Friday, March 6, 2020

Joan Ignasi Domenech, Spain’s “Father of Grenache “ by Philip S. Kampe

                               The Domenech Family-Joan Ignasi, Edgar and Rita

Its no wonder that at my last visit to Vinyes Domenech, located close to Capcanes, Priorat (DO Montsant), nearly ten years ago, was one of the most memorable vineyard visits in my lifetime.

During that visit, Joan Ignasi Domenech poured a glass of  White Grenache  for me, The wine, RIta, was named in honor of his lovely wife, Rita, who is the backbone of the family operation.

Today, he poured a glass of Rita, which we consumed with Rita and son, Edgar. We discussed how far he has come during the past ten years. In a true philosophical manner, Joan Ignasi Domenech said, ‘ I know less now, then when we started this vineyard in 2002..’We smiled, knowing his progress from  an environmental guru to winemaker was on the fast track.

Domenech wines are out of the ordinary. Each wine-especially the Grenache focused wines are like a Broadway production. Each one is a hit, starring Grenache Peluda (hairy Grenache), Grenache and White Grenache  as headliners and Carignan and Samso as understudies.

Vinyes Domenech is located in the middle of a protected natural forest,  about 1500 feet (450 meters) high, in-between the mountains, La Serra de Llaberia and Montalt and only six miles (10km) from the Mediterranean Sea.

The drive to the vineyard, which has 90 parcels, spread out in 150 acres (60 hectares) was through forests of pine trees, holly bushes and herbaceous undergrowth. With nature and the environment as priorities, Vinyes Domenech embodies biodiversity with organic, sustainable farming.

Grenache is Joan Ignasi Domenech’s obsession.

Joan and son, Edgar, boasted about the diversity of soil types on each parcel- the result of diversity  is our objective- Grenache that expresses what each parcel represents, its microclimate, its herbaceous landscape, the altitude and its topography.

To achieve these goals, which is scientific in nature, the vinification process comes at the end of the winemaking process. With this in mind, we try to achieve wines that mirror the landscape.

After a long dissertation on the soils that make up the 90 parcels, Edgar explained that some soils are limestone with carbon build-up following periods of glacial meltdown, other soils have undergone a process of de-carbonation, while other parcels are rich in clay and chalk and others are made of eroded material from mountain slopes.

With its soil complexity and hard work, Joan Ignasi Domenech talks about Grenache in these words: “There is no greater praise for Grenache than to allow it to express its elegance, its landscape and its origins, ultimately, its geography.” It’s easy to acknowledge  that Grenache is his life.

The Domenech family comes from nearby Falset.

As mentioned earlier, they purchased the vineyard in 2002. The vineyard is one of the oldest in Capcanes, supporting old Grenache vines that thrive in the diverse soil that benefits from the unique microclimates that surround the vineyard.

The vineyard is away from civilization.

Its this peaceful, natural environment, sustainable, organic practices matter.

The Grenache wines from Vinyes Domenech and its various shades of red clay are richer, deeper in color and extremely aromatic than other Grenache producers. Many natural herbs that grow in the vineyard, transfer their flavors to the wines, adding complexity to both the aroma and to the palate.

Joan explained that the temperature variations accounted for the soft, juicy, velvety tannins that make up his Grenache varieties. The juice is gravity fed and when irrigation is necessary during the hot summers, stored rainwater is used. Its stored in something that looks like a swimming pool. Rainfall is scarce. The microclimate favors slower ripening (October harvest) and maximum expression for the Grenache variety.  Deep roots attract the flavors and aromas of the wild herbs that grow freely and are mulched  on the property, as well as the numerous olive and almond trees that dot the property.

The vineyard follows the lunar calendar. Organic viticulture prevails. Natural resources reduce environmental impact.  Vinyes Domenech is in tune with nature and the environment. The wines are the proof of Joan Ignasi Domenech’s obsession.

Why not try these recommended wines from Vinyes Domenech:

Teixar (100% Grenache Peluda) 70 year old vines,15% abv, Calcareous soil
Furvus (90% Grenache, 10% Merlot) 40 year old vines, 15% abv, Calcerous soil
Boig Per Tu  (Grenache Tinta, Grenache Peluda, Samso) 15% abv, Calcerous-Claygilos
Ban all Del Bosc (La Grenache, Grenache Peluda, Carignan) 14.5% abv, Four different soils
Rita (White Grenache) 14.5% abv, (100% small grain White Grenache) Three different soils
Ban all Del Bosc Blanc (100% White Grenache) Clay-Calcareous
Vinyes Velles De Samso (100% Samso) 14% abv, Calcareous clay and red clay
Vi D’Amfora Natura (100% Grenache) 15% abv, Calcareous clay
Empelts (100% Grenache Peluda) 15% abv, Calciferous clay
Vinyes Velles De Macabeu (100% Macabeu)
Roast De Mitjanit (100% Grenache Peluda) 14.5% abv,  Calcareous clay
Vi Dolc Natural De Garnatxa (100% Grenache)

If you are as intrigued about the Grenache grape as Joan Ignasi Domenech, schedule a visit to the vineyard. It will be a memorable visit, one to remember for a lifetime, like I did. You can contact them at:
Telephone +34 932 118 893
Address: Cami del Collet, 1
43776 Capcanes

Its easy to see from  this photograph, the soil composition and the old Grenache vines that make up the parcels at Vines Domenech.

Philip S. Kampe

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