Like many of the great stories, the story of Venus La Universal begins with love. As the children of two of the pioneers of the Priorat D.O., Sara Pérez and René Barbier fils grew up as neighbors, picking grapes together and looking on as their fathers, Josep Lluis Pérez of Mas Martinet and René Barbier père of Clos Mogador, boldly worked to tame that wild landscape. Though they had known each other their whole lives, their romance did not begin until they traveled together representing their respective bodegas on a sales trip to California. They married shortly after and are now the proud parents of four young children. Though they both remain very involved in their family estates, Venus is their passion project. Set in the somewhat sleepier D.O. of Montsant, where they also make their home, it is a refuge for them from the wild vicissitudes of the international market for Priorat and the pressure that comes with the intense spotlight that shines on that region.
René and Sara have taken the goddess as their inspiration for this project. One of their stated goals is “to interpret femininity through a bottle of wine.” This might seem an odd choice for a bodega that elaborates Grenache- and Carignan-based wines in Southern Cataluña, but it makes sense once you taste. These are elegant, refined expressions of Montsant, with impeccable balance and texture.
“Some time ago, René and I made the decision to pass through this world with the intention of leaving an emotional footprint, not a material one.” This quote from Sara beautifully and succinctly summarizes the stance that she and René take towards human beings’ interaction with their environment. Organics and sustainability are not a sales pitch for them, they are a way of life. Over the years they have been vigilant about analyzing the bodega’s impact on the environment and adapting their practices to ensure that they are doing everything they can to minimize that impact. Some examples of changes that they have made include switching from a tractor to a four-wheeler (which uses less fuel) and bottling the wines under a wax capsule (Dido) or with no capsule at all (Venus). They are constantly studying ways in which to turn outputs back into inputs so they can “close the circle”. [Note: a translation of their detailed manifesto on the topic of environmental impact can be provided upon request.]
The grapes for the wines come from an approximate total of five hectares of vineyards which are owned by four different grape-growing families in Falset as well as another small plot owned by René and Sara. One could call Venus La Universal a négociant project, but it is more accurate to say that it is a partnership between these four families and René and Sara. Venus is these small growers’ only client, so their vineyards are farmed in accordance with the rigorous ecological standards set by the couple. The wines are all certified organic by the Consell Català de la Producció Agrària Ecològica. Documentation can be made available upon request (provided you read Catalan).