I made the arrangement for a tour and tasting at world renowned Clos Mogador several months prior to our January 2015 arrival in tiny Gratallops, population a mere 260.
As we walked through the gate, I wondered aloud, “Do you think René Barbier might actually be around today when we’re here?” I immediately answered myself, “No…I’m sure he has people to do that for him…”
Two other visitors who arrived too late to take part in our vineyard tour with Katja-I-came-for-wine-but-stayed-for-love Simon, went in the van on a wildly precipitous, heart palpitating ride led by Barbier himself (apparently his driving skills are, umm, suspect). I’m not sure they benefited from arriving late or paid for it. Either way, they looked a little pale when they finally got back to the bodega.
So many have written at great length about René Barbier, about how he, along with colleagues including Alvaro Palacios and Daphne Glorian resurrected Priorat’s traditional wines and took them to the world. We visited Daphne Glorian’s home a few days later and heard similar stories.
But during our three hour stay, the stories abounded – the side-splitting tales of Barbier Sr’s harrowing driving ‘skills,’ playing chicken on the dangerously narrow roads with René Barbier, Jr, the continued use of the old Basque 1890s era press, and hearing how with one mule, it takes one and a half months to harvest their vineyards. We also went out to the hills to see the llicorella soils in action where rosemary, fennel and thyme grow in between the vines, some with roots extending down 20m, alongside wheat and 30 species of wildflowers.
Interestingly, it was poured last – after the structured, star anise, soy sauce and tar in the Manyetes 2011, and the classic, blackcurrant, berry, thyme, sage and violet-tinged Mogador 2012 – because “We like to show it stands up to the reds.” And that is saying something, because it is strong, structured, and does stand up – yet it also exudes a softness through the White Garnaxa base with Macabeu and Escanyavelles.
The Nelin 2012 is a medium shade of lemon with a nose that shows Chenin Blanc-like minerals and apples with soft Meyer lemon, orange blossom, and an aromatic fennel and dill. There’s more of the same on the palate along with a honeyed expression and although the alcohol is 15%, it’s not hot.
It’s a striking wine – creamy and waxy with the fruit, slate and herbs all layered atop each other – standing, proudly, on its own.
WSET Very Good Plus