If you visit Montsant’s Vinyes Domènech, located in the southern portion of the winemaking district that nearly encircles Spain’s famous Priorat area like a talon, be forewarned that owner Joan Ignasi Domènech is likely to talk about… fertilizer.
Along with solar energy, water collection, and all things botanical. Long enough to really, really, really make you want to move away from the intensely pungent nearby piles of the stuff he has waiting to be spread out into his vineyards.
Domènech, who heads up the family-owned and operated Vinyes Domènech vineyard area - surrounded by the natural park beauty of the Llaberia and Montalt mountains at roughly 400 meters elevation - is a stickler for all-things natural, biodynamic, sustainable, organic, and conservatory.
Since 2002, this former technology sector worker has overseen some of the oldest vines in Capçanes, located in a spot in Spain so remote that it previously had no real supporting infrastructure of any kind. That Domènech didn’t have any previous experience in wine (aside from drinking it, and living near Priorat in Falset), or in reconstituting truly rugged landscapes, didn’t deter his enthusiasm for transforming a previously nearly-inaccessible fifteen hectares of land into what is now the handsome hamlet of Vinyes Domènech.
Domènech was, as he tells it, wooed by the natural beauty of the area after visiting it with his family on holidays. Luckily for us wine lovers, he happens to have access to Garnaxta perluga vines that are well into their elderly stage at this point (think 60-80 years old on average, and counting).
2016 Vinyes Domènech ‘Bancal del Bosc’ Garnatxa Blanca (Montsant)
Priorat-area fans are justifiably ga-ga over old Garnacha vine fruit, but its blanca equivalent can be equally as compelling - especially so in its later years of development, as evidenced by Vinyes Domènech’s releases that I tasted when I visited on a media tour. Their Bancal white wine is creamy, generous, harmonious, textured, and lovely. It’s also complex, with varying degrees of blossom, honey, peach, citrus, pear, lemon, herbs, and toast. Overall, it’s a beguiling white, provided that you’re grown-up and daring enough to venture into the more exotic fruit territory to which its unique palate is warmly inviting you.
2016 Vinyes Domènech ‘Rita’ (Montsant)
This ‘Rita’ is most certainly lovely (apologies, of course, to the Beatles, who I am sure did not have this wine in mind when they wrote the song Lovely Rita). 60+ year-old vines provide the fruit for this Garnaxta Blanca white, and only about one thousand bottles of this release were made in the 2016 vintage. Some of the vinification takes place in barrel, resulting in a silky, tropical, rich, and floral presentation that emphasizes the wine’s lemon cream flavors and aromas. Having said that, it’s not without its charm, by way of little tinges of herbs, minerals, and saline.
2015 Vinyes Domènech Vinyes Velles de Samsó (Montsant)
100% Carignan, with maybe 500 bottles produced in the vintage, from 80+ year-old vines. Domènech remarked, I think in equal parts joke, exacerbation, and pride, that it takes “five vines per bottle” to craft this smooth, elegant, spicy, and vibrant red. The plummy fruitiness is quite deep, the structure (this is still a baby) and power are ample, and the purity is enviable.
2014 Vinyes Domènech ‘Teixar’ Garnaxta Vella (Montsant)
Old vines from select plots supply the fruit for this spicy, savory, silky, sinewy, loud and long red. Red and black plums and cherries, violets, dried herbs, along with almost-but-not-really-overripe flavors make for a big, bold sipper. The long finish is a bonus, and is so good that you’ll forget all about the talk of fertilizer.