Mas Doix is a small family winery located in the north-east part of the Priorat at Poboleda. The Doix family have been in Priorat for generations since 1850, and making wine over the same period, and they united with the Llangostera family to create the latest incarnation of the estate, which they established together in 1998 to make wines from their own vineyards again having supplied fruit to the local co-operative for many years, a decision forced upon their forbears by the devastation of phylloxera in the early part of the 20th century.
Replanting soon after the cataclysm, the family chose the garnacha and cariñena varieties traditional to the region, and that unwillingness to give up in the face of extreme adversity, as many did at that time, has benefited the current generations in the form of old vines, some up to 100 years old. Today Valenti Llagostera runs the estate with the important help of his brother Ramon and winemaker Sandra Doix Mora.
This is difficult terrain, appearing to be wave after wave of rocky ridges and ranges, largely formed of ‘comas’ that are steep-sided flat mountain valleys where slate and granite soils are prevalent. One particular soil is almost unique to the area, known locally as llicorella, a kind of decomposed slate and schist that is acidic and low in nutrients. It offers excellent drainage and is friable enough for the vines the push down deep roots, which they have to do to survive here.
Priorat is a region where two climates meet, one of continental inland heat and one of Mediterranean influences with the latter just winning out. The mountains in the north of the region shelter the vineyards from the cold, dry north-westerly winds while cooling breezes from the Med are very welcome. The altitude of the vineyards here, at between 350 and 500 metres above sea level , and those continental influences help to explain the big swings between the heat of the day and cool, acidity-promoting nights that see the grapes mature well but slowly and with lovely poise between richness, intensity and freshness.
Yields are low, in part because of the care taken in the vineyards but also because the conditions naturally limit them in these arid, unirrigated vineyards. The focus is on carignan and grenache, though other varieties are planted and blended, because they are so well suited to this unique and difficult terroir.
The Doix and Llagosterra families own some 20 hectares of their own vines, and have a further 10 hectares under their control. All the fruit is hand-picked thanks to the nature of the terrain, enabling careful selection of the grapes in the vineyard and then again berry by berry at the winery, where the bunches are also destemmed. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled vats with the caps held under the surface of the wine to prevent oxidation. The free-run juice is run off and a decision is later made on whether to use any of the press wine, which is not always the case. All the juice is moved by gravity alone. Oak ageing follows in old or new French oak barrels for between 10 and 16 months depending on the cuvee. Finally the family gather in order to blend the barrels, with unanimous agreement needed before they are happy.
Such precision and care is what sets the wines of Mas Doix apart.