• Power & Levity: Forjas del Salnes Albariño

    Power & Levity: Forjas del Salnes Albariño

    My tour through Spain and Portugal in the summer of 2018 was to better familiarize myself with producers I had been enamored with for a long time. Of course, traversing through this land steeped in rich history was going to provide some new revelations. At one dinner, the owner of Mesón A Curva restaurant in Galicia blind-poured us a stunning glass of wine. The big reveal was: Forjas del Salnes's Rias Baixas "Goliardo" Albariño, a joint project between Rodrigo Mendez and Raul Perez.

    Albariño's birthplace, Val do Salnes, is the coolest of the five subzones of Rias Baixas. Galician winemakers are more focused than ever on wines with levity instead of power, though Forjas del Salnes has found a way to instill both of these virtues with a balance.

    Goliardo a Telleira comes from a 1973-planted Albariño parcel on sand and granite soils—sourced from the same site as Raúl Perez's famous Sketch bottling. The grapes see partial skin-contact fermentation with malolactic blocked to preserve the wine's verve. A single foudre is used for fermentation, then the wine is transferred to stainless steel for several months before bottling.

    The other bottling, Leirana, is as unique and singular a wine as I've had from Galicia. From vines planted between 1952 and 1982, the most profound trait in Leirana is centered around multi-layered textures and that ultimate elusive density without weight. Less than 1,000 bottles produced of both wines!

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Priorat Re-Discovered: Terroir al Límit

    Priorat Re-Discovered: Terroir al Límit

    In college, when I primarily drank California wines, Priorat was my introduction to the Old World. While my palate has changed a lot since the early 2000s, it's been surprising to see a winemaker here who, in tandem, has changed the profile of the region.

    Trends in the 1990s placed nearly every winery here into a camp of high extraction and high oak influence. However, Dominik Huber's lineup centers around Garnacha and Carinyena's explosive violet aromatics, with wild strawberry and an array of blue fruit tones. In the right hands, the black slate (aka llicorella) and clay soils in Priorat instill each wine with a deeply layered and saturating mineral punch.

    Huber employs an organic and biodynamic approach. Given the arid climate, one would imagine this a popular regimen, but it's still rare. Infusion and semi-carbonic fermentation, which limits extraction and keeps the beastly tannins more at bay, make Terroir al Límit a complete outlier. Lastly, Huber's aging in Austrian Stockinger foudre is an integral key to preserving terroir.

    This is the one destination in Priorat that you must become familiar with if your palate leans toward Burgundy and Northern Rhône. Although the wines here could never be mistaken for the former, their clarity and poise are founded on similar principles.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • New Spain Value: 4 Monos GR10 Tinto

    New Spain Value: 4 Monos GR10 Tinto

    Collaborative efforts between friends have been a common thread within The New Spain wine scene. In the past, we've focused on the high-end, single-vineyard bottlings of Comando-G, but this afternoon's offering is the value play. At $29 per bottle, 4 Monos models how delicacy and transparency can be a Spanish red's leading traits.

    GR10 Tinto comes from three villages with granite-dominant vineyards and vines ranging from 30 to 85 years old. The blend is 85% Garnacha, 10% Cariñena, 3% Morenillo, and 2% Syrah. There is certainly a core of energy and an abundance of minerality, but these fresh fruit qualities take me back to tasting grape clusters picked off the vine. It's also 4 Mono's brilliant, non-interventionist approach in the cellar that gives GR10 such sophisticated texture and structure.

    The Four Monkeys, as they call themselves, clearly share a passion for lively and fruit-forward wines. Javier Garcia, Laura Robles, David Velasco, and David Moreno met while hiking in the Sierra de Gredos mountain range, located 80 km east of Madrid. All had unique backgrounds related to wine, each bringing a different element of expertise to this project founded in 2009.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Straight Outta Haro: 1968-2012 Lopez de Heredia

    Straight Outta Haro: 1968-2012 Lopez de Heredia

    On my trip to Spain in June 2019, none brought more anticipation than my drive to Haro from San Sebastián. Among the historic estates in Spain, few conjure a sense of awe like Rioja's Lopez de Heredia, and for me, they're simply the pinnacle of tradition.

    I've always found Lopez de Heredia wines stand out from the pack for their elegance and subtleness. Although not light in color, they see less extraction than many of their neighbors. In short, they are the best case made in the world today for Tempranillo's ability to transmit terroir in the most delicate framework possible.

    Traditional winemaking here relies on American oak, but the influence of new wood is minimal, if at all. The Bosconia sees five years in wood prior to additional aging in bottle, and the Tondonia is aged six years. The inherent value in this estate-aging is really without peer in the world of wine.

    Founded in 1877, the winery has maintained a level of excellence and held onto a deeply traditional winemaking philosophy that's the model for Rioja today. When Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta began his venture, he quickly realized that there was simply no way to ensure high quality by purchasing grapes. With that, the Tondoñia Vineyard was planted in 1913.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Heaven Sent Albariño: 2020 Nanclares y Prieto

    Heaven Sent Albariño: 2020 Nanclares y Prieto

    Legendary U.S. importer José Pastor has been the gateway to many new Spanish discoveries, including Envínate and Luis Rodriguez. Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto in Cambados marked a massive shift in my understanding of descriptors like "crystalline" and "acid-driven" when it comes to the Spanish white wine category.

    Like Dauvissat's La Forest in Chablis, there's an element of clay in the soil here (mixed with decomposed granite) that gives these wines more texture and breadth on the palate. Nanclares y Prieto's Paraje Manzaniña parcel, in particular, produces a powerful and saturating style of Albariño still founded upon a fresh streak and salty, long finish. 2020 Rias Baixas was generally about half a degree less in alcohol, and like Burgundy and Mosel, it was all about balance this vintage.

    In 1992, Nanclares and Prieto left Basque country and settled 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.

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    Posted by Max Kogod