Although we have always tasted Mas Doix’s latest vintages on release – and have been consistently blown away by their quality and anticipated ageing potential – we finally had the opportunity to confirm how epic these wines really are with some bottle age.
In celebration of the 20 year anniversary of winery Mas Doix, we were honoured to welcome founder Valenti Llagostera to our London HQ this week. He hosted a very special tasting through a vertical of different Doix cuvees “through the ages”, including the incredibly rare 1902 cuvee – a 100% Carignan wine made from vines planted in 1902 – and the even rarer 1903 cuvee (with just 940 bottles produced a year!) made from 100% Garnacha.
The concentration and textural finesse of these powerful wines is absolutely magical with 10-15 years of bottle age. Even the mid-range Salanques wines, at 16 years of age, are delicately structured, bursting with a concoction of primary and dried fruit flavours and tertiary earthy development – all bristling with a bright mineral-laced acidity. At this age the texture becomes something else. Wow. If you were to compare these wines to some of the world’s top examples of Chateauneuf-du-Pape at a similar bottle age, these wines would easily stand their ground.
Valenti was keen to dispel the negative connotations Priorat has garnered since the clos-led revolution of the 1990s that first put the region on the fine wine map. He believes too many producers were picking the grapes overripe and dousing these already sweet wines with too much new oak. However on tasting the wines from Mas Doix, these preconceptions are instantly dispelled. Whilst being powerful and full-bodied, the wines lift the palate rather than over-saturate it. The textural finesse is truly extraordinary. Even in their youth the tannins are structural yet incredibly fine and with age they integrate beautifully with the fruit and become so deep and multilayered. The wine leaves the palate salivating with a beautiful mouth-watering acidity – even with significant age.
The History of Mas Doix
Mas Doix is one of the few wineries whose family history pre-dates the phylloxera epidemic that turned a thriving wine community – at one point the largest exporter of wine in Europe – into a ghost region in a matter of 3-4 years in the late 1800s. Valenti’s grandfather Juan Doix was one of the few remaining vignerons who replanted vines in 1902 on the American rootstock and continued to make wine at the cooperative through the 1900s when almost everyone else had deserted the region. A lot of the wine made at the co-op was sold in bulk to the Borderlais, adding colour and alcohol to Bordeaux blends throughout the twentieth century. As Valenti says, if you want to know what Priorat from the 1940s and 50s tastes like, you need to drink the Bordeaux wines of that time. It is these old vines that his grandfather planted and maintained, that are behind the quality at Mas Doix – a winery which Valenti set up 20 years ago to start producing and bottling his own wines rather than selling to the co-op.
The Mas Doix philosophy is an original one. With vine age so important in defining the region, and the Mas Doix 1902 vines in particular, Valenti has separated his different cuvees purely by vine age:
Salanques is his mid-range cuvee made entirely from vines that are between 70 and 90 years old in which the roots of the vines reach down 10 metres into the distinct Priorat terroir of Llicorella slate. These vines typically produce 500 grams of grapes per harvest which amounts to 1 bottle being produced from 2 vines worth of grapes. The assemblage is typically 65% Garnacha and 35% of Carinena. The higher proportion of Garnacha brings a beguiling perfume and very fruity palate (ripe strawberry and raspberry coulis) whilst with age becomes more earthy and layered. Even the Salanques has 50% new oak and all oak barrel aged giving the wine lovely ageing potential.
2016 – Already drinking beautifully, the wine has plenty of ripe red fruit, cooked strawberry, with a subtle floral lift and grilled herb aromas and velvet textured tannins.
2007 – Compared to the 2016 the texture has developed from velvet to silk and the primary fruit marries beautifully with dried spice and dry earth plus some leather notes. Incredibly harmonious and in its perfect drinking window with a lovely balance of both primary and tertiary notes.
2003 – The hottest vintage in Europe and yet this wine (although full of ripe fruit) retains wonderful acidity and a beautiful silk-like texture. The wine is fully mature, dominated by tertiary notes but is a beautiful spice box of flavours and a lovely texture.
The flagship wine of the property comes from vines aged between 80-105 years of age including the 1902 vines with roots reaching a staggering 18 metres into this pure slate rock, there is just 2% organic matter in these soils – it is basically pure rock not soil! Each one of these vines produces 200-300 grams of fruit each year, resulting in 4 vines producing just 1 bottle of wine. These tiny yields are extraordinary. The Doix cuvee typically has more Carinena than Garnacha in the blend, typically 60% Carinena and 40% Garnacha. According to Valenti, the Carinena provides a verticality whereas the Garnacha is more horizontal. The Carinena delivers herbs, flowers and spices on the palate as well as providing the mineral freshness; the Grenache adds perfume and plushness of red fruit flavours. The blend of the two works beautifully.
2015 – Wow! This wine is fantastic. A great vintage for Priorat with tremendous structure, depth and very pure fruit flavours. This wine will age beautifully. Such a high level of purity and even at this young age already very elegant.
2014 – A much cooler year in Priorat and it shows on the nose. Much more smoky and herbal, moss and wood smoke and the higher proportion of Carinena comes through on the palate with more mineral notes. It is a beautifully structured wine that will be fascinating to compare against the more fruit driven wine of the 2015 over the years to come.
2009 – Another warm year in Priorat and the wine is in a wonderful drinking window right now – reaching that mid life period where there is both subtle tertiary notes and primary characters vying for attention as the tannins have melded together providing a multilayered texture in the mouth. There is leather, chocolate, dried fruit and lovely glycerol rich silkiness on the palate and yet a saline induced slatey minerality on the finish. Beautiful.
2002 – Blind taste this and you would think it was a 2000 top classified growth Margaux. It has wonderful tertiary, smoky, earthy, cedar box notes so typical of aged Claret allied with an incredibly silk-like texture and richness of fruit at the core of the palate. In its perfect drinking window right now with a wonderfully complex palate. Amazingly Valenti describes 2002 as being a catastrophic vintage in Priorat with the wines quickly forgotten about after the vintage. Yet Valenti was pleasantly surprised how these wines have developed with some bottle age.
2015 – Just 3 barrels are made of this exceptional wine each vintage. 100% Carinena, the wine has tremendous verticality – as Valenti says the wine just grounds you. Already the aromas exude florality – with tons of violets, grilled herbs, licorice root, a veritable spice box of aromas – it is so complex. The palate is beautifully structured yet the tannins are so elegant and fine.
2016 – Just a single barrel of this 100% Garnacha is made each year – the 2016 being only the second vintage of the wine that has ever been produced. Where the 1902 (Carinena) offers incredible verticality, the Garnacha offers more of a horizontal profile, more overtly generous in its fruit profile with juicy ripe red fruits of great purity and a beautiful fragrant perfume.
Priorat’s history is a fascinating one, and if you missed our in depth interview with Valenti last year about the rise and fall (and subsequent clos-led revolution) you can check it out here. Tasting just how well these wines age is a complete revelation and these wines deserve a place in everyone’s fine wine collection.
We have an extremely limited set of Collection Cases of both Doix and Salanques, which we plan to release shortly. We also have an extremely limited allocation of the 1902 cuvee (2015 vintage). Get in touch with your Account Manager to express your interest.