Castle in the sky



Formerly chief oenologist at Torres, Raul Bobet is now pursuing his dream in the Catalan Pyrenees with Castell d’Encus, his remarkable passion project driven by a plethora of non-indigenous varietals, ancient and modern winemaking techniques, and gallons of verve. Here he shines a light on the philosophy behind his wines.

I have two winemaking projects, Ferrer-Bobet and Castell d’Encus – although the latter is more my personal project, which we run in the Pyrenees. We are 1,000 metres high, and close to Andorra, so every day we get to see the beautiful landscape before us.

We do some special things there, including fermenting our grapes in the rock. There is a little church on the land from the 12th century, and up until the 18th century the Hospitaller monks carved out the vats we use today from the stone. We use natural yeast, and there is some lichen too. The fermentation process is an exothermic reaction but there is not enough heat to compensate for the cold, so we cover the vats at night when the temperature drops outside.  There is a lot of beneficial contact with the air from the holes cut into the rocks, and there is also plenty of contact with the stone itself.

We are a single estate, with 23 hectares so far. We hope to expand to 27 hectares, but we will stop there. Everywhere there is very close spacing of the vines. From the 1990s I was sick of these Spanish and Catalan wines that couldn’t have a spectacular acidity. I was looking for low alcohol and good acidity in delicate, more feminine wines. Now this style is fashionable but back then I was criticised, both in Priorat and in the Pyrenees, for breaking the Spanish style. We were nonetheless quite successful with the likes of our Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Carignan.

I like to taste a lot of things. Since I completed my degree in food science from UCLA I have always taken a broad approach to my work. My roommates in California were from Germany and France, so I got to experience wines from all over. I love Pinots of all kinds, from Sonoma and Oregon and Burgundy, Switzerland and the north of Italy. Also, thanks to my friend who worked in one of the best wine bars in the world, Monvínic in Barcelona, I had access to 4,500 wine references, and the opportunity to taste tons of wines through the five specialised sommeliers there.

I am the antithesis of the traditional Spanish way. This means I like a challenge. I do whatever I like, and I do not care what people say. I’m close to 60 years old now. The Pyrenees are my dream; we might do some Chenin Blanc in the future – I am a big lover of this grape. Why not?

I also believe a great deal in team-building. We have two winemakers on site now and one engineer controlling the vineyards continually. I feel that the people involved should love what they are doing. We have a nice team and we spend a lot of time in the vineyards together.

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