The history of cinema is built on iconic partnerships: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, the quintessential Western for many people, was followed by The Sting, arguably the best heist movie of all times. Redford and Newman only needed these two films to cement an on-screen relationship with unmistakable chemistry: Newman plays the quiet cerebral character with a hard-headed attitude to business; Redford a passionate individual who follows his heart and his gut.
Despite working with brothers Joan and Josep Anguera for some time, it wasn’t until we visited them this January that we realised how similar their working relationship is to the Redford-Newman partnership! Joan is watchful with a cool and serene personality, whilst Josep is gregarious and sociable, confidently leading the conversation, and it’s their complementary personalities that make the whole thing work so well. When it comes to winemaking, however, their visions are perfectly aligned.
Based in the village of Darmós in DO Montsant in Catalunya, the brothers find themselves continuously fighting to shake off the misconception of being a cheaper alternative to neighbouring Priorat. There are distinct differences between the two regions: Montsant vineyards sit on limestone and clay, not the famous licorella slate soils, and don’t have the steep gradients, but Joan and Josep think they are no less deserving of the recognition that the best sites down the road enjoy.
Chalk and sandy soils in the Anguera vineyards in Montsant
When their father died in 2000, the brothers became the seventh generation of their family to run the estate. After several transitional years they decided to turn the philosophy on its head, and work towards expressing the unique character of the vineyard sites around their village. In their view these sites show as many nuances as more lauded regions such as Rioja or Priorat, where more effort has gone into defining the differences between each village.
They started by adopting biodynamic principles in the vineyards, culminating with the Demeter certification in 2011. They gradually started to remove the trellises installed by their father – this is still a work in progress and has halved yields from 120 to 60 tonnes per hectare. Garnatxa (Grenache) and Carinyena (Carignan) were top-grafted on to existing Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon vines. In the winery they sold the destemming machine, dramatically cut sulphur use so it’s now used sparingly at bottling only, and they stopped buying new oak barrels.
As a result there is a new focus to their range. They eliminated the entry-level wine as the quality of the fruit was now high enough to be used in individual cuveés, and no longer make a varietal Syrah. In their place, they have vinified two single-vineyard wines since 2016: Vinya de la Gloria, from a small north-facing, low-yielding plot planted with 100% Garnatxa; and L’Hostal, a Carinyena from an even smaller site co-planted with almond and olive trees. These wines form the pinnacle of the new range, supported by old-favourites Altaroses, another varietal Garnatxa; Planella, a Carinyena/Syrah blend with decreasing amounts of Syrah as vintages go by, and Finca l’Argatà, a 100% Garnatxa, made from the best selection of grapes from the Argatà lieu-dit.
Carinyena for their top cuvee L’Hostal is co-planted with olive and almond trees.
This story unfolded before us on a crisp January day in their vineyards, and while tasting the new vintages with the brothers at their cellar in Darmós. The steady tireless work on their land, and changes in the cellar were crystal clear in the glass, the results made our hearts soar! These are truly exceptional, elegant Mediterranean wines, future classics that will outlive most of us, and appeal to generations to come, just like The Sting. Coinciding as this does with Robert Redford’s announcement that he is hanging up his acting boots, we can only hope that the Anguera brothers have an equally long and prolific run ahead of them.
Joan and Josep will be visiting London in October to coincide with the arrival of their new wines. Drop us a line if you’d like to hear more about the project and taste these beautiful wines.