Amongst the Gratallops Garagistes, made famous by high Parker wine ratings and rarity of a similar fashion to their Bordeaux counterparts, is a second wave of small vineyards producing quality wines with limited production runs. Sometimes it isn’t always about ratings and rarity, sometimes it’s about a great conversation between sips of wine with new found friends.
Such was my experience at Celler Divinssi, founded by artist/businessman/oenologist/viticulturist Josep Roca Benito, when Michael and I joined gregarious Devinssi host extraordinaire Jordi Ustrell and an American wine connoisseur couple on a tour of Devinssi winemaking process.
There are some people who are naturally gifted at entertaining and education simultaneously. I remember one of my university professors who was able to accomplish this while he was reciting passages from the autobiography of Malcolm X. It was almost as if he was channeling Alex Haley while he was reading passages, and a memory I’ll remember for my lifetime. Jordi is the same personality.
Jordi is originally from St. Petersburg, yet you would not have any idea this was the case. He is fluent in Catalan and Spanish, and Miquel from Clos Figueras (who is an unabashed Jordi fan) admits Jordi’s command of Catalan language and pronunciation trumps his own. Jordi also is deeply immersed in wine culture, Catalan history, and local folklore, which makes his Devinssi tours entertaining and informative all at once.
Michael and I were treated to an informative session on boutique winemaking, as Jordi stepped us through the entire process, even pulling off the lid of a vat, and pausing for us to feel and hear grapes fermenting. Yes, you can actually audibly hear the mash dancing around to a beat of Tchaikovsky, if I was to compare symphony to wine fermentation. We also learned the importance of music to the manual bottling system, and what station the Devinssi bottler prefers as he’s working. The description of the scene by Jordi gave me such a vivid picture I saw it happening in front of me like a 3D movie.
Devinssi was founded in 2000, and the first vines were planted in their Les Planes estate near Gratallops. After purchasing a ruined building – Jordi describes it as one big giant skylight to the stars – Josep went about reconstructing it utilising as much of the original materials on site as possible. Today, Devinssi has a main floor operation with all the technical aspect required for winemaking, an intimate barrel room for aging, and a second story loft which function as an office plus tasting room.
The artistic flair of Josep, who was an accomplished painter earlier in his lifetime, shows through in the office upstairs with the beautiful chair and the handcrafted wood table that can seat up to 15 or so people at a time, the decorations on the walls, and his artistic treasures, which include the original piece that became the label for their Il·lia wine (a masterful mix of Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon).
Josep joined us for the tasting, and the six of us sat around the table like old friends, discussing everything from politics, history, wine, business philosophy, and even a little travel. I felt as if I could kick off my shoes, pull up an ottoman for my feet, and listen to wine tales all evening.
We almost did.
Devinssi is a great stop for a wine newbie and a seasoned enotourist. Jordi steps through the process on how to evaluate and taste wines, and even ensures proper viewing of the wine by giving out white napkins, as the gorgeous table is too dark to properly view the wines. Yet Jordi, unlike many I’ve experienced in the past, does not come across condescending and asks questions of his guests to seamlessly gauge their level of knowledge to adjust the tour accordingly.
The wines themselves are outstanding, including the Rocapoll, the previously mentioned Il·lia, and a lovely beefy white, Mas de les Valls, possessing a great vanilla bouquet. The love Josep has for his wines and the cultural aspects of wine certainly show through in all his varieties. If you’re lucky, maybe he’ll even let you try his ranci wine, which dates back to the 80s.
While there are other, more famous vintners of the Gratallops Garagistes, Devinssi is definitely a worthy stop in town. Josep and Jordi will make you feel part of their family, and you’ll want to come back time and time again to say hi to them, and to their Il·lia tree just outside of town.