Les Argiles Negre
The meticulous, eccentric and dynamic Joan Asens has been an influential wine authority in Catalunya for more than two decades, and is locally known as the guru of biodynanmics. At the helm of viticulture and vineyard management for well acclaimed Alvaro Palacios in DOQ Priorat for nearly 18 years, Joan Asens has played a vital role in the realization of many of Spain’s most epic and prestigious wines. Upon officially returning home to his family’s vineyards in Mas Roig, Montsant in 2009, Joan began focusing 100% of his brilliance and energy on the cultivation of the exceptional vineyards of indigenous, ancient varieties that are the soul of Orto Vins. In partnership with his three local friends and their family’s vines, Joan and Co. have awakened a natural vibrancy and freshness not often encountered in DO Montsant. These natural by nature, focused wines of Orto Vins, woo your palate with their bright finish, low(er) alcohol, and delicate, floral, even elegant tannins. Joan and Co. are dedicated to elaborating pure wines following the traditional farming philosophies (and tools and machinery) of their great grandparents, honoring the biodynamic cycle of the moon. Leaving no grape behind, Joan begins a trickle harvest 3 weeks ahead of most, with daily picking and subsequent drying of all the little raisins that have formed within each cluster of these sunny Mediterranean bunches. From these early harvested, concentrated and dried grapes, Orto Vins makes two (white and red) very luscious dessert wines with a mild 15% alcohol. With every pass through the vineyard, with each pick, the vine’s energy focuses on the remaining fruit so that each grape is harvested at their optimum physiological ripeness. Not at all green, and never raisinated at the time of final harvest, their grapes are picked with their fate in mind. Orto Vins is the art of true vineyard selection and this meticulous process is crucial to the precisely balanced wines that define the stylistic finesse of Orto Vins. In fact, the winery is a garage. Literally, a mini industrial warehouse with plastic hanging to separate rooms. Amazing! Nothing really to see there really, the work, the essence of the project, takes place in the vineyards.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE? Orto is that very particular moment when the sun, or any star, meets the horizon and becomes visible in our hemisphere. Winemaker and Biodynamic guru, Joan Asens, was the viticultural manager and assistant winemaker for the venerable and famous Alvaro Palacios for more than 15 years. Joan and his crew harvest each vine several times over the course of 2-3 weeks before harvest making a different wine with each pick, including an early harvest dessert wine – crazy!
RATING HISTORY: 2015 91VM; 2014 90WA;
GRAPE: 90% Garnacha, 10% Carinena. Organically grown vines planted in 1994. Tended in clay soil at 170 m (557 ft) elevation. This is a vegan wine.
PRODUCTION: 800 cases (6 pack)
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE: Approximately 90 miles outside of Barcelona, in the heart of DO Montsant, is the very sunny, very dry, and very windy Mediterranean sub-zone of El Masroig. There, thrive the carefully tended vines of Orto Vins, which between their twelve different vineyards total approximately 20 hectares of biodynamically farmed vineyards anywhere between 18-100 years old. Planted in deep limestone and clay rich soils. At approximately 577 ft above sea level, this coastal region is the perfect climate for the cultivation of these local varieties.
TASTING NOTES: Bright violet. Fresh blackberry, licorice and candied flowers on the perfumed, spice-accented nose. Taut and lively in the mouth, offering juicy dark fruit and spicecake flavors that become sweeter as the wine opens up. In an elegant, energetic style, delivering firm closing thrust and spiciness on the persistent finish. -- Josh Raynolds.
All photos: Friederike Paetzold