• Garnacha Redefined

    Garnacha Redefined

    Comando G's Garnacha from the ancient hillsides above Madrid is among the most exciting Spanish reds I've encountered. Comando G has a unique understanding of Garnacha alongside a few others in the world, including Old Rayas and Henri Bonneau.

    These wines are similar to the composure, silken texture, and focus on freshness that I've come to expect from Cru Beaujolais, but we're not dealing with Gamay here. The Comando G wines are true to their Garnacha roots, with robust red fruit traits and wild incense spice, yet streamlined to reveal a brisk spine and chiseled rock minerality.

    Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia became friends in college and, after graduation, worked for wineries around Madrid. Rumors spread about plots of old, wild vines growing high in the hills of Sierra de Gredos. The duo leased the vineyards, implemented organic and biodynamic farming, and began producing these micro-cuvées under their label.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • 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
  • Spain's Gang of Four

    Spain's Gang of Four

    Envínate, translated to "wine yourself," was created by four friends 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 to discover forgotten sites with old vines planted on treacherous terrain. The previous generation saw the challenge as insurmountable, but this gang of four knew a treasured opportunity had presented itself.

    The reds are very dark in color, which is actually somewhat misleading, as the acid-driven and spicy flavors give a decidedly mid-weight body. Envínate is a great example of how versatile Spanish reds can be when they follow a nice recipe of shorter fermentation, neutral-vessel aging, and most importantly, sourcing from cooler climates with fascinating soils, which all play their part in delivering freshness.

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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.

    Click here to shop Forjas del Salnes wines

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • One Barrel of Blazing Bierzo

    One Barrel of Blazing Bierzo

    "2018 is the best vintage he has known in Bierzo. Full stop." — Luis Gutiérrez, Wine Advocate

    Touring with the team at Bodegas Raúl Perez in Bierzo last summer, I figured there would be more to go around. Our first stop on a full-day tour was to this very special Petra parcel, planted to old vines of only Mencia at 820-meters elevation with north exposure. Combine super-high elevation with old-vine Mencia, and you rapidly pull in Burgundy aficionados.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2018 Raul Perez Ultreia Petra.

    Petra's expression of Mencia is one that showcases the more lithe and crystalline qualities of the variety. The complexity here ranges from brambly dark fruits and violets to slate-infused smokiness, with a strikingly energetic and laser-focused finish with bright acidity.

    I had never before witnessed such a diverse range of soils and grape varieties under one person's hands. Finishing the day at both of Raul's cellars and tasting each of the parcels we visited was an unbelievable experience. Walking away I was left in total awe of his execution from a vision he had many years ago to work with only the oldest vineyards and immediately shift to the most fastidious organic viticulture.

    Perez's natural focus endows his wines with an authenticity that's impossible to miss. As much as he follows the historic path of his ancestors (no herbicides, pesticides, or additives of any kind in the cellar), he's made waves with his 100% whole cluster fermentation and extra-long macerations on skins. Raul completely redefines what Mencia is capable of in Bierzo. And, for his whites, he now owns the mineral-driven category within Spain, showing depth and the nuance I've come to expect from elite Chablis and Côte de Beaune Chardonnay.

    Tempering the impact of the heat and sun has always been the area of largest concern in the more continental Spanish zones. Working with high elevation vineyards and old vines is not enough to ensure grace, subtlety, and lift are the overriding characteristics when the wine is finally poured. It's the attentive, thoughtful approach to viticulture and minimal intervention in the cellar that Perez has come to trust as the root of success.

    In doing so, he's become recognized as a top winemaker in Bierzo and beyond. In 2014, Raul Perez was named best winemaker in the world by the German publication, Der Feinschmecke. France's Bettane & Desseauve bestowed the same honor the following year. And most recently, Decanter magazine asked, "Is this the world's best winemaker?"

     

    Posted by Max Kogod