A few years ago, two friends were traveling through Spain. Vineyards they saw in every part of the country. Jumilla, Malaga, Jerez, near Madrid, Rioja and finally: Priorat, Catalonia. Vineyards to harvest grapes. Some huge, worked by machines, owned by capitalist robots. Others very small, received love from bare hands, owned by passionate people.
Less is more. That is the motto of vines. They produce the best grapes when they grow on poor soil. That way the roots have to go deep and work hard to find nourishment. When the grapes start to grow, the plant distributes a quantity of nutrition over those grapes. Now it is the winemaker's choice whether to divide this nutrition among a whole bunch of grapes, or whether to cut off half of those grapes and give each grape more nutrition. Suppose he chooses the latter, then those grapes are much tastier than if he had grown all the grapes. The other side of the story is that by choosing half as many grapes, that ultimately also means half less wine. The winemaker therefore chooses between, for example, 4 liters of medium wine or 2 liters of higher quality wine. In short, less is more.
The best memory of the two friends was in Priorat, a small wine region in the mountains near Tarragona. Nature, small villages, mountains and vineyards on steep slopes. That's Priorat. Mountains and vineyards indeed, so not the vineyards we know from France and Rioja. Priorat has no expansive fields. The vineyards are planted on steep slopes, impassable for machines, on the rugged but elegant Llicorella ground. The friends were curious about this wine region and she went to the village of Porrera to visit a winery. Porrera is such a typical village in a wine region where everyone has something to do with wine. Many people work for one of many wineries, or they work in a bar or restaurant serving those wines. On a small picturesque square, the friends found a wine shop where all the wines of the village were sold. A few stories and sips of wine later, the friends asked the friendly woman at the wine shop if she knew of a winery that could give us a tour and tasting. After a few phone calls it was settled.
Winemaker: “You can taste this wine here too!”
Visitor: “No thanks. I still have to drive”
Winemaker: “Oh, don't worry! The corners are exactly the same on the way back.”
Ten minutes later, a pickup pulls up outside the wine shop and an apparition enters the shop that didn't remind us at all of a typical winemaker. Forget the image of a Frenchman with a beret and a mustache. This was really a winegrower named Joan. Joan took us in the pickup to his vineyards. He drove way too fast on those narrow roads into nature. Once in the vineyards, Joan told his story to the friends. Before the 90s, no one had ever heard of Priorat outside of their own region. The wine was worth little and there were actually a lot of hazelnut trees. In the late 90s, he and his family decided to buy a vineyard for a good price to make wine for themselves and the people of the area. When the status of Priorat was raised from DO to DOCa* in 2000, the demand for its wines started to grow immensely. His daughter went on to study oenology (Science and Study of Wine) so that she could improve the quality of her family's wines. Today it is still a family business. Joan, his wife and daughter do everything themselves in the bodega. The only outside help is from volunteers and fellow villagers who help with the harvest, but Joan would prefer to do it all herself. Joan is definitely one of the passionate winemakers category.