Three generations in thirteen years at Mas Foraster

In the outskirts of the beautiful medieval town of Montblanc, walled since the 14th century and seat to a dukedom, sits the winery and vineyards of Mas Foraster. My wife and I had to attend a calçotada in the zone later in the day and we took the opportunity to visit one of my favourite wineries of DO Conca de Barberà.

Eating calçots
(For those of you unfamiliar with calçotades: in the lands around Tarragona, mainly around Valls, it is typical to gather in winter to eat calçots, young onions that are in fact slightly burned by a dried vine shoot fire. Eaters peel with bare fingers the burnt outer layers to expose the juicy, tender inside, which is then dipped in a special sauce and taken dripping to the mouth, with a vertical entry. A giant bib saves the shirt. A rustic yet delicious meal, a feast for onion lovers, followed by sausages and lamb, topped with crema catalana and wetted with red wine and Cava).

Ricard Sebastiá and his mother, Julieta Foraster

Since 150 years, the Foraster family has grown vines. Not until 1998 Josep Foraster took over from his father and decided to make and sell quality wine himself. Unfortunately, he died prematurely, just before the first bottles of his wine hit the market. But his sister Julieta carried on, and now her son Ricard Sebastiá is at the helm, reaching the goals his uncle had dreamed up.

The property has 32 hectares (a little over 79 acres) of vineyards at about 400 m of altitude, with wide temperature differences between day and night. Soils are largely sandy, with slate on the surface. Vines are generally trellised. Harvest is done mainly by hand. Output per vine is around 0.8 and 3 kg of grape; and 2’500 to 6’000 kg of grape per ha. Total yearly production is around 100’000 bottles, with a maximum of 140’000.

The winery houses a small but delightful museum of rural life and winemaking as it was a century ago, together with temporary exhibitions of modern artists.

Mas Foraster wine range starts with the white Josep Foraster Blanc Selecció. Garnatxa blanca and Macabeu, with a little Chardonnay, is partly fermented and kept in steel vats and partly in French oak, with batonnage. In this way the wine is complex, with a properly integrated wood, but fresh at the same time. Unctuous and long.

Josep Foraster Collita is a young red wine of the year made from Ull de Llebre (aka Tempranillo) and a little Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes are picked slightly underripe to accentuate freshness. The resulting wine is fruity, refreshing, easy to drink, with deep cherry colour with bluish overtones.

Josep Foraster Criança is for me the flagship wine of Mas Foraster. Coming from Cabernet Sauvignon and Ull de Llebre, with Syrah occasionally, it is aged for twelve months in French oak, and additionally twelve more in the bottle. A more complex wine, dark cherry with little evolution. Red and black fruit in the nose; also spices at the end. Full mouth, with rounded tannins.

Josep Foraster Selecció is the top wine of Mas Foraster. Produced only in selected years out of the oldest (20+ years) Cabernet Sauvignon vines, harvested in 20 kg boxes, with about 10 % Ull de Llebre. After the aging of 18 months in French oak and a similar time in bottle, the result is a dark red wine, with brown edges and good legs. Red fruit, wood and spice in the nose. Well structured and silky in the mouth. Limited production of around 4’000 numbered bottles.

Last wine in the market is Josep Foraster Trepat, made from 45 year old Trepat vines. This is a local variety, with medium colour intensity, a distinctive black peppery nose and great elegance. Five months of aging in French oak.

I guess that Josep Foraster, if he had the opportunity to look upon his winery, would be proud of the evolution.


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