For vinegar, there is no better to place to start than at the wine source. So it was thrilling to meet Pilar Rovira Carbonell at a Catalan Chamber of Commerce function in Barcelona in the spring of 2003. There she sat, showing her exquisite wine from Mas d'en Gil in Priorat. At the time, Priorat was the new, cool (read: expensive) wine region in Catalonia, famous for its huge, voluptuous, big-fruit exotic reds made from Cariñena (Carignan) and Garnacha (Grenache) grapes. Pilar Rovira Carbonell got passed over by many of the food importers because they were not looking to a wine property to produce vinegar . . . but Kitty Keller was! Thus, Mas d'en Gil’s estate-made Agredolc—which inspires chefs to this day—came to be imported by KL Keller.
The Rovira Carbonell family—a prominent wine family known for their bulk wines—wished to diversify into supporting the quality wine movement afoot in Spain. In 1998, when an established but neglected property in Priorat came on the market, they snapped it up. The family (Pilar, her parents and three sisters) updated the wine production facility, leaving other original buildings to retain their original charm. They were ahead of the herd, and are noteworthy pioneers of Priorat winemaking. Today, Mas d'en Gil comprises about 300 acres, planted into almost 45 different vineyard parcels, plus additional smaller crops like cereal, almonds hazelnuts, olive oil and—exceptionally—unplanted forest areas.
Many of the vines are old, the soil is austere, the geography hilly and the altitude high enough to make it a little stressful: conditions said to make more complex wines. Since 2012, KL Keller has worked with winemaker (and property manager) Marta Rovira Carbonell, the youngest sister and a devoted advocate of Biodynamics (yes, she syncs planting cycles to a moon calendar and lovely Clara the mule tills and aerates the vineyard soil with her hooves). She makes Agredolc Vinegar on the property using Mas d’en Gil’s fine biodynamic wine and a 40-year-old mother-of-vinegar discovered in one of the vintage wine barrels found when the family bought the mas (farmhouse).
Agredolc Vinegar by Mas d'en Gil is fantastic. It has no pretensions of being a balsamic, but (as with quality balsamics) "condiment" might be a better word for it than “vinegar”. It is a 3° condiment (the percentage refers to strength of acidity; 3° is delightfully low). This is how we want our vinegar made: from a good wine by the winemakers themselves. Novel concept. Hope it catches on.