I promised that we were due to offer a very special rosé, completely new to Atlas and here it is; 2018 Partida Pedrer Rosat and I very much doubt you have ever heard of it. Without question, I would say it is one of the most fascinating rosé I have ever tasted – it is both distinctive and high-class. So where is it from you might ask? The answer is relatively surprising too, for I have never tasted a Priorat rosé before, but that is what we have here.
The wine is produced by René Barbier (the fourth generation of his family to have that name!) and Sara Perez. René’s family own Clos Mogador, regarded among the finest Priorat estates, and Sara Perez’s family own another great name in the region, Mas Martinet. Together, they started this new project in 2001 when they purchased a small vineyard called El Bellvisos (Bella Vista – beautiful view). This remarkably steep sloping vineyard had been neglected for over 40 years, yet it was well-situated and offered significant potential. As the couple comment ‘there are no neighbours due to the steep slopes surrounding it: not even the most valiant would plant a vineyard here!’. René and Sara’s aim has always been to produce a wine that was at one with nature, and a vineyard that had not witnessed any chemical usage for such a long period provided just the opportunity. From the outset, both René and Sara have sought to produce wines from organically grown fruit with as little intervention as possible. This is an admirable approach and can at times prove very challenging, but from the few lines above you no doubt get the impression that these two will not shirk a challenge! The challenge with this plot was that the soil had not been broken up to make new terraces; It took a lot of effort to address soil erosion, low biodiversity and loss of soil structure. Most of this was addressed by hand ploughing or using a mule as well as embracing aspects of biodynaminc viticulture.
A word on Priorat
To anyone new to Priorat, it is a region rich in history situated in the province of Taragona. It offers a range of different microclimates and soil structures on account of its steep, sloping vineyards that range from 100 to 700 metres in altitude. Many of its vineyards are craggy escarpments or terraced vineyards in separate mountain valleys. The name ‘Priorato’ means priory and legend has it that a shepherd boy awoke to see angels descending from a celestial ladder. He told a priest about his vision and in 1163 an order of Carthusian monks founded the ‘Priorato de Scala Dei’, literally the ‘Priory of the Stairway to God’. Today the Cellers de Scala Dei is a producer based in the old priory cellars! Modern day Priorat incorporates 11 different small villages and extends over just 2,000 hectares. The wines of the region gain their distinctive character on account of the topography and the schistous soils that dominate; schist is well-suited to vines (think of the famous Port vineyards of the Douro). The vine is able to sink its roots deep into the soil accessing rainwater stored underground to see the vines through a hot Mediterranean summer. The most famous soils of the region are called 'llicorella', where you find alternating layers of slate and quartzite making a black/gold tiger skin pattern, just as found in the Pedrer Partida vineyard. Yields are naturally low in Priorat making for intense wines.
Back to Partida Pedrer
This is a natural wine, meaning no sulphur dioxide was used in the winemaking. Sulphur works to protect a wine against oxidation and also possesses anti-bacterial benefits among other properties. It takes skill and dedication to produce clean, pure natural wines. A whole host of natural wines that I have tasted have exhibited faults, but this need not always be the case. René and Sara just happen to make their wine that way; they aren’t looking for a badge.
The Pedrer vineyard is planted largely with Garnatxa (Grenache) and Monastrell (Mourvèdre) – the latter is not at all common in Priorat, but is readily found in the Southern Rhône and the south of France, notably in Bandol. Monastrell works well with Garnatxa– lending a little more complexity, structure and alleviating the natural alcoholic strength of Grenache in the blend.
This distinctive rosé is just outstanding. The winemaking decisions – the use of Monastrell alongside Garnatxa, indigenous yeast, slow fermentation in old, large oak barrels – all creates a remarkably complex end result. Given that production is tiny, just 1,750 bottles, I am so pleased to have acquired a good allocation for Atlas clients. Without getting carried away, this is one of those wines that adds to the joy of being a wine buyer…so individual and remarkably fine. A real find.
I include my note below – seldom do I write such lengthy notes on rosé. I also include Luis Gutiérrez’s note from robertparker.com, seldom does he award 94 points to a rosé.