• Heaven Sent Albariño

    Heaven Sent Albariño

    Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto's pergola-trained Albariño in Cambados, the seaside village with vines just meters from the Atlantic, marked a massive shift in my understanding of descriptors like "crystalline" and "acid-driven" when it comes to the Spanish white wine category.

    Nanclares y Prieto's U.S. importer, the legendary José Pastor, has been the gateway to many new Spanish discoveries, including Envínate and Luis Rodriguez. Nanclares follows a philosophy that Pastor has used as his foundation in building such a critical and impressive portfolio of ultra-attentive, thoughtful growers and producers.

    In 1992, Nanclares and Prieto left their native Basque country and settled in this extreme Atlantic Ocean setting in the beautifully green and lush northwest Galicia region. Organic viticulture is no easy task in Rias Baixas, as high humidity and constant rainfall mean conventional farming with chemicals and high yields are the overwhelming norm. Nanclares gradually shifted over the years to farm his parcels the right way through painstaking labor.

    Like Dauvissat's La Forest in Chablis, there's an element of clay in the soil here (mixed with decomposed granite) that gives Soverribas more texture and breadth on the palate. This single parcel, Paraje Manzaniña, is a powerful and saturating style of Albariño; however, its profile is still very much founded upon a fresh streak and salty, long finish. Note: I recommend decanting to allow the layers of complexity to unravel.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Rias Baixas Golden Feat: Rodrigo Mendez & Raul Perez

    Rias Baixas Golden Feat: Rodrigo Mendez & Raul Perez

    Summer's 2019 wine route through Spain and Portugal was all about increasing my familiarity with producers I've been enamored with for a long time. Of course, traversing three weeks through land steeped in such rich history is going to also provide some revelations. In all, there was no single introduction to a wine that made things stand still like they did one night at the must-visit Mesón A Curva restaurant in Galicia when their owner blind-poured a glass. The reveal: a joint project between Rodrigo Mendez & a guy you may have heard of named Raul Perez, their Forjas del Salnes Rias Baixas Albariño.

    Less than 1,000 bottles were produced of the 2013 Leirana. Like production numbers may lead you to believe, this is as unique and singular a wine as I've ever had from Galicia. Val do Salnes, the birthplace of Albariño is the coolest of the five subzones of Rias Baixas. With average temperatures here of 60 degrees between April and October, one would expect these Albariños on pure granite to showcase the most heightened sense of tension and salinity. But, the most profound trait in Leirana is centered around multi-layered textures and that ultimate elusive chase to find density without weight.

    Rodrigo and Raul approached this micro-production cuvée with an eye on deep experimentation. This particular parcel of 1954-1964-planted Albariño vines comes from an incredibly sandy section over granite. This cuvée is only produced in cool growing seasons. Grapes see partial skin-contact fermentation, with malolactic blocked to preserve the verve that's so indicative of these sandy soils that mirror a beach setting. A single foudre is used for fermentation, and wine is aged in stainless steel for six years prior to bottling.

    The orchard fruit tones of Albariño veers heavily into the under-ripe white pear register, with Meyer lemon and orange peel building a greater presence on the mid-palate. The real magic of Leirana comes in the beautifully incisive finish that simultaneously embodies a more rounded frame of acidity that's, at once, mouth-watering in its freshness, but with driving waves of layered complexity that continue to change and linger long after swallowing.

    Galician winemakers are more focused than ever before on wines that compel with their levity instead of power. Leirana strikes me as the one project that's found a way to instill both of these virtues with a balance that inhibits any one descriptor from standing front-and-center. If Grand Cru white Burgundy perhaps exemplifies this balancing act the very best, I'd highly suggest you get acquainted with north-west Spain's boldest feat.

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    Posted by Max Kogod