Masia de la Roqua’s historic Massif Garraf story
Penedes as a wine region is as diverse as Emporda. Mountains, sea, soils are dramatically different, even within a 10 kilometre region. Masia de la Roqua may be close to Villafranca del Penedes to the north and Vilanova i la Geltru to the south, but its close proximity doesn’t give it much similarity to either location, and its location near Olivella gives it some of the most distinctive flavours I’ve had the pleasure of tasting.
How I came across Masia de la Roqua was quite by accident. I’ve been following their social media accounts and enjoying the photos posted for several months. It wasn’t until I attending Temps de Vi in Vilanova i la Geltru, that I met Jot Camps, winemaker and proprietor of Masia de la Roqua, in person. Ironically, I was supposed to have met him when we had toured Raventos i Blanc a few weeks ago, but Jot was in New York at the time.
To explain a little further, Jot’s winemaking is a labour of love he does in the afternoons and evenings. His day job is at Raventos i Blanc, where he is part of the team producing spectacular sparkling wines. At night, Jot spends his time tending to the family vines located at Can Suriol, just outside of Olivella, where his direct family has been growing grapes as far back as the mid 16th century. Can Suriol has its documented foundation in 14th century, when it was built by the Urgell family.
Jot’s father and grandfather taught him the grape business. Jot’s grandfather had not only been selling grapes to winemakers in the Penedes region for decades (as had been the family tradition), but he’d also been making wine, fermenting and distributing wine in the typical Catalan bodegas method. To this day, Jot’s father continues to do the same.
For some reason Jot is not clear on, the family stopped making wine around 1970. The family still continued to produce quality grapes from Sumoll to Xarel·lo (and other varieties), but it wasn’t until Jot decided to return to winemaking that Can Suriol rejuvenated a family tradition. He’s done so, with panache, passion, and principles.
When Jot was around 15 years old, his father was close to pulling out the Sumoll vines well-established and ancient, for more of the sexy French varieties that were in vogue around 1999. Jot, who has the three “P’s” mentioned above, implored his father to keep the Sumoll, promising that he would tend to those vines if he allowed him to do so. His father did, and both men now agree that it was the right decision.
Sumoll is an unforgiving grape, it requires skilled hands to ensure its proper growth in the vineyard, and its proper elaboration as a wine. Some muse that since it was more difficult to work with, plus the entrance of Spain into the European Union, facilitated its rapid disappearance from 1986 onward. Yet, those patient enough to work with the variety will certainly enjoy the fruits of their labour.
For those unfamiliar, Sumoll is a hardy grape, resistant to drought, and produces lower and concentrated volumes. Factor this with the elevation of Can Suriol, plus the proximity to the Mediterranean, gives this variety a unique and dynamic wine for those lucky enough ply their trade here. Other winemakers nearby Masia de la Roqua have gained critical notoriety for their work with Sumoll.
You can expect the same from Jot and his wines as his reputation and production increase.
Can Suriol is a family compound of several masias and buildings from past generations, as discussed prior. Centred around the family mansion built in 1791 in the very French chateau style by the “Rebentos” clan, which Jot is descended from (yes, the same clan now known as Raventos), Jot has his winery in the basement of the mansion. The barrels used by his grandfather still line the barrel room, and the historic tools of the trade are still present everywhere.
Jot and his father renovated one of the rooms in the winery area to house more modern equipment for making the Masia de la Roqua wines. Those renovations didn’t disturb some of the residents of the winery, as bats make their home in the almost 20 metre high ceilings in the older parts which have remained intact. It’s part of Jot’s overall philosophy of working with nature, as opposed to against it, as he allows animals and insects to have their space in the vineyards and around the family compound, while maintaining the necessary cleanliness and material handling required to make wine.
Jot feels nature has its own balance, and its own way of maintaining the ecosystem as a whole. The animals aren’t invasive to his process, and Jot feels his attitude of mutual respect is the reason why they allow him to do what he does.
Masia la Roqua produces three wines: Repte, Roqua, and Ulivel·la.
Ulivel·la is 100% Xarel·lo from the La Riera vineyard near the historic brick-making kiln which was built inside the earth, and might have been where most of the bricks for the house in the area were made. The vines planted in 1959, are influenced by aniseed, citrus, and the limestone soil which is dominant in the region. Add the minerality from the Mediterranean only few kilometres away, and you have a vibrant wine with a long finish.
Roqua is Jot’s ode to Garnatxa negre and Cabernet. Jot spent significant time studying in winemaking in Bordeaux, and his love for Cabernet is truly expressed in this wine. Fermentation occurs in steel vats, followed by 9 months of ageing in French and Hungarian oak. Which goes where, Jot was coy, refusing to totally reveal his winemaking secrets.
Repte is 100% Sumoll, and in my mind, the best expression of Jot as a winemaker. I first had this wine at Temps de Vi, and it literally left me gaping at just how fabulous it was. Cherries and rosemary bounced off the palate, as result of vines planted in 1947 in calcerous soil. What really gives Repte vibrance is the fact Jot ferments in chestnut barrels prior to ageing in French oak. The chestnut balances the fruit and herb tones, while giving it one of the most unique and pleasant finishes I’ve experienced with wine.
It’s worth your time to track down his wines. Sumoll is now on my radar, thanks to Jot, and comes close to my love for Garnatxa. Close, but not quite.
Overall, we can expect great things as Jot continues his journey as a winemaker. In a short time, with much study in France and now at Raventos i Blanc, Jot has shown is natural ability at producing quality wines. We expect great things from him and his wines as he continues to share his love for Massif Garraf with the general wine-enjoying public. I’ll be back for more visits, no question.