Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Ricard Rofes is the viticulturist of Scala Dei, a seminal producer of the Spanish DOCa Priorat, ushered in the new generation of Spanish producers that bowed to tradition without succumbing to the whims and seduction of the wider market. Rather than employing the use of pesticides and fertilizers as some of his neighbors did, Rofes maintained the old-world style of winemaking with old vine viticulture and low-intervention cellar work. Rofes is a great example of wine being made in the vineyard.
Between two worlds, Ricard Rofes is maintaining the tradition that ushered in his own contemporary style of viniculture without contradiction. To this end, he preserved the old vines of the Carthusian monks that first established vineyards in 1194 where his plots stand now. He also revered the previous vintages of Scala Dei that focused on the Grenacha Negra grape with the support of the Carignan grape. He uses cement fermenters and large barrels to step back from the the big flavors of Spanish wine of the most recent decade by going back to 1970's that survived while unrealized by the US market until after 2000. The Scala Dei wine experience spoke to Americans' palates as their Priorats spoke to the serious and ageable wines that critics embrace.
As a ladder to God (how the translation is understood), Scala Dei has long represented the resistance to producing bulk wine since this time, and the appointment of Rofes has ushered in an uncompromising yet savvy steward of Priorat, ensuring the status of the Priorat brand for decades to to come. With little intervention in the vineyard and cellar, Priorat was assumed to be closer to the natural vinification methods than the rest of Spain. But will Ricard Rofes long game pay dividends when the export market demands low-cost wines with big oak flavors? Only time will tell.
~Daniel, Our New York and Washington Wine Buyer