Marta Rovira Carbonell

Grower/Winemaker
Mas d'en gil
Priorat, Spain

Spotlight No. 18

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A walk through the vineyards of Mas d’en Gil with Marta Rovira is like a trip inside the pages of The Secret Garden. Marta has a magical way of relating to the earth, the vineyards and the grapes’ journey to becoming wine. She speaks five languages—six including nature— and her lyrical articulation of each word shows her determination to express the voice of nature. For Marta, both the vineyards and the wines possess their own anima and play a glorious part in the story of life. 

Marta's own story of life began as the youngest of four daughters in a fourth-generation wine family. For her, harvest was the most exciting time of the year. Her mother would bring out the special box of grape-stained clothing, and she and her sisters would get to miss school and help the family. At age 8, Marta took great pride in being tasked with running from person to person with messages about which batches of wine were to be blended with which. By age 13 she was climbing tanks to measure density and temperatures. But when it came time to go to college, Marta thought engineering might be something new to try. By age 23 she was managing a team of engineers in a company in Germany. She, like her father, has a gift for seeing the strengths in everyone and creating nurturing environments in which each person can thrive. 

Meanwhile, Marta’s father was riding around the Priorat on his motorbike, buying and selling wine from the co-ops. He became friendly with Rafael Barril Dosset, who, with his wife, Mª Magdalena Vicente Jordana, and their family, had been tending the vineyards and making wine since they bought the property in the 1930s. They were one of the first families to bottle wines in the Priorat in the 1970s, and they worked hard to promote the distinctiveness of the region. But they lived in Madrid, and eventually it became too much. So Sr. Barril and his friend Pere Rovira struck a deal. In 1998 the Rovira family took over the estate, promising to fulfill the dreams of their predecessors, including Francesc Gil, the original owner of the estate in the 1860s. 

Things started taking off in the Priorat at the beginning of the new millennium, and in 2005 Marta decided to leave her job, return to nature and help her father with the winery. A chance taste of a 15-year-old biodynamic wine made her realize how powerful the energy of life is within wine. Great old vintages often have a mellowness that can come only with time. But, Marta says, this wine still had “so much energy, it was electric.” She had to learn more about what had created such a phenomenon. 

To Marta's amazement, she discovered that biodynamic practices are based on the sensibilities she had learned from her grandmother when she was a little girl. She found evidence that they promote life in the soil and that, when these practices are combined with the ebb and flow of the lunar calendar, the health of the vineyards is undeniable. Finally, in 2008, Marta presented the facts to her father, explaining that “biodynamics puts the life back into the earth: alive fruit equals alive wine and ensures the heritage of the land into the future.” He was convinced. 

Mas d'en Gil is an ecosystem of olive, almond and hazelnut trees and vineyards. Each vineyard has its own story comprised of unique relationships with the surrounding forest, herbs and wildflowers; the bees, bugs and birds; and the sun, wind and refreshing sea breezes, all of which express themselves in distinctive ways in the wines. It takes a mystical communion and trust in the benevolence of nature to give so much energy to the vineyards when making wine. As Marta says, “Nature is breathing. The challenge is to integrate with its rhythm and exist as one.”

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