René Barbier: he has revived the Priorat and given it world recognition...
Because he was able - after continuous work of at least 30 years - to reconcile long and old traditions and ultimate modernity, Rene Barbier is the winemaker who has conferred worldwide recognition to Priorat and has enabled this region on the wild hills above Tarragona, near the northeast coast of Spain, to become one of the most prestigious vineyards of Spain. Thanks to this Frenchman, originally from the Cotes-du-Rhone, who settled here in the 1980s, Priorat is today, with Ribera del Duero the country’s most visible wine region.
His wines have joined the elite group of Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Mas La Plana (high end Cabernet Sauvignon from Miguel Torres), whose international recognition is very strong!
Housed in an old property that he bought at Gratallops, he created his own vineyard: “Clos Mogador”, in this region known for its shale land. About 15 years ago, this village comprised of around one hundred inhabitants, now there are more than a thousand.
Rene Barbier studied in Burgundy, then at the University of Bordeaux before numerous apprentices across France, notably at Chateau Petrus!
In 1989, he harvested his first grapes, which came after ten years of hard work - during which he combined his work selling wine in the week and his passion developing his vineyards and building his house during the week-ends. In order to produce the best wine, Barbier uses the latest knowhow and technology and pays attention to details to the extreme: he promotes biodiversity by planting fruit trees, almond trees, olive trees and flowers between the vines. During harvest, he determines the exact timing for pruning each plant. Even better: the harvested grains are sorted by hand, one by one, before moving them into a vertical manual press, more than a century old, recovered from an old cellar. Other winemakers consider him an alien but he does not really care and he will certainly not stop distinguishing himself. In his vineyard, the tanks are made of wood or cement, never steel. Vinification takes place in open barrels and the wines are not filtered. In summary, the Master of Mogador revives the practices of a forgotten age, where the wine maker was working daily in his vines!
An act of love!
Making wine in this region is an act of love. You have to work the vines manually and yields are very low. The soil of these hills with steep slopes, often terraced, consists mainly of shale, where the deep roots penetrate the cracks in search of water during the dry summer months. The Siruana, a tributary of the famous Ebro, diagonally crosses the area, fed by the mountain streams. This gives a green appearance to the narrow valleys.
But the image of the wines of Priorat, fully cooked by the sun and with too much alcohol is also overly exaggerated because, although the Priorat region enjoys a Mediterranean climate - and thus plentiful sunshine – here the temperatures are moderated both by the humid winds coming from the sea and by the altitude. Naturally, the alcohol levels are relatively high, but this is the result of low yields producing high concentrations.