• Portuguese Library Gold:  1985 Frei Joao Bairrada Tinto

    Portuguese Library Gold: 1985 Frei Joao Bairrada Tinto

    Of all the great discoveries traveling north from Lisbon to Porto, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out an estate that, thankfully, got on my radar several years back. While it's an over-generalization to point to one vintage as a triumph across all of Europe, 1985 is a year that I fervently hunt throughout nearly all regions of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and now Portugal. After selling out of the 1990, I'm thrilled today to turn to the 1985.

    Frei Joao's 1985 Tinto from the Baga grape is the diamond that arrived to us just this year, after a long 34-year slumber in the dark, dank cellars below the clay soils of Bairrada. At $56 per bottle, and down to $52.99 on 6 or more,  this is the aged, old world red that delivers history in bottle at a can't-miss price!

    When I think of the wines that have stirred the very greatest emotions they've all had significant bottle age. Meeting a wine at its apogee can be thrilling in a way that often leaves you without words. Those dramatic times when silence falls upon a table always seem to be recounted later, but in the moment we're completely dialed into the glass. The scents, the flavors, and the textures are worlds apart from what we find in young wines. The word haunting often seems to be the note most associated with these aged wines in their prime, where deep sense memories are easily accessed.

    Unfortunately, most of these personal wine experiences have come with a price tag that reflects the scarcity of the bottle in question. That's why today's offer is a very exciting one. Portugal, like Spain, is slowly making their case in the US for value and terroir-driven wines that are highlighted by freshness. Along with these new, fascinating arrivals we're also given a few serious gems. 

    Frei Joao was established in the 1950's, focused on the indigenous red and white grapes of the Bairrada region. The simple story is that because of their long history in the region and strong relationships with growers Frei Joao is offered the right for first refusal of the best fruit. Thankfully, they've taken this gift seriously, stashing away vintages from 1959 to 2000 for long aging at the winery. 

    The Baga grape is one with compelling tannins and very pronounced acidity, the perfect recipe for gradual and transformative aging. The clay soils and the evolutionary track we see today points quite a bit to the right bank of Bordeaux, but of course, the price point couldn't be further apart. Today, the 1985 banner vintage is fully resolved with supple tannins, dark cherry fruit, and all of the tobacco, mocha, and leather old world secondary notes you'd come to expect.

    At 12% alcohol the element of freshness cannot be overstated. Portugal's Bairrada is never shy on ripeness, and this old school mentality tied to lower alcohol winemaking has put this 1985 in the perfect spot today. The limited nature of these wines shouldn't be glossed over either, as Frei Joao is the only commercial winery in Portugal offering library releases from their caves going back this far.

    In its prime, an aged bottle poured around a table creates a collective excitement unlike anything else in the world of wine. I've never come across a better opportunity to see that convenient truth more so than today.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Wine Yourself:  Envínate's Canary Island & Ribeira Sacra Gems

    Wine Yourself: Envínate's Canary Island & Ribeira Sacra Gems

    As you can imagine, visiting with Envinate in Tenerife in the Canary Islands and then Ribeira Sacra a few days later was about as good as it gets on the wine route. In both terroirs, Roberto Santana and Alfonso Torrente have found the most dramatic old vine parcels, and since they founded Envinate in 2005 they've proven to the world that we all need to raise our own bars of expectation from these destinations. Now, the level of precision and finesse capable in these two historic regions is clearly cemented.

    Today, I'm happy to offer Envinate's 2017 and 2016 lineup.

    The story behind Envínate traverses through mainland Spain and the Canary Islands. The jaw-dropping scenery took on new form for me as I scrambled up ancient terraces in mainland Spain and in Tenerife, located off the southwest coast of Morocco. Favoring understated, fresh, and mineral-driven wines from ancient parcels, this project encapsulates the thrill of today's Spain. (Videos can be found later this afternoon on our Instagram Stories account @kogodwinemerchant)

    Envínate translates to Wine Yourself, and was the creation of four friends who were studying enology at the University of Miguel Hernandez in Alicante in 2005. Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and José Martínez slowly began consulting with wineries after college, in the process discovering forgotten sites that brought with them old vines, but treacherous terrain. The previous generation saw the challenge as insurmountable, but this gang of four knew the treasured opportunity that presented itself. 

    There's no doubt, it's the sensitive approach to harvest and winemaking that ultimately defines the success of the four. There are no chemicals used in the vineyards and clusters are hand-harvested. In the cuverie grapes are foot-trodden in small bins and fermentation occurs spontaneously from native yeasts on the skins. Wines are raised in old oak barrels and sulphur is only used when necessary at bottling. Each step Envínate takes is to ensure site-specificity is the focus in the bottle.

    For me, the wines have an immediacy and joy to them that's so rare to find from first sip to last. They are spicy, fresh, and saline-driven, never compromising the vivid fruitiness that is the foundation of the raw material.

    Albahra Tinto sources 30-yr-old vines from Albacete and Almansa, just south of Valencia near the coast. The soil is chalky with limestone and clay deposits. 100% Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante-Bouchet).

    Benje Blanco sources 70-105 yr-old vines from volcanic soils of the Canary Islands. 100% Listan Blanco.

    Benje Tinto sources 70-105 yr-old vines from volcanic soils of the Canary Islands. Blend of 95% Listan Prieto, 5% Tintilla.

    Taganan Tinto comes from 100+ yr-old un-trained vines planted on the volcanic soil of the Canary Islands. Varieties planted here are a mix of Listan Negro, Listan Gaucho, Malvasia Negra, and others. at up to 30 meters in elevation perched steep above the Atlantic Ocean. Vines are farmed by Envinate as well as 15 different families. This northern coast of Tenerife sees a more temperate climate with strong coastal winds that are ideal to preserve freshness and verve. Fermented 30% whole cluster and aged in a combo of small tanks and used barrels.

    Palo Blanco comes 100+ yr-old braided Listan Blanco vines in Tenerife grown on volcanic sand. These are immediately pressed off their skins and aged in two Friulian 2500L oval foudres for 10 months. There is no malolactic fermentation here, and the saline quality of this wine is extra pronounced.

    Migan Tinto is comprised of 90-120-yr-old Listan Negro vines planted on volcanic sand and clay in Tenerife. Migan taps two parcels of cordon trenzado (braided vines) Listan Negro. 60% comes from the La Habanera plot (100% whole cluster ferment) on volcanic sand at the highest elevation in the area, and 40% comes from the older San Antonio plot (15% whole cluster), lower on the slope and with more clay. Aged in older 228 & 600L barrels.

    Lousas Parcela Camiño Novo comes from 70-yr-old Mencia (90%) and Garnacha (10%) grown on a combo of granite and slate in Ribeira Sacra. Parcela Camiño Novo is a southeast facing parcel that makes an amphitheater in the Amandi subzone of Ribeira Sacra. A much cooler site for this region, and gives wines that with levity, brightness, and superior cut and focus. Fermented 100% whole cluster and aged in used 300-L and 400-L barrels.

    Lousas Parcela Seoane comes from 80 yr-old Mencia vines in Ribeira Sacra. Seoane is a single parcel located in the Doade area of the Amandi subzone where the soils are strictly slate. The slate reverberates the heat collected during the day time, but also endows tremendous minerality, making this perhaps the most muscular and powerful wine of the group. Fermented 100% whole cluster and aged in used 500-L barrels.

    Parcela Margalagua (pictured above) translates to "Mother of Water" and is about as close to a coastal Jurassic Park environment as I could imagine. STEEP. Vines here are all own-rooted and over 100-yrs-old. Covered are many varieties inter-planted such as Listan Negro, Listan Prieto, Baboso, Negramoll, Malvasia Negra. This is the most elegant and incisive of the Envinate wines, with distinct citrus and salty inflections.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen