It may become a little belabored, pointing out how many exciting new projects are coming out of Spain. But, when something's worth immediate attention there's no point in sidestepping giving serious praise where it's due. In the case of Raul Perez we're talking about the single most exciting young white wines I've ever encountered from Spain. Although these two Godello and Albariño-based wines have earned him the title of best winemaker in the world by French and German publications, these are new to me and to much of the United States.
Perez has made a big impact onto the scene here in a very short period of time. His natural focus within his home region of Bierzo and nearby parcels in Rias Baixas endow his wines with an authenticity that's impossible to miss. 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.
There are two projects under Raul's belt and today we take close look at a top white from each.
La Vizcaina de Vinos is based on the hillside crus around Raul's hometown of Vatuille de Abajo in Bierzo. "La Del Vivo" comes from Godello and Doña Blanca vines planted in 1925 and 1940 at 500 meters elevation. This sandy and clay soil brings cool-fruited and saline notes that counter the orchard fruit and faint citrus profile brilliantly. The overall balance is impeccable. Blinded, this wine takes you to top Chablis domaines in one sip.
The winemaking approach is fascinating. 80% of the grapes are pressed and fermented in large neutral French oak barrels. But, 20% of the grapes ferment on their skins in clay amphorae for one year, completely untouched. These two parts are blended prior to bottling without undergoing any fining or filtering.
Bodegas Y Vinedos Raul Perez is also based in Bierzo, but the most elusive of all his wines is from nearby Rias Baixas where the Albariño grape is king. "Sketch" comes from a minuscule .5 hectare parcel planted in 1965 on granite soil. Vines are incredibly tightly spaced, leading to competition and endowing wild concentration in the wine. The sea influence in Rias Baixas is a huge component for Albariño here. Temperatures are moderated allowing for a long, slow growing season and grapes are harvested as late as possible. Sketch is aged in 14-year old, 750-liter French barrels.
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.
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.
2014 La Vizcaina de Vinos Bierzo Blanco "La Del Vivo"
$36 per bottle.
2015 Raul Perez "Sketch" Rias Baixas Albariño
$84 per bottle.