Clos Mogador Gets its Priorat-ies Right
© Clos Mogador | Vineyards are hewn out of the striking Priorat landscape.
Now in full control of the estate, René Barbier Jr. opens up about winemaking, Priorat and life in Catalonia.
Interview by W. Blake Gray
Posted Saturday, 26-Jan-2019
René Barbier Jr. has taken over the winemaking from his father at one of Spain’s most critically acclaimed wineries, Clos Mogador. At least that’s true according to the website, although the US importer claims René Sr. is still running the show. Youth will have its day: whether it’s a done deal or still mid-transition, René Jr. is the future of Mogador.
Growing up as the son of one of the men who put Priorat on the fine-wine world map, Barbier is not short of opinions. In fact, it’s a little scary when a man with such a big personality keeps saying: “You should meet my wife. She has a big personality.”
I had the opportunity to ask Barbier about how Clos Mogador and Priorat are changing rapidly, because of market success, changing tastes, and the Catalan independence movement. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
Why do you call it “Clos Mogador” when it’s not a true clos? (A “clos”, in French, is a vineyard enclosed by a wall.)
That was the idea of my father. Most of the wines in Priorat at the time were blends from everywhere. My father wanted to focus on one place. My father thinks clos is a good word. Everybody thinks clos means single vineyard. It’s good for export because it means “one place”.
What kind of taste profile are you trying to achieve?
I don’t really like fruity wines. The fruit is not important. Texture. Salty. What’s very important to me is a long fermentation: six months to a year. It gives you a texture like Champagne.
How do you get fermentations that long?
A lot of alcohol. If you don’t add yeast, it’s very difficult for the yeast to finish the fermentation.
How is your mix of grape varieties changing?
The big difference is Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2001 it was 35 percent. Now it’s 5 percent. We turn all the Cabernet Sauvignon to Grenache and Carignan. I add Carignan in ’99. I taste some new producer in ’98 and it’s better than my wine, and it had Carignan. Remember, 20 years ago Carignan was (considered) bad. But Carignan is perfect with Grenache. Now it’s 25 percent Carignan, and in the future we’ll have more Carignan.
For Carignan, it’s very important to have poor earth. Because if Carignan makes big bunches, it’s not very good. Carignan must be concentrated. If you think about Carignan in the south of France, very flat, big vineyards, it’s impossible to make good Carignan. But if you are on a mountain, Carignan can be very good.
What makes your wine unique?
The terroir is more important than the wines. I think it’s important to explain to the consumer that (other new Priorat wines) are not on schist. But it’s not on the label. Clos Mogador, it’s schist. But it’s not on the label. But for me, that’s the most important thing. Terroir is the most important.
The personality of schist is unique. When I put my nose in the wine, I say, ‘That’s schist.’ I like in blind tasting when I can say, ‘That’s Barolo. That’s Amarone.” To me that’s more important than the quality. Sometimes I love the wine but I don’t know if it’s Priorat or Madrid or somewhere else.
How is Priorat changing as a region?
In the beginning we all had a very clear idea. We had a lot of oak in the beginning. The wine was for aging. Now, almost nobody has new oak. I use no new oak. After my father introduced techniques from Bordeaux, big wines – that was the future. Now there are many options. Many things. They may be the future for Priorat.
The climate is changing but I love that because we get more and more concentration. Concentration is not easy.
How is Catalonia’s independence movement affecting Priorat (which is in Catalonia)?
Seven years ago, Catalonia was the best market for Rioja in the world. Now the Catalan guys all drink Catalan wine. But the Spanish guys, they used to drink Priorat, but now they don’t. I am a producer and my wines are affected, a lot. In Priorat we always export wines. Now we have to.
What do you drink at home?
I never drink Priorat. I like the opposite of my life. I like Barolo. Burgundy. They’re very different from my wines.