Priorat is an anomaly; both new and old, traditional and cutting edge. Located in a ring of mountains just south of Barcelona, the landscape is both breathtaking and austere. Its broken schist soils, ranged on precipitous slopes at 300 – 2000 ft altitude, are a testament to the most hardy of farmers.
Hot and arid, Priorat is famous for the sheen that illuminates the slate-like rocks in the evening sun, looking like the scales of a dragon who has burnt the landscape with its fiery breath. The name Priorat refers to the priories of monks who worked the land. They made strong, sacramental wines that naturally fermented to over 17 degrees alcohol and were capable of considerable ageing, becoming the iconic rancios that can still be found hidden in cellars in the tiny villages that dot the hills.
Then the famous vine diseases of 19th century Europe hit, and after two World Wars, what resources were left to work the tough land were pooled into the many local co-operative cellars. Fast-forward to the 1980s when René Barbier saw the potential of the region for high quality wines. Turning away from the commercial wine production of his family, he became an almost messianic figure for the region, complete with sandals and bushy beard. Acolytes and converts gathered and powerful, muscular wines were born from extremely low yielding vines lovingly crafted, and released in minuscule quantities.
José Luiz Perez was one of the original group to follow Barbier and he created Mas Martinet, now run by his talented daughter Sarah Perez. In 1996 Mr. Perez decided to rent the facilities of the abandoned co-operative of the town of Porrera, and create Cims, meaning 'summits', to celebrate the ancient local carinena vines. He worked with the local grape growers to identify the best and oldest plots, and enlisted his son Adria to create the wine. Now the growers are contracted to sell their total production to the project, and have started planting the hillsides again. It is a remarkable story of the regeneration of a town and its wine culture.