Venus La Universal | A Tale of Two Winemakers in Catalonia

venus la universal vineyard with two owners

One of the best-known wine producers in the Priorat appellation, Venus la Universal is located in the picturesque hills of Montsant in Catalonia, on beautiful, unique (but unpredictable) terroir.

Two Stories, One Winery

Founded in 1999, the Venus la Universal estate is the result of two well-known personalities in the wine industry coming together: Sara Perez and René Barbier Fils.

René Barbier grew up in the world of wine. He is in fact the fourth generation of the Clos Mogador estate (Priorat and Monsant). Taught by his father who bears the same name, he has been developing his passion for and understanding of wine for more than 20 years.

Sara Pérez, his wife, is a well-respected name on the Spanish wine scene; she is both an oenologist and a researcher, and is also the daughter of José Luis, Priorat winemaker of choice for many, running Mas Martinet.

With wine running through their veins, expectations were high for the pair, but they certainly did not disappoint. Their wine is revered by many, including us at iDealwine!

Making Magic

After working in the cellar for the first ten years, René felt the need to return to the vines themselves and decided to take over a small, abandoned plot. In 2001, he bought an old coastal vineyard called El Bellvisos. However, he was soon confronted with a piece of land that had never before been farmed or even ploughed: creating terrasses from nothing was certainly a challenge for the young winemaker! It was at this key moment when Sara joined the adventure, together they decided to introduce an eco-friendly and sustainable approach to every aspect of their venture.

« Starting from scratch », is an expression that sounds positive at first, but the unpredictable soils very quickly became a major challenge for the two owners. « At the time, I saw it as a positive thing, but over the last ten years, the work in the field has faced three major snowballing problems: erosion, low biodiversity within the plot and the loss of soil structure…,” said René Barbier.

And yet, they haven’t given up…

 

Authentic terroir

Venus La Universal is a small property with four hectares located in the commune of Falset and spread over five parcels. The vines are planted on the steep slopes of the coastline, made up of schist and red slate known locally as « llicorellas », soil typical of Priorat. The llicorellas is oriented to the north and benefits from cooler temperatures that come with shorter sun exposure during the day. The soils are varied and rich, resulting in wines of great diversity, distinctive but also particularly complex.

Respect for the environment is the watchword at the estate. The vineyard is farmed organically and respects the principles of biodynamics, the vines have never seen even the smallest hint of pesticides or fertilizers. The soil is ploughed by horse and plant infusions are applied when treating the vines.

According to René, these principles are essential as they guarantee the authenticity of the terroir and therefore the authenticity of the wines.

They grow Carignan, Merlot, Syrah, Macabeu and White Grenache. They have also recently introduced Monastrell, a rare variety native to Priorat.

 

Environmental Policy

Eco-friendliness and sustainability in the vineyard and the winery, for sure. But the green ethos at Venus La Universal goes much further than this. Logistical issues such as transport, bottling, water and electricity consumption and waste reduction are all included in the estate’s policy to ensure the greatest possible respect for the environment.

« René and I decided a few years ago that we would try to go through this world leaving emotional and not a material legacy, » said Sara Pérez. They use only low energy materials to create their wines.

A terroir, an intuition, a signature

After manual harvesting, the grapes are placed in vats and fermented naturally under the influence of indigenous yeasts and in whole bunches when the vintage permits. For the red wines, light punching of the cap is carried out to favour a gentle extraction. The wines are aged in a wide variety of containers, either in vats, oak barrels or amphorae, for several months (the length of time varies according to the cuvée).

The moment of tasting is a key stage in the elaboration of the wines, where intuition and feeling map out the decisions…

 

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