Touring with the team at Bodegas Raul Perez was the ultimate masterclass on Bierzo terroir. 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.
The arrival of the Raul Perez wines into the US have garnered a lot of attention. Although offers in the past past have been wildly popular, things have changed a bit for the new release of both his whites and reds from Bierzo.
The California allocation sold out in less than a few hours, and today I'm happy to provide the full range that has now arrived to us directly from Perez's U.S. importer's New York warehouse. Wines are all ready to ship now. With the Wine Advocate's Luis Gutiérrez fanning the flame on the first release of these new wines, the quantities are again very limited.
Today, I'm happy to offer the game-changing wines of Bierzo's Raul Perez, covering old vine Mencia, Bastardo, Alicante Bouchet, Godello, and Albarińo. Perez's natural focus endow 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 fermentations 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 only recently as a master of his craft.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. And just last week Decanter magazine asked, "is this the world's best winemaker?" Ultreia Saint Jacques is sourced from 5 hectares Mencia vines planted between 1900-1940 on clay soils. Supplemented by small portions of Bastardo (Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet). Macerations go as far as 2-5 months. Aged in older wood ranging in sizes: 225L, 500L, foudre, and cement.
Ultreia Tinto is sourced from 3 hectares of mainly Mencia planted in two villages, one on clay and the other on slate. Supplemented by small portions of Bastardo (Trousseau), Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet). Doña Blanco, and Palomino. Aging in neutral 228-liter barrels.Ultreia Godello is sourced from vines throughout Raul's village of Valtuille de Abajo, planted on clay and alluvial stones. Fermented and aged in neutral foudre.Ultreia La Claudrina comes from a 0.3 hecatre parcel of Godello planted on sandy soils in Valtuille de Abajo. Fermented in one 1,500L foudre and aged for 1-2 years under flor, which develops starting in the spring after harvest.
Atalier comes from two parcels of own-rooted, pre-phylloxera Albariño vines in the Cambados area of the Salnés valley, located in the southern portion on the northwest tip of Spain. Blocked malo and aged in large neutral foudre. Encinas is an exciting joint venture between Raul Perez and Crozes-Hermitage's Antoine Graillot. Because Mencia amd Syrah share similar qualities, the plan here was to incorporate Antoine's cement fermentation protocol working with the Bierzo terroir. Interestingly, Mencia was a little more reductive than Syrah on first go around, and so in this 2nd vintage the decision was made to move the wine to large neutral wood after initial fermentation and aging in cement.La Vitoriana comes from a 1.8 hectare vineyard of the same name, planted with Mencia in 1890 on a mix of sand (upper slope) and clay (bottom slope). Supplemented by small portions of Bastardo (Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet) and Doña Blanca and Palomino. Whole cluster fermented in large oak vats, followed by a 60-90 day maceration, then one year of aging in neutral 225 and 500L barrels.
El Rapolao comes from a 1.5ha plot of Mencia with small amounts of Bastardo (Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouchet) planted on clay at 550m elevation. Whole cluster fermented and aged for one year in neutral 500l barrels. La del Vivo comes from 1.5 hectares - a mix Godello and Doña Blanca from two vineyards, La Poulosa (1940, clay) and Las Villegas (1925, sand). 80% of grapes are pressed and fermented in 500 and 700-L neutral barrels. The remaining 20% of grapes ferment on their skins in clay amphorae and remains untouched for one year. The two parts are then blended together and bottled. Ultreia de Valtuille is sourced from 1.7 hectares of vines planted in the late 1800's. Sitting at nearly 600 meters above sea level on sandy soils these old vines produce what comes across as Raul's most delicate and deeply layered wine. Incredible concentration is met with finesse and a cool-fruit quality that sandy soils are often associated with.Maceration can go as long as 90 days on skins, and aging also is in neutral French barrels. Here the blend is almost identical to the above, but tiny amounts of Godello has replaced Palomino.
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.