Rancio wine, good wine 

Evolution over time in specific conditions make certain wines age –and someone might rightly say embellish— in an extraordinary way.

Rancio wine is like a hidden treasure from the warmer regions with winemaking tradition.

A wine with brown, muddy, mahogany, bronze colours. Complex, sweet, toasted, dried tobacco, hydrocarbon bouquets with disconcerting acetonic notes at the beginning. Nuts, carob, toasted and bitter flavours, even with umami (“savouriness”) touches. A dense and sometimes rough texture, and a long-standing persistence in the mouth. A wine that requires its time in order to be enjoyed.

As a consumer, the approach to rancio wine can be slow, and it can even produce a certain confusion. In addition to that, there is also the quite pejorative connotation of the adjective rancio, at least nowadays. On one hand, it can initially create a discouraging perspective for the consumer. On the other hand, this name prepares the consumer to deal with a wine that is not common, and which is surely to surprise, where we can find volatile bouquets which might seem hostile at the beginning.

Once the initial barrier is overcome, little by little, a world of complexity and touches opens to us, which makes the person who has the patience of getting in finally appreciate this wine as a loyal and true table talk companion.

Historically, there are different names which make reference to this wine: vi de la bota padrina (“wine from the first barrel”), vi de la bota del racó (“wine from the oldest barrel”), vi bo (“good wine”) or vi de pair (“digestive wine”).

Those names indicate and give an idea of the role that this wine has played at an anthropological level.

Despite the distance from which we see it, we have a very strong link with rancio wine: the cultural factor. It is a cultural factor that we have been close to lose, and that we must not stop developing and taking care of.

Luckily, rancio wine in Catalonia has experienced a revival during the last few years. This rediscovery and appreciation of rancio wine has awaken interest and curiosity in recovering old barrels which were abandoned and almost unprotected in corners of family houses and wineries. In some cases, the lack of generational replacement has suspended a wine or barrels with the history of that family house or winery written on them in winemaking language.

The old barrels recovery work is a major effort that some brave winemakers have given to us. Balancing numbers can be a chimera considering the need to recover old and sometimes dry barrels. In addition, time is an indispensable element in order to incorporate the young wine which refreshes the mother of the barrel, with a hardly quantifiable value.

Luckily, there are many examples of enthusiasts working in Catalonia to bring to the sensitive consumer tables wines which have rested in dark rooms of the wineries in order to accompany the table talks with postres de músic (“nuts desert”), mel i mató (“honey and fresh cheese”), carquinyolis (“dry biscuits”), pastries or doughnuts.

As it happens, the sweet rancio wine that Sara and the Mas Martinet family take care of since more than 20 years ago is a jewel that shows the potential of these wines, and that puts it among the biggest oxidative wines in the world.

They are wine drops condensed over the years, it is the history of a region of the world and the grapes of a past time.

Bernat Guixer – Espiritu Roca. Celler de Can Roca




Today, we went to visit René Barbier, from Clos Mogador. The father. The founder. He has been now in Priorat for many days, but he still says he does not make part of the history of Priorat. We do not agree with him, because he is a big part of it, a part of its most recent history, but a part of its history after all.

He talked with us about rancio wines… We asked him if he wanted to collaborate with our blog, and he gladly agreed to do it: “I’ll do anything for Sara,” he told us.

And the first thing he did was to introduce us to the society Arrels del Priorat, a project which started approximately during the ‘90s to recover and promote rancio wines from Priorat (he put them on sale in internationally known places, like Harrods in London, or Galeries Lafayette in Paris). A project that he is currently managing with Jaume Balaguer (winery Balaguer i Cabré) in a small winery in Gratallops, and which has made him learn first-hand about the history of rancio wines from our region, from each town and from each house… The history of a time that has to come back, as he says. Arrels has allowed him to talk with the farmers who still have an old barrel at home, and who have let the old times behind, even though they still remember them. However, he recognised that it has been a project which has required them a big investment without any kind of repayment. A bottomless pit.

When he told us about rancio wines, he explained to us that “they are the tip of the iceberg of a forgotten world which I think will come back”. Arrels gave him the opportunity to select some rancio wines (12 in total from 12 different towns) and, with a representative drawing of each house done by Isabel, promote them. He wanted to place them in the best places in the world… but he was unsuccessful. Rancio wines are a product which needs to be put into a context, and which also has to be explained in order to understand it and fully appreciate it. The name is the first difficulty. Here, we are very clear about what we are talking about. However, internationally, wines like sherry or Vin Jaune are known… but not rancio wine. “It is an issue we all should think about,” he said.

He told us that rancio wine, apart from being a very local production, is also explained like a way of using the product, which in this case is the wine, as a whole. “There is a lot of imagination, and it is a heritage that farmers have managed to keep and transmit until now”. We set the history of these wines back in the agricultural lands from 1800 backwards, because forwards, in more recent times, the issue gets complicated. But before, rancio wines had a great logic. “All the work was done with animals, and the harvest was extended for more than 3 months…” “…we started next to the river, (…) from white wines. And it is not nonsense (…) it is very fresh. From the river we went up, that is to say, that a bit higher there were consumer wines, and they were fresh, a quality product. They always tasted good, because if they didn’t, they were vinegar, and if they were not vinegar, they were rancio wines (…) And November/December came, their drying/raisining process began, and sweet wines were made…”

They used the harvest in every possible way, and the sale was also adapted. We remembered the wineries in the cities, and he specifically remembered that, when he was young, there were wineries with their own rancio wine, their own barrels, their own fresh wines, sweet wines… “It was what corresponded to the grape harvest” “After a whole life in Priorat, you realise that things were not so badly done after all…” he added, amused.

Then, he compared wines with cheese, any kind of cheese that existed before, which was also a consumer product…. but it was slowly simplified, the different kinds of cheese were unified, and finally there were only 4 of them remaining. Now, we diversify again… and we cannot blame globalisation but economy for it. He talked about “economic engineering”. Looking for profitability, some of the richness of diversity has been lost. “It is like wanting to produce one wine only in the entire region of Priorat, in the cooperatives (…) I will be in trouble again (he laughs), but in fact, what they should have done is to produce the wines for the farmers and be an intermediary in order to promote this general globalisation, like with cheese (…)”.

However, he remembered that, at that time, people went to find the grapes with animals. The garnachas arrived at the cellar at 17 ºC, and the wine “needed time to yield”. “They were not scared like us”. They put the wine inside the barrel of rancio wine because it was not clear for them. There, inside the barrel, the amount of volatile compounds was reduced… the acids changed… the taste changed. It was turned into a rancio wine. What they needed to take into account was that they needed 3 litters of wine to produce 1 litter of rancio wine, because they worked with local chestnut wood. (Chestnut wood and rancio wine, an essential combination, he indicated). The work of the cooper was essential, because the barrels were in the attic, and with the dry weather that we have here, it meant having more wine and taking great care of the barrels. “If you were a cooper, you had to be everything”.

However, they obtained a unique product, a product which has already influenced the local cuisine. A symbol of our gastronomic identity. A very important product for local cuisine, either as a basis or as an accompaniment to a desert… like, for example, the nuts desert known as les postres de músic. Nevertheless, now that we have worked with this product, we realised that it pairs perfectly well with anchovies and artichokes (which are always so difficult).

And rancio wines were transmitted from parents to their children (it was that family recipe inherited over time). That wisdom that we appreciate so much in cultures different from ours, but that we also have.

Therefore, wen René convincingly told us that this history that we talk about has to come back, it is because, behind rancio wines, there is everything a territory wants: personality, tradition…

Profitability maybe is not as profitable when we lose this tradition and personality. “It is not globalisation that spoils things, but our way to understand it (…) You would need to flatten Priorat in order to be as profitable as other regions (…)”.

He thanks the project Arrels del Priorat for the fact of understanding the product, although he recognises that, over time, the essence has been lost. “Since modernisation, we haven’t worked the periods of the vineyard (…). In fact, we have fed this product with large amounts of wine (…)”. Now, lighter and more still rancio wines are being produced… But it is, anyway, a meeting point… We have lost the ability to adapt that our ancestors had, the ability to adapt to different weather conditions and periods of the vineyard. We have lost varieties which adapted to different territories… “Over time, we have become better oenologists, but worse vine growers. In fact, not worse, but we have tried to simplify, and when you want to simplify, you finally lose your identity”.

Rancio wine does not only have the achievement of the product itself, but also the achievement of continuing tradition. For this reason, for the project Arrels del Priorat, René chose a partner from Priorat, because “I am not the tradition of Priorat. I might be a wine tradition, but not from Priorat, although my grandfather and my great-grandfather produced a rancio wine from Priorat, but only as merchants”. The big difference is doing it as a vine grower, and knowing that rancio wine corresponds to a period of the vineyard, to a moment in time and to a space, making it an exceptional product which influences the cuisine, the people, the traditions…

He compared it with biodynamics. He did not say ecology, “because ecology will be obligatory, but we will get slowly to biodynamics,” he said, convinced. The consumer increasingly demands the traceability of the products. Mas Martinet, as well as Clos Mogador, could sell what they produce to a German engineer, and if we bought it from them, we would be convinced that the product is good, and that it is worth the price they ask for it.

Finally, he proposed to take an approach with respect to Priorat. Because, although it is true that, before, rancio wines were produced everywhere, “as a wine, rancio wine from Priorat has a very big personality”.

Thank you very much, René, for your willing to share.




How do we produce our Ranci Dolç?

The Ranci Dolç of Mas Martinet is a naturally sweet wine (without added sugar or alcohol) 100% made with Garnatxa Negra. This Garnacha comes from the big terrace that we have here, in front of the winery. We don’t use our vintage every year to produce rancio wine, but we do it in the hottest years, if it is possible. We harvest the grapes with around 15º of alcohol, and we put them on wicker beds, in the shade, in order to let them dry slowly, between 7 and 21 days. All this process is done to get dehydrated grapes, with a high sugar content, and therefore, a natural sweet wine.

Once the grapes are dehydrated, we squash them, and we let them ferment with their natural yeasts for a couple of months. Then, we press them, and we put them in demijohns or in a barrel, where the fermentation process will slowly continue until its completion in the next year (it will remain approximately 80 g/l of sugar). When this process is completed, we refill the first old barrels of the winery, barrels that we have gathered one by one around Priorat. These barrels come from Torroja, El Molar, Gratallops… and most of them have been gathered because their original owners had forgotten them in their houses, and they didn’t use them. There, inside the barrels, these fermented grapes will be blended with an older wine (the first one dates from 1994) and with the centenary mothers, which are responsible for turning the sweet wine into a fine, elegant and creamy rancio wine. Every year, during the old moon of January, we refill the barrels (*ras de carretells) with rancio wines, beginning with the oldest one, like in the solera process.

When bottling, we only bottle a third part of the wine that we have inside the first barrel. As if it was a sherry, we only bottle a part that we indicate later on the label. We always leave a remaining part of the wine inside the barrels in order to completely fill them with a younger wine, which comes from another barrel, and we keep on working with the solera process until we get to the barrel which contains the most recent wine.

The first bottling of this wine was done in 2017, with more than 22 years of ageing, and now we have already done the second one…
It is a wine which specially requires calm, rest and serenity in order to enjoy it with full awareness.

*Ras de carretells: in contrast with traditional soleras, in Priorat, the barrels or carretells are put only in a horizontal position, without blending.




Last Friday, we had the chance to talk with Joan Josep Bertran, “Joanji”. Despite being outside, he is a person who knows us and understands us, sometimes even better than ourselves. He is the father and the mother of the labels of Mas Martinet, the person responsible for our graphic image.

He is the person to ask how it all started, how the label of Ranci Dolç of Martinet was born, and which was its creative process. This is a summary of our talk.

Joan Josep tells us, first of all, about the creative process. For this reason, he sets the starting point in the winery from a new approach consisting in giving “to each piece, each product, each wine produced, a more marked, more specific personality.” In other words, this means “differentiating each project starting from a general philosophy, from central arguments.” He tells us that, in general, there are two options for creating the identity of each product. The first option creates a winery storytelling, and the second one enhances the specific profile of each product, because in each product there is a wine concept, a territorial concept…. For each product there will be a more particular piece.

After putting ourselves in the situation, he tells us that, in order to start the process, it is necessary to understand what is behind of that particular product, talking with Sara, of course. And talking with her, he received several ideas, insights… which were the central pillars of the project:

  • Imperfection: imperfection, related to the way the idea of Ranci Dolç of Martinet was born, when Sara was little, and she tried a sweet rancio wine from Escaladei… Trying to copy that idea… that feeling… “how something apparently imperfect can hold so much beauty.”
  • Being outside the rules, as an exception, whether it is in the world of wine, or in general. This means creating a unique profile, even with respect to design, set the difference between what you do and what the other people do. “This is what you do at Mas Martinet, you work hard speaking of the concept or what you intend to do.” And that must be reflected in a label because, if the product followed the rules too much, we were including it in a collection of very standardised products.
  • The idea of time. We are talking about a product which is not the reflex of a specific harvest or fermentation process. It is a product with a very long, extensive timeframe… because the vintages are very old, and after having gone through different procedures, at a given time, “it is bottled… Therefore, it should not be a contemporary product, because it talks about very old concepts.” This time concept should be included in the design.
    Having these three main concepts into account, there was another question. The specific visual tradition that this kind of rancio, sweet wines… use to have. The golden tones… images with a strange part, “they aren’t usually products with predominance of elegance or rigour in their design. They tend to be very vintage or old items.”
    And in this context, we start working. In order to start a project, Joan Josep and his team create visual ideas, inspired by “existing referents in order to configurate a piece which works in the same symbolic universe, but which is different.” In this case, the process was slightly different, because the product was so special that there wasn’t any similar context or “we couldn’t find it,” says “Joanji”. They started designing, and then they realised that the project could be explained through the design. Letters getting bigger and smaller, letters which, in a very abstract but precise way, explain the vintage system, the pouring process from the big barrel into the small barrel, the decantation process… like a visual game which let us create a big identity. A stepped design which explained the nature of the product and its production. And also choosing a special font “when we talk about non-precision, we are talking about non-precision in a very precise way, we know well, you and us, we know well what we are doing.” A font designed not long ago, but which looks back and let them encapsulate this concept.
    “A friend of mine, whom I love very much, with whom I studied, one day, he was looking at us while we were working, […] and he told me: ‘You do the opposite of what a lot of people do, which is trying to summarise a very simple idea so that it is understood very quickly.’ He said: ‘What you do is a semantic haze, or… semantic clouds… And these semantic clouds are like a group of ideas… like vectors at many levels, where there is the wine culture, the territory, your personality, or Josep Lluis’s and Montse’s personalities…. there are a thousand layers, and what you try, when you are making a piece, is to have a general representation of all this’.”
    The composition process began: font, images, colour… “Talking about colours, […] we also worked with weird, bright colours, a curious chromatic combination.”
    After a first wave of sketches, Sara asked me to go deeper, and then a second wave came, which produced the piece as it is now, as we know it today.
    Another distinctive feature of the project was that, as the print run was very short, the same label size should work for two different-sized bottles. And this is how this problem was solved.
    “The piece has a risk factor. It is daring from an historical approach, from an interpretation… which is finally filtered by us. It is as if you represented a label which was designed 80 years ago by contemporary people. In the end, it is like an imaginary person, but it is also what you are doing in the winery, which is […] or you try to think about those wines from 100 or 120 years ago which didn’t reach you because they weren’t bottled… but you can imagine, in the winery, how they were made, which expression they could have […] or you want to reproduce them nowadays.
    After all, a label design “is like a cocreation between the winery and us […]. We don’t have the answer to everything. We pave the way so that, with your own eyes, we can get further… We are the messengers of your message, interpreters. We don’t invent, we create on your own creation.”

Thank you, Joan Josep Bertran, for taking the time to talk with us.





I come from the south, from a warm territory, a territory rich in history.

I was ten years old when I tried a ranci wine for the first time. I went with my father to a meeting with Assumpció Peyra from Escaladei. From the physical and emotional height of childhood, the wine cellar looked old, humid, dark and cold, and the lively discussions between Assumpció and my father were like aggressive elements. I was scared and too bored. After a while, which felt like an eternity, Assumpció invited us to visit la Sala dels Àngels (“the Angels Room”). It was an exciting space, even older than the rest of the wine cellar, and which emitted the emanations and scents from other generations: the room of rancio wines. She let me try a barrel of 1964, a sweet ranci wine. I fell in love with it, it took my fear away, it cheered me up, and it made me feel like home, protected.

I thought that, if one day I was going to be in the wine production business, I would make a wine like that one.

In the summer of 1995, already working in Mas Martinet and helping my father, I stayed for some months in the Peralada Castle preparing the new wine laboratory. During the long summer afternoons of July, I went for a walk around the vineyards of Pau, Garriguella and nearby just to not lose contact with a nature that, for me, was necessary and addictive. I went to visit a peasant farmer with whom I talked about life, about the profession and about memory, and the last day of my stay in Empordà, he came to say goodbye to me with a special bottle from his winery.

It was a sweet rancio wine. Once again, I felt protected, caressed by many generations. I felt like home.

I remembered the promise made in Escaladei in November of 1982. Then, that September of 1995, the Martinet Ranci Dolç was born, but I wasn’t aware of it yet.

Almost 20 years have gone by to show us, maybe our less representative wine as a wine company, but which carries the soul and the history of Priorat.

Rancio wines are wines made to receive, to thank, to share. We put them on the table for Festa Major, for harvests celebrations, for the birth of a child, and we can enjoy them because many generations have taken care of that first barrel.

Being successors of a long history which represents us makes us feel more rooted and able to thank and pay tribute to those generations that have made it possible for us to be here today.

Sara Pérez
Mas Martinet




When we think about wine, whether as a consumer, producer, sommelier, portfolio manager, buyer, or simply as a wine enthusiast, many of us think of white wines, red wines, sparkling wines, rosés… and, finally, maybe we would also add a small box or give a little space to “special” wines, which would include sweet wines, rancio wines, fortified wines, etc.

During the last 40 years, there have been several revolutions in the world of wine industry, one after another with a speed which is hard to “tolerate” in an industry where decisions are mostly made taking our children’s profits into account. The arrival of fruit wines, grape juice concentrates, new types of wood, international varieties, vine training in the vineyards, high technology, etc., displaced a more refined, softener, with less fruit concentration and less lush type of wine. In short, it seemed that the great classic wines, even from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja, Jerez and Oporto, had been forgotten by a large number of consumers. Immediacy and sort-term impact had prevailed. In recent years, with the return to local varieties, traditional pruning systems, balanced wines and more respectful ageing processes, there has also been a demand for local products, regional combinations and local products consumption. Now, we embrace white wines macerated with the grape skins. These wines have even brought a new colour to wine lists. We are not surprised by aged rosés and disgorged sparkling wines, and what was considered a mistake and/or an imperfection by a lot of people, nowadays we see it rather as a virtue and a unique quality.

Is exactly in time, mistakes and imperfections variables where “oxidative” wines feel comfortable, whether they are made with the skins, aged sweet wines, dry rancio wines, wines exposed to day and night (sol i serena), or a mix of different vintages. White wines, red wines and rosés with endless ageing, complex and animal bouquets, high volatile compounds, etc., but which require patience when cooking, eating, and especially long table talks in order to explain us their whole story in every drop, in every sip. However, above all, they require tolerance, acceptance, and to be open-minded in order to get rid of the idea of imperfections and mistakes, and open ourselves to the rich heritage left by history and local traditions over time.

We need to find in our daily life that moment to think, read, talk with other people, observe, and accompany it with a glass of this rich heritage left by all the vine-growers and wine producers around this region. But, above all, I would like to stand up for all the Mediterranean oxidative wines. I think, not knowing if it is right or wrong, that is exactly in this great area with its special light where these wines can tell us about tradition, about time, about history, and specially about passion. Because… who said oxidation is an imperfection?

Roger Valls
Mas Martinet