la Viña y el Vi (INCAVI). It was here that Josep Lluis sparked René Barbier’s passion to produce wine in the area, so the two set up an agrarian society with other traders, including Alvaros Palacios, Carles Pastrana and Daphne Glorian, who are all known for helping revolutionise the Priorat. At the beginning, they began producing wine on the same estate, all had their own wine, their own “clos”: Mogador, Dofí, L’Obac, Erasmus etc, with markets distributed between them as to avoid competition.
It would be rude not to mention the wife of Josep Lluís as part of the whole process, Monte Ovejero, a biochemist, whose help and support was instrumental in the whole process.
History of the winery
The first joint harvest with the other “clos” was in 1989 and was released in 1992. It was a commercial failure, down either to the fact that the wine was actually very expensive and quality wine was just not appreciated or understood at the time. Josep Lluís has even said since that this first failure changed his outlook on winemaking.
Following this initial setback, he travelled to France acquiring a 1989 bottle of Petrus that had come from a crop that had overly matured due to a very hot and dry summer, and therefore allegedly lost frank acidity which the Bordeaux wines boast. His surprise was when it left the market in 1991 Pétrus and Robert Parker awarded 100 points, so the wine was transferred to cost three times more than usual. He took the wine to Priorat, analyzed it, taking this as a sign that the Priorat would be able to produce similar wines, attempting to emulate the outcome within the region.
While Josep Lluís Pérez and his family after a thorough study on microclimate, soil type and grape varieties, chose the Mas Martinet estate to carry out his personal project. The estate is located between Falset and Gratallops and is home to 7 hectares of vineyards. It was here that they began building his winery Mas Martinet Viticultors. At the farm, the most suitable places were chosen to plant their strains, depending on the grape variety characteristics, soil type and orientation. They chose to work with native varieties Grenache and Carignan, as well as the foreign Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The vineyards are planted on trellises and at high altitudes, something unusual for the region, to achieve greater useful area for more stability of ripening grapes. Irrigation of microaspersión was also installed so that the vineyard would not suffer too much in the important moments of budding, flowering and veraison, as it was planted in upland terrain with extreme drought. Over the years, the winery began to build a strong reputation and not before long, Mas Martinet began to sound strongly in all winegrowing circles.
Currently the winery is led by his daughter, Sara Perez, with the help and guidance of her father. Also Sara, along with her husband René Barbier (son), founded the Venus La Universal winery, as well as collaborating with other projects in the Montsant and Priorat, as well as the Galician winery Dominio do Bibei de la Ribera Sacra.
Mas Martinet cultivates their vineyards following the practises of Organic agriculture, carrying out innovative programs for a more efficient and sustainable production. Mas Martinet also works to recover near lost varietals.
One of the innovative programs carried out was back in 2011 with the placement of straw on the grounds of the vineyard. The reason for this is that the majority of the vineyards are home to licorella soils, which absorb a lot of heat. Vineyards with the straw maintained a temperature of around 27 degrees, while those without saw temperatures up to 42 degrees, causing the grapes to cook before achieving a complete phenolic maturation. Innovative concepts have also been introduced at the winery as well as the vineyards, with the recent addition of large cement vats and also some ceramic amphorae, which Sara uses for production. According to Sara, this is a new concept of naked wine, which gives a better expression of terroir, while the barrel is like putting a coat on while making the wine.
Another important issue that takes place at the winery is working with wild yeasts, where studies of Sara in this topic show that a wine with selected yeast ferments in about 7 days, it releases a lot of heat and CO2, while the wild yeast takes about 32 days, so there is less pressure of CO2 and no charges temperature peaks.
Also vineyard work is very personal. The harvest in the plots is together, trying to put together cycles. By making vintage while not exactly known percentages of the varieties that will participate in each wine, but for Sara Pérez this is not a problem, because as she says, "the percentages of the varieties are not important; the important thing is what wine conveys".
Wines by Mas Martinet
The wines produced by Mas Martinet are all a reflection of the work carried out by the winery, respectful to the environment and its close relationship to nature. One of their more conventional wines is Martinet Blu, which is considered as the ‘second wine’ of the winery. The grapes used for this wine come from the Mas Torrent estate, which borders the Montsant, with a similar climate but licorella soils. This wine is made using Grenache grapes, with some Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in different percentages depending on the vintage. This wine is vinified in 5,000 litre capacity oak fudres and is aged for 19 months in used wooden 4,000 litre capacity vats.
Clos Martinet is often considered as the purest expression of the Mas Martinet, made with grapes taken from 5 organically cultivated vineyards, home to slate soils. The wine is made up predominantly of Grenache grapes, with some Syrah, Carignan, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fermentation is carried out using wild yeasts, and the wine is aged on average for 21 months, mainly in wooden fudres and barrels, but also in clay jars to counteract the sensory influence of the wood. This is a wine that really reflects the concepts and style of Sara Perez.
Els Escurçons comes from a historical plot on which no one had replanted anything for some 100 years. The farm is located in the DOQ Priorat, 600 metres above sea level. In 1999 they planted their first Syrah and Grenache vines, going on to produce the first vintage in 2006. 80% of the wine is aged in 200litre capacity ceramic amphorae and 20% in used French oak barrels, for a total of 18 months. This is a balanced wine that claims the former monastic style wines.
Camí Pesseroles is a wine that comes from an ancient valley, halfway between Gratallops and Porrera, home to three century old vineyards, which are home to slate soils. This wine is a blend of Grenache (60%) and Carignan (40%) and only 1,000 bottles are made are produced. In wine fermentation begins under a carbonic maceration for a month in new wood fudres, and thereafter aged for 20 months in 225 liter barrels of with 30% approxd new oak. A subtle but profound wine with an important mineral touch.
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