Emptying your bank account to purchase a vineyard without the benefit of any formal oenologic study and at the urging of a group of like-minded friends would by any reasonable assessment count as folly. So should you find yourself in this lamentable position it would only make sense to name your nascent wine after the humanist who so mockingly and humorously wrote the book on praising folly, Erasmus of Rotterdam. Follies and fools seemingly lack judgment but how often are the words of truth manifest in the guise of motley? As literary trope and as Jungian archetype the fool exerts enormous power and those ensnared by folly either fall to ruin or rise to fame. Only hindsight winnows genius from misfortune.
In 1988 Daphne Glorian, at the time employed by an English Master of Wine in his Paris office, was in the throws of epic folly and spent her life’s savings on 17 terraces of hillside vines just outside the village of Gratallops. Newly minted friends René Barbier and Alvaro Palacios encouraged her and together with Carles Pastrana and Jose Luis Perez, they pooled their talents and resources to make a new style of wine in a region rich in history and raw materials but without much of a proven track record for fine wines. In 1989 the modern Priorat was born: one wine but five different labels, each which would one day become known around the world: Clos Mogador, Clos Dofi, Clos Martinet, Clos de l’Obac and Clos Erasmus.
Today Daphne’s property goes by the name Clos i Terrasses in recognition of the Clos upon which her fame was established and the terraces that she farms. The estate is planted with 75% Garnatxa, 20% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.
The first vineyard, the original folly, is named Escalas. At 1.7 hectares, it is her smallest site planted on seventeen terraces carved out of a steep slope and surrounded by woods. North-facing, its seemingly inauspicious aspect creates the perfect conditions for ripening Garnatxa slowly and nurturing unusually vibrant Syrah, a variety which normally struggles in this hot and arid region.
In the early 1990s Daphne added Aubagues and Socarrats to her holdings. Aubagues is 2.5 hectares in size and like Escalas, it was replanted in the mid 1980s . It has a diverse exposure that spans two ridge tops, so the Garnatxa is grown to take advantage of the warmer parts of the vineyard with its deep soils while Syrah is reserved for the cooler, shallower, north-facing slopes. Even in youth, the Garnatxa from Aubagues is aromatic and inclined towards red fruit flavours.
By climate and topography, most farming in the Priorat is sustainable but when Daphne hired Ester Nin as her viticulturalist in 2004 they made the decision to convert from organic practices to biodynamics. From its start, Clos Erasmus has been a wine made from young vines blessed with being planted in the right spot. Old vines are self regulating and are rather easy to farm, or more accurately, ignore. Young vines require more effort and intensive farming so the conversion to biodynamics was the logical next step in the evolution of Clos i Terrasses.
In Spring and Autumn cover crops share the land with the vines and several times a year they are ploughed back into the soils by hand, by mule or in the case of the wide terraces of Escalas, by a small tractor. Many of the vines are staked so from a distance you might think you were in Côte Rotie, the rest, apart from a small section of head-pruned vines are cane-pruned.
It may have begun in folly but through extraordinary effort and a relentlessness that borders on madness, Clos i Terrasses, much like the Priorat, continues to evolve and innovate. It is hard to imagine a world, only a quarter century ago, where wines like the five Clos did not exist but even more remarkable, is imagining what they will become in another quarter century under such talented stewardship.
Clos i Terrasses is offered through Verity exclusively in Pennsylvania.