2017 Venus la Universal, Montsant, $56
Winery Info: This winery is run by husband and wife team Sara Pérez and René Barbier both of whom come from legendary Spanish winemaking families.
Sara’s father is Josep Lluis Pérez, founder of Mas Martinet and René’s father (also René) founded Clos Mogador, two of the most highly regarded wineries the northeast Priorat region. Josep and René senior were instrumental in getting Priorat the acclaim it deserved. Sara now makes the wine at Mas Martinet and René at Clos Mogador. But for their joint project they chose the adjoining Montsant region. Venus, they say, is “the yearly result of our search for beauty. An attempt to interpret femininity and the earth through a bottle of wine.”
Grapes: 50% Garnatxa Negra (Grenache), 40% Cariñena (Carignan), and 10% Syrah. Aged in a 4500-liter wood vats for six months and an additional 12 months in 2500-liter foudres.
Vineyards: Sourced from vineyards owned by families in the region who farm exclusively for Sara and René in accordance with their rigorous ecological standards. The old vine Grenache and Carignan are planted on clay and calcareous soil. The Syrah comes from a small plot owned by Venus.
Flavor Profile: The deep clay and limestone soil allows for long, slow ripening during which the grapes develop added elegance and complexity. This wine is juicy and savory, with dark fruit, aromatic herbs, and classic Montsant minerality. The texture continues to evolve as the wine opens up.
Availability: After we picked this wine for the club, one of Seattle’s iconic restaurants chose it for their glass pour and bought the few cases that were left. So the distributor is completely sold out and apparently there is no more in the country.
Drinking Window: Enjoy now or up to around 2027.
Food Pairing: Created to be paired with food, especially traditional Mediterranean cuisine.
2020 Clos Sainte Magdeleine, Cassis Blanc, $41
Winery Info: Cassis is a small coastal village and tiny wine appellation in southeast France’s Provence region. In 1936 it became one of the first official AOCs in France (along with Tavel and Châteauneuf-du-Pape). There are only about a dozen vignerons producing AOC Cassis wines, and most of it is consumed locally. The Sack-Zafiropulo family of Clos Sainte Magdeleine have been making wine here for four generations. They have long been renowned for their ability to create wines of grace and finesse that deftly combine both raciness and richness. Today the estate is run by Jonathan Sack who took over from his father in 2008. He completed conversion to organic viticulture in 2012.
Grapes: 40% Marsanne, 30% Ugni Blanc, 25% Clairette, and 5% Bourbelanc. Fermented with native yeasts and bottled unfiltered.
Vineyard: Their vineyards, with clay and limestone soil, are located on a private cape with limestone bluffs overlooking the Mediterranean, and on steep terraces perched 400 meters above the sea
Flavor Profile: A lovely wine, with notes of ripe orchard fruit and wild herbs. While fresh and delicate, it has also has ample richness and texture and beautifully expresses the essence of Cassis. The limestone soil and the proximity to the sea adds minerality and a subtle saline finish.
Availability: This wine is in decent supply now and should be available for a while.
Drinking Window: Enjoy now or over the next two or three years.
Food Pairing: Enjoy it with fish, shellfish, or sushi. In Provence it is a perfect pairing for the local fish, Rascasse, a type of scorpion fish that is an essential ingredient in true Provençal bouillabaisse.