Spanish legend and Château Petrus-trained René Barbier’s ancient-vine Garnacha, the the El Espectacle del Montsant, has been earning jaw-dropping scores recently, and the praise is getting more effusive. In 2014—rated a superior vintage—the gnarled 100-year-old vines on the dramatic slopes eke out minimal fruit of supreme concentration, which Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate describes as “close as it gets to the Hermitage hill or Côte-Rôtie.” The team from Barbier’s revered Clos Mogador crafts the entire “Espectacle” production in one single 4,000-liter oak vat. Parker’s Advocate rated it 97 points, calling it “serious, balanced and austere,” and a “closer expression of Espectacle, with contained ripeness and an earthier, more mineral finish.” Comparing it to other recent vintages, “I give the edge to the 2014.”
The high-altitude Montsant region achieved a milestone when it earned its own designation in 2002. But since then, DO Montsant has found itself overshadowed by its neighbor, DOQ Priorat: In mere decades, it rocketed from unknown to producing what Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson call “some of Spain’s most exciting, and most expensive, wine.” That rapid rise, they marvel, “was inspired by one man.”
That man is René Barbier, the French-educated enologist who worked at Petrus before focusing on—and revolutionizing—Priorat. Barbier saw something world-class in that region, and now he sees the same thing in Montsant, where “Espectacle” is proving him prescient once again. His team from Clos Mogador hand-harvests the daunting 5-acre plot in La Morera, then reduces the miniscule yields with two rounds of selections. The wine ferments, then ages 14-16 months in the same French oak vat. The world sees a paltry 500 cases, most of which are consumed in Europe.