Venus la Universal started in 1999 because of the need of Sara Pérez to find a different wine expression. It was the last year of the 1990s when she, together with her parents and her brother Adrià, focused on the extraction, the ripening, the concentration… until reaching maximum levels.
Sara lived in Falset at that time, and when she came back home in the evenings, there was a burst of light! The shape of the wine bottles that she drank, Burgundy, not Bordeaux. Her preferential varieties, the old Mediterranean varieties instead of the improving ones (Cabernet, Merlot…) which were supported in Priorat. She discovered the Carinyena and the Syrah, two sides of the same coin. Depth, reduction, mystery… not like the Garnatxa with so much fruit and splendour. She liked wines with more tension, more elegance, more fluency… The DO Monsant (which hadn’t been recognised as such yet) was a different area, an aera of skins and with a different light, cooler. A path that she wanted to explore, a counterpoint in Priorat. Venus 99. She wanted to make a blend of Carinyena and Syrah, even though both are very reductive varieties. Each one of them had been traditionally blended with Garnatxa to provide the oxygen that they lack, but these two, alone, were a risky bet. The Carinyena needed old vines, which was even more difficult, because the Montsant area, which is a flatter area, was worked with tractors, the vines were younger, only those with small plots, of 500 / 800 vines, kept the old vines. Therefore, Venus was not the result of a plot, but the result of a search. A search for beauty.
“And we didn’t have a name” tells us Sara. “We remodelled the house… but we didn’t have a name. In June 2000, when it was time to bottle, I went to Piedmont and Tuscany (with more vine growers), and there, in Florence, we visited the Uffizi Gallery and we saw “The Birth of Venus”. I was so thrilled, and I said…. VENUS. This is what I am looking for”
And when she came back, she had to tell it to her partner, Xavi, a friend of her. And, by chance, his mother had a “Birth of Venus” in her bedroom… Everything seemed to square.
And where does “la Universal” come from? We ask her. And she tells us that they used a plot of Sara’s grandparents, where she had a vegetable garden, to plant some vines. The winery didn’t even have 50m2. At the beginning of this century, during the modern innovations, everything related to traditional products became more important with names like Industrial, Universal… And we thought that it was a good idea in that case, so it was called that way. First, Companyia Universal, then Òrbita Venus, and finally, Venus La Universal.
And you, René? When did you get involved in the project? We ask this to René.
He tells us that it was an incredible coincidence, because when Sara started in 1999, just a year before the recognition of the DO Montsant, he and his father started a project in Laurona, which is also in the DO Montsant. My experience with Laurona was very difficult. There were wines that he didn’t know, the worms came… But this project allowed him to discover the area. He started to work with Sara first in La Vinya del Vuit (with some friends), and later in Sara & René (the project of the couple in Priorat). And, in a difficult time for Venus, just during the first of the recent economic crisis, the one of 2001 (after the attack on the Twin Towers) he got involved in Venus as a partner. It was in 2005, and soon he was in charge of the winery part. However, it was not until 2006 that he started to understand the wines, the Dido, and the Venus.
Then, as he had started to make white wines in Priorat (with the Nelín), and it was something especially exciting for him, he proposed to extend the family with the white Dido, in 2007. They discovered the Macabeu, a variety similar to the Carinyena because of the discredit that it had, and because it is reductive too. Finally, at the same time, it has a great and interesting ageing capacity. “The discovery of the Macabeu variety was a gift” he tells us excited.
And, talking about discoveries, the granite. It was a surprise, which everybody knows now, the ageing capacity that it brings to wines. An early Eneas or a Dido 2005/2006 resists because of its acidity. In Priorat, wines resist because of its structure. Therefore, this discovery enabled us to understand that Dido wasn’t a second wine. It was another wine, and it was a great wine too, as good as Venus, but different.
For Sara and René Venus is also an open door to experimentation, an opportunity to solve all those doubts arising on their way, as they aren’t limited by the land and small productions like in Priorat. And this is how they take advantage of the climatic diversity and the different soils of the DO. Venus, old Carinyena vines on a calcareous-clay land, deep soils. Calcareous land, Dido white wine; Dido rosé, calcareous-clay land again; and Dido red wine, granite, and mostly Garnatxa.
And the plot wines like Venus de Cartoixà, Venus de la Figuera, Venus de les Pells, Venus del Granit (the last two wines aren’t on the market yet), which are linked to a specific variety and a specific plot.