It would be unfair in telling you to stop being surprised by Raul Perez releases, as I'm continually left dumbstruck. For the life of me, I don't understand how one producer can redefine the Spanish white wine category across a spectrum of regions and varieties. His most elusive (and monumental) wine is simply known as Sketch - an Albariño sourced from a 0.5 hectare parcel of old vines in Rias Baixas. At $100+ per bottle it's worth its weight in gold, but upon release, rumors swirled in New York that his "other" Albariño was going to be the proverbial mic drop moment for the variety.
At $28 per bottle, I'm so happy to finally offer Raul Perez's 2017 "Atalier" Rias Baixas Albariño, sourced from un-grafted and pre-phylloxera vines.
No reason to mince words, the 2016 release of Atalier was the most requested wine I've ever offered. Sadly , the majority of requests were not able to be met due to limited availability of the wine in California. Today, I'm making sure that does not happen again.
Atalier comes from two parcels of Albariño vines in the Cambados area of the Salnés valley, located in the southern portion on the northwest tip of Spain. As Raul's greatest influence is top white Burgundy he takes every step possible preserve cut and delineation in Albariño while also pushing for maximum ripeness and flavor development. All easier said than done. The key steps are harvesting very late and then blocking malolactic fermentation - this allows for superb ripeness, but eliminates the more viscous and creamy elements of Albariño that don't appeal to him (or us!). Aging is in older French foudre, the large format both working to preserve tension while providing some oxygen exchange to soften texture.
Salinity and white peach are apt descriptors for Albariño from the extreme coastal vineyards of Rias Baixas. In the case of Atelier these tell-tale notes are met with oyster shell, lychee, ginger, almonds, and white flowers. And that driving sense of salinity and sea breeze is captured brilliantly in the long finish.
Raul completely redefines what a mineral-driven Spanish white is capable of, showing depth and the nuance I've come to expect from elite Chablis and Côte de Beaune Chardonnay. In 2014 Raul Perez was named best winemaker in the world from the German publication, Der Feinschmecke. And in 2015 the same honor was bestowed by France's Bettane & Desseauve.
Much like the Bourgogne Blanc cuvées from Roulot, Vincent Dancer, and Pierre Yves Colin-Morey, Raul Perez's Atalier simply over-delivers is a big way. Finding Spanish whites that harness all of the inherent richness of the sun-soaked terrain is no tall task, but revealing them in a frame where harmony and balance steal the show is something entirely unique to this man.
2017 Raul Perez "Atalier" Rias Baixas Albariño
$28 per bottle.