"2018 is the best vintage he has known in Bierzo. Full stop." — Luis Gutiérrez, Wine Advocate

Touring with the team at Bodegas Raúl Perez in Bierzo last summer, I figured there would be more to go around. Our first stop on a full-day tour was to this very special Petra parcel, planted to old vines of only Mencia at 820-meters elevation with north exposure. Combine super-high elevation with old-vine Mencia, and you rapidly pull in Burgundy aficionados.

Today, I'm happy to offer the 2018 Raul Perez Ultreia Petra.

Petra's expression of Mencia is one that showcases the more lithe and crystalline qualities of the variety. The complexity here ranges from brambly dark fruits and violets to slate-infused smokiness, with a strikingly energetic and laser-focused finish with bright acidity.

I had never before witnessed such a diverse range of soils and grape varieties under one person's hands. Finishing the day at both of Raul's cellars and tasting each of the parcels we visited was an unbelievable experience. Walking away I was left in total awe of his execution from a vision he had many years ago to work with only the oldest vineyards and immediately shift to the most fastidious organic viticulture.

Perez's natural focus endows his wines with an authenticity that's impossible to miss. As much as he follows the historic path of his ancestors (no herbicides, pesticides, or additives of any kind in the cellar), he's made waves with his 100% whole cluster fermentation and extra-long macerations on skins. Raul completely redefines what Mencia is capable of in Bierzo. And, for his whites, he now owns the mineral-driven category within Spain, showing depth and the nuance I've come to expect from elite Chablis and Côte de Beaune Chardonnay.

Tempering the impact of the heat and sun has always been the area of largest concern in the more continental Spanish zones. Working with high elevation vineyards and old vines is not enough to ensure grace, subtlety, and lift are the overriding characteristics when the wine is finally poured. It's the attentive, thoughtful approach to viticulture and minimal intervention in the cellar that Perez has come to trust as the root of success.

In doing so, he's become recognized as a top winemaker in Bierzo and beyond. In 2014, Raul Perez was named best winemaker in the world by the German publication, Der Feinschmecke. France's Bettane & Desseauve bestowed the same honor the following year. And most recently, Decanter magazine asked, "Is this the world's best winemaker?"