It’s hard not to notice – there seems to be a higher-than-average number of female winemakers in Priorat, Spain. I mean, a four day tour of the region is hardly enough to prove anything statistically, but of the seven wineries we visited, three had women working as their enologa.
‘We are a little bit sexist here in Priorat, you know,’ joked Sandra Doix of Mas Doix (pronounced Mass Dosh) when we asked her about our perception. Sandra fell in love with wine and this work – which is not terribly surprising as she grew up inside and around it – and attended the University of Tarragona enology program with colleagues from Vall Llach and Sangenis i Vacque.
Sandra Doix, the 6th generation of her family to make wine in Priorat – with cousins the Llagosteras – at Mas Doix, has just returned from maternity leave. With any luck, there will be yet another enologa to continue the family’s efforts in about 18 years.
We tasted all available wines including the Les Crestes 2013 (Robert Parker gave the 2012 a 94 and the 2010 a 92), Salanques 2011 and the Doix 2010 (rated 93 by Stephen Tanzer and 17.5 by Jancis Robinson), but the piece de resistance was the 1902 Centenary Carignan from 2010.
Yes, it’s named 1902 because the vines were actually planted in 1902. This wine is made of 100% Carinenya (Carignan) grapes from vines planted by the Doix and Llagostera ancestors at 500m altitude. This was the first planting following the phylloxera outbreak. It was a conscious decision for them to plant more Carignan than Garnaxa; there’s generally more in the Poboleda region.
The vines are free-standing (en vaso) and yield only about 300 grams of grapes each annually. When it drops below that, Sandra’s mother Maite – whose vine grafting skills are sought by viticulturalists from around the world – ensures the vines are safely re-grafted and that the roots survive, some of which are thought to extend as far down as about 40m.
“For us, it’s an honour to make this wine. It’s a way for me to give gratitude to my ancestors. This wine is a selection made from a selection; only the very best grapes are used.” There are only about 3 barrels of this produced each year and the bottles are all numbered.
Sandra recommends this wine be heavily decanted for at least 30 minutes and notes that for the first 5 minutes it’s open, the wine will be quite shocked.
There’s a strong salinity to this glass-staining, aubergine toned wine which I learned to associate with Carinenya during our time in Priorat. Initially giving us green olives and brine, the wine blossomed to fresh blackberry, purple plum and violets with fresh tarragon, licorice and cassis. There is a strong slate note that exudes llicorella, the local rock-based soil. The tannins are high but velvety and are balanced by good medium plus acidity; the structure is strong and yet it’s a tastefully delicate and fruity wine.
Drink now or can be cellared for 8-10 years. WSET Outstanding wine.