Guix Vermell Negre 2019, straight up and no gimmicks
Javier Luengo (@JavierGuiaPenin)
Every year in the Peñín Guide we nominate a small group of wines that, being tasted for the first time, signify a breakthrough in the area where they are produced. This may be on account of the way the producer works, the quality and expression of the wine, or all the mentioned reasons together. These are the wines nominated as revelation wines. These nominees may vary in number depending on the year. In some editions there have only been four wines, in other years five and on this occasion as many as six. The number depends on the number of wines that meet our criteria for nomination, which due to their groundbreaking nature are usually not very numerous. We now begin a sequence of articles where we will introduce you to this year's six nominees.
Our first nominee for the Peñín Guide's Revelation Wine 2021 is called Guix Vermell Negre, from the winery Terroir sense Fronteres. It is a wine made 100% from red garnacha from the 2019 harvest. What most caught our imagination was the great complexity offered by a wine from such a recent vintage as 2019. Accustomed to essentially finding fruit expression in these harvests, which can be more or less ripe, this wine introduced us to the Mediterranean landscape of Montsant. Hints of wildflowers, a whole lot of fruit, but also a mineral background and a final tension in the tannic structure that reminded us of the limestone soils of other parts of the world. We checked the label to see that we were indeed dealing with a "young" wine, as we were not used to finding such an expression in such a recent vintage. This led us to want to know more about the wine. We did some research on its production and we found out that, not only is it worked under the principle of minimum "reasonable" intervention - and be it said that we never associated this wine with a "natural" style given its cleanliness and limpidity - but also that it had also been made in an amphora, excluding any oak maturation. And that's how we discovered that this project does not work with wood as part of a commitment to show the wine as it is without external additions of any kind, just grapes, soil and climate.
In terms of winemaking, it should be noted that Guix Vermell Negre 2019 undertook whole cluster fermentation using ambient yeasts in an amphora, where it was aged before bottling.
The Terroir sense Fronteres project, owned by Dominik Huber, is located in a small appellation whose youth has not prevented it from gaining prominence by leaps and bounds. We are talking about Montsant, which despite having been officially created in 2001 and being a neighbour of the prestigious DOQ Priorat, it has raised a voice and made itself heard through its versatile and varied wines, the result of the wide range of soils and altitudes that prevail in the area.
Dominik Huber and Tatjana Peceric, Terroir sense Fronteres
In Priorat, Dominik has managed to make a name for himself through uncommonly subtle wines, in an area where robustness and structure, with greater or lesser finesse, was the trend. This is how he managed to launch, together with South African winemaker Eben Sadie, a new version of Priorat through the Terroir al Limit project. A thorough work that initially counted with some boycotters. All that is now a long way off, and today Terroir al Limit is deservedly an essential project to understand Priorat and its expressive ability, much wider and more interesting now than in the Eighties.
Dominik tells us that when he bought the Manyes vineyard in 2016 where old Grenache vines grow at 800 mamsl, as part of the deal he included a 4 hectare plot just 500 metres away from Manyes, but already within the D.O. Montsant. Here, the twisted old vines and the red clay on the surface and gypsum in the subsoil gave him no choice, it had to be made and bottled to see its potential. Its inclusion in the D.O. Montsant allows it to opt for earlier harvests, as the minimum alcohol requirement of its wines is more flexible than in neighbouring Priorat, allowing it to explore other paths in search of freshness and subtlety.
For this new adventure, Dominik wanted the project to be led by Serbian winemaker Tatjana Peceric, who has worked with him for six years now and with whom, in Dominik's words, he shares the "vocation of making wines to accompany the most sincere and straightforward modern cuisine. If Dominik is in charge of making the wines of Terroir al Limit, Tatjana does the job for those of Montsant, a combo that seems to be giving excellent results.
Dominik's evolution over all these years has been evident, first in his Terroir al Limit wines, where over the years the wines have adapted better and better to the terroir, preserving their minimalist style, but gaining in depth on the palate. As he puts it, "the future of the winery moves towards the complete disappearance of oak. The idea is to work with cement for all wines". In fact, for Les Manyes 2016, 99 points in Peñín Guide 2020, he already worked only with cement, a demonstration that this methodology is capable of showing the essence of a vineyard without any make-up. The ageing capacity of these wines remains to be tested, but in Dominik's opinion it is very good, "we have been working with cement since 2014 and these wines are very elegant, with a lot of acidity. We extract less each year and the wines are increasingly electric".
Guix Vermell Negre 2019 is, as its creator puts it, an electric, expressive and territorial wine. A pure wine in its broadest sense. Pure, in that it minimises its production in order to interfere as little as possible in its conversation with the consumer, where the place, its environment and its grapes are paramount. The first vintage of this wine was bottled in 2017, but it took two vintages for us to come face to face with it and, in view of the result, it was worth the wait.
Only 1,100 bottles of this wine have been produced and it is sold at a price of 248 euros.