Joan Ignasi Domènech
The idea behind our ‘Interview the Winemaker’ series is simple, we view all of the wines that we sell as stories from the bottle and we want to show our customers the real stories, families, and people behind some of the best.
One of the very finest of these, is, of course, Joan Ignasi Domènech. He is one of the most respected and hardworking winemakers in Montsant, creating waves across the globe with his fabulous wines, all made, with the help of his wonderful family. Leaving his old life behind him in 2002, he embarked on an epic journey, one which led him back to his roots in Falset. Read on to find out what makes this humble winemaker, one of the most influential in Catalonia.
Q. Thank you so much, Joan, for taking the time to talk with us! We always enjoy speaking with you and hearing all about your wonderful projects. So, let’s get going! In 2002, you left a very different life working in IT & Natural Resources. How did you arrive at that decision?
A. Yes! It was totally different, and of course, it was a total life change. Together with Rita (my wife) and my children, we decided to find a place where we could carry out a joint life project. A project and change like this is not possible without the support of your family. But, truly, it was more than just supporting me, from the first moment it was a joint project of the four of us.
Q. It really is incredible as it seems like you have been doing this since birth. It seems to us that your talent for making wines must have been born with you! When was the first moment you realised that this was your passion? You know that we love a good story!
A. My father’s family originally came from Falset, It is here where I spent the summers of my childhood. I loved the landscape, its people, the way of life. As the years go by, with time you discover that your life without your origins is a bit empty. Passion is the emotion that stimulates you to fight and to enjoy what you believe most. We had been looking for a vineyard that corresponded to our way of understanding the wines we wanted to make. We finally found a unique, wild landscape with a harmony that emerges only when you see it. A natural ecosystem with a great variety of flora and fauna and a particular microclimate thanks to its orography. An amphitheatre of great beauty protected by nature, a magical geographical point in short where we could develop our dream.
Q. Your vineyards are truly a stunning site. And the respect and care which you show them are admirable. What makes your vineyards so magical? You have been known to call them, your ‘very own Tuscany’ can you tell us what you mean by this?
A. The word that best defines it is magnetism, it is a set of elements that in harmony make things flow, geography, the specific point of its location forges the character of people but also of all the living beings that inhabit them. It’s orography, the light, wind, the richness of species, silence all around our vineyards that develops calmly and gives you diversity and balance.
I have always been impressed by the Mediterranean beauty of Tuscany and the care and care of its people for centuries. The Priorat is a privileged area with a landscape and a history that makes it unique in the world and that all of us who are there must take care of it and more importantly, protect it. In addition to that, for 10 years many have worked on the candidacy for Priorat-Montsant to be a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Q. A well-deserved recognition it deserves, we could not agree more. Your vineyard is one of the oldest in Capçanes, Priorat. However, you are within the DO Montsant since 2004, can you explain why this is to our readers?
The Priorat as a region has two denominations of origin DO Priorat and DO Montsant. The reason, we came to belong to the DO Montsant was the result of finding our Rincón in the Serra de Llaberia, which is a natural protected area within the Natura 2000 network. We did not choose an area that belonged administratively to one DO or another, this for us was a secondary issue.
Q. Thank you for explaining! So, tell us, Joan, what does a typical day look like for you in Vinyes Domènech?
A. A normal day of work is to talk with my team to organize the day since we depend a lot on the weather. We walk the vineyards, taste the wines, call customers. I get to do a little of everything! I have a little nature, the countryside, some travel, gastronomy… everything is a gift from life.
Q. Sounds like a perfect day! You seem to have everything so well balanced, not just in your day to day life but in your surroundings too. Your vineyards have adopted a programme of Ecological Viticulture and you also abide by the lunar calendar. Is this something that is very important for you? Do you believe this method improves the quality of the wines?
A. Yes, I do. We have been certified since 2007 by the CCPAE. I believe to work with the earth in relation to all the elements that influence it. The cosmos, the soil, the orography, the flora and fauna. To observe this biodiversity, then reflect and find answers for the management of the vineyard including the biodynamic preparations at the right moments. Fertilizers all influence the balance of the vineyard and is transmitted directly to the grape.
Q. And more than just the vineyard, your beautiful winery has been designed with the principles of Bioclimatic Architecture. You have won numerous awards for Sustainability because of this, what inspires you to do this?
Clear efficiency begins with the design of each process and each decision you make. We make the most of our natural resources, rainwater, light and solar heat to supply our production needs. Being a sustainable and self-sufficient energy warehouse is what our project has always been about and is of massive importance to us.
Q. Finally, it is time we spoke about your fabulous wines! The main player, of course, is the Garnacha. But not just the grape itself, but grapes which clearly convey the quality of their environment and soils so harmoniously. Where does your inspiration come from – what makes you want to create wines like this?
A. I have said it many times, the real creator is the millions of years that have been needed to create a space so complex geologically with more than 6 types of soils and with a vertical orography full of ravines and “singleras”. A unique variety, a mutation originating in Tarragona such as the Garnacha Peluda and poor soils, with little water retention give us some grapes that we must know how to work with without spoiling or diminishing their essence.
Our botanical eye is not betraying or masking the raw material, it allows us to develop the style of wine that transports us to our landscape. Mimetic wines with the landscape.
Q. You are so humble Joan! You really are a fabulous winemaker with so much respect for what you do. Tell us, do you have a favourite wine which you have produced – or which are you most proud of?
A. Wines are like your children. You love them all for whatever their personality may be, as long as you respect them, they always respond.
Q. From your previous work in IT and Natural Resources you must bring a lot of technical expertise into your work now as a winemaker. Does it help to analyse the correct formula for creating these great wines? For example, soil type / orientation / altitude etc.
A. All the enology I have learned from my collaborators, but the deep knowledge of the soils, the variety, the environment, the management of the vines, the moment of the harvest and the close relationship that exists between them are the key to achieving the maximum expression organoleptic in wines. And in the end, to be led by the intuition and emotions is what gives the wine a plus that makes it different.
Q. Teixar and Rita have gained almost a cult-like status. They are two of the very best wines to come out of Spain, not just Catalonia, why do you think they have achieved this level of status.
A. For moving to a specific place, for its honesty, its harmony and expressing the depth of the roots of old vines, its complexity, they identify with the Mediterranean.
Q. You also work with smaller parts of other grape varieties, out of all that you have worked with which has excited and challenged you the most? Aside from your infamous and beloved Garnacha, of course…!
A. The Carinyena and the Macabeu of old vineyards give spectacular wines, not as delicate and elegant as the Grenache but which also thrill expressing their Mediterranean identity.
Q. Speaking of Garnacha, many people associate you with this grape. You have been called the Master of Garnacha. Are you proud of this association?
A. I do not feel at all like the Grenache teacher. The word teacher involves much more than the knowledge that we can possess about something in particular. What I do feel, however, is satisfied with having collaborated intensively in the visualization of our variety par excellence and transmitting the quality of its wines and the social and economic importance of Grenache for the producing areas.
Q. You are also the President of the Terra de Garnatxas. Can you tell us a little bit about this association?
A. It all started with the little recognition that Grenache and its wines had in the world. I proposed to a group of Bodegas in Catalunya to create an Association to study, disseminate and market our wine culture, Mediterranean climate, native variety and quality wines.
This Association should cover all the Catalan territory with the regions where the Garnacha had prominence Montsant, Priorat, Empordà, Terra Alta, Penedes, Costers del Segre and establish connections and collaborations with all regions of the Grenache producing world to elaborate different work commissions and promotion and dissemination actions.
In these moments worldwide the most important actions are the Grenache World Contest organized by the Roseellò, the G-Night that are celebrated in the cities of the world coinciding with major events, such as the International Grenache Day.
Q. The association has recently released the incredible project ‘La Garnatxa Valenta’ a wonderful project to support a new hospital for children suffering from cancer. Where did the inspiration for this wine come from and was it an enjoyable experience collaborating with other wineries to create it?
A. Since its foundation, Terra de Garnatxes wanted to participate in a charity project and it was at the time it appeared, thanks to the Assossiació Molinenca de Tast, that we decided to participate in the La Garnatxa Valenta’ program of the Sant Joan de Deu Hospital.
Q. It is a wonderful wine and cause, we hope people get behind and support it! So, Joan as we come to the end of our interview, tell us, what do you see next for the Spanish Wine Industry? Where are we headed and are you happy in the direction it is taking? What obstacles do you think currently exist in the industry?
A. The main problem we have is to better position the country brand, put it into value and raise the average price more in line with the quality of the wines.
Q. We could not agree more, Spanish wines are now becoming some of the best in the world and the prices should reflect those increases in quality. Finally, and most importantly Joan, tell us, how did the 2018 vintage treat you?
After years of drought due to the effects of climate change and the decline in production, 2018 has recovered the parameters of previous rainfall, temperatures and production. The quality of the vintage has been excellent.
Thank you again for meeting with us and sharing so much interesting and valuable insight into what you and your family do. You truly are inspirational and we hope that the next few years are as good to you as the last.
If you want to learn more about the wines from Vinyes Domènech or Catalonia, why not join us for a wine tasting evening at the bodega. For larger groups, we can also organise visits to many wineries in Montsant or Priorat. Contact us for more information.
If you would like to purchase any of the wonderful wines from Vinyes Domènech contact us for prices and delivery options.
Love & Wine,