9 Questions with winemaker Dani Jimenez

Priorat is a land full of special wines, special products and special people. One of those people is Dani Jimenez, who is a winemaker with two projects – L’Excepcional del Priorat and Cellers Scala Dei. L’Excepcional is his newest project, creating wines from ancient and forgotten varietals, which are not part of the DOQ Priorat approved list of grapes, but part of its long history. Here’s 9 questions with Dani, a dreamer among the crazies as he likes to say:

What was your inspiration to go into the wine business? Since I was very small I was fascinated by wines, I remember whole evenings in the small Vinoteca Abella in Lloret de Mar talking about wines with Manel or when I saw the father of my best friend enjoying wines of old riojas and burgundy. And after two years in Shanghai selling olive oil, I decided to study winemaking as I had started to study agricultural engineering and winemaking brought together my two great passions…. I wanted to be able to make wine, so that people could share it in their special moments.

Where was your first job in wine, and what were you doing? While studying oenology, a job offer appeared to work at Mas Doix in the vineyard and conducting visits on weekends. I was selected and after that adventure I had the certainty that it was what I wanted to devote my whole life.

What has been your most memorable working experience working as a winemaker? The face of my mother, her eyes, when she bought my first box of wine. I wanted to give it to her, but she told me that she wanted to be the first person to buy my wine.

What’s your favourite wine – red, white or rose and why? Surely a good Priorat (laughs). It is the best red wine area in the world and maybe we have the best rancis [ ed. See the definition here ] in the world, too. But a good pinot noir of Burgundy or some poorly hidden hydrocarbon of the riesling grape of the Moselle, or enter into the elegance of Jerez with its magnificent “palos cortados” and “amontillados,” are some of my other weaknesses.

If you could share a bottle of wine with anyone famous (dead or alive) who would it be and why? First of all with my father, who died before he could taste any of my wines. Then, since music is my second passion, with Thom Yorke from Radiohead because the best pairings for my wines are their songs (laughs).

What is your favourite wine from Catalunya? Apart from l’Excepcional, which are the best wines in the world, Sant Antoni de Scala Dei is my favorite Catalan wine, it is like crossing the bridge of time and breathing the same aroma that Carthusian monks breathed for centuries.

Tell us about your new wine project, what wines are you making and what varietals are you using? In 2017, together with Pol and Clara, the fourth generation of growers in Poboleda (Priorat) and classmates, we decided to vinify the best part of their vineyards of between 60 and 100 years of white varieties and reds such as the “hairy grenache,” “pepita d’or,”” el·les,” “esquitxa gossos,” “carregarucs,” “escanyavelles”…. varieties that during the phylloxera almost disappeared and unfortunately were not replanted later, going into oblivion and only recognized by the older people of the town. These are varieties not accepted by DOQ Priorat, but that already existed long before the formation even of the Regulatory Council itself in 1954.

Where is the wine place in the world you love to go for wine, that you have not experienced yet? I really want to go to Loire as I am fascinated by their chenin blanc, also to Georgia for being the cradle of viticulture and wine making 8,000 years ago.

Where is your favourite place to enjoy a glass of wine? The site does not matter if it is accompanied by the people that I love and admire.