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I can remember a time when many a stores Spanish selection rarely verged from classic Rioja in all its oaked, dried out glory. These wines absolutely still have a place, and should form an important part of peoples wine education, however the future of Spanish wine lies predominantly outside this traditional sphere.
One odd Friday afternoon in Sydney a few years ago I was greeted with a wine I’ve been buying on sight ever since - the Lousas from Envínate. I’d never seen anything from this producer before, and Ribeira Sacra was barely a blip on my radar outside of textbook knowledge. And it's not just this Galician region which has been cast into the spotlight! Near Madrid we have the Sierra de Gredos, home to some of the best Garnacha/Grenache being produced anywhere right now. South of Barcelona in the Penedes Mountains there are a myriad of natural producers crafting ethereal whites and reds from native varieties. We drink orange wines out of Alicante, and lest we forget the Canary Islands, these volcanic, cliffside vineyards responsible for a swathe of mineral driven reds and whites of great intrigue and potential.
Though this may seem to cover much of the country, I’m only just scratching the surface.
Anyhow, here are my go-to producers, and some of their wines…
Envínate, which translates to “wine yourself”, is the project of four young Spanish winemakers Roberto Santana, Jose Martinez, Laura Ramos and Alfonso Torrente who met whilst studying oenology in Alicante. They shared a passion for and desire to explore the ancient, Atlantic influenced vineyards and terroirs of Western Spain. Their first vineyards were in Ribeira Sacra, followed by the Canary Islands and a plot in Extremadura (never heard of it? Either had I until I tasted their Tinta Amarela). Viticulture is organic, and the vinicultural aim is to produce pure and authentic wines that speak of terroir above all else. Ageing is in inert vessels and minimal sulphur is added at bottling, only if required. There’s a very good reason these wines now grace the best wine lists around the world. I’m so stoked to be able to range the lot, albeit in limited numbers.
Fedellos do Couto
Fedellos roughly translates to “brats”, and this operation is a gang of three working organically in Ribeira Sacra. Everything is hand tended on these precipitously sloped vineyards. Fermentations are wild, with whole bunches and low temperatures. Gentle extraction is preferred, resulting in a wonderful freshness exuding from the glass.
They work with a myriad of local varieties, including Mencía, Mouratón, Garnacha Tintorera, Caiño, Bastardo to produce wines that are an excellent representation of the region.
“This has to be one of the more exciting projects in Ribeira Sacra and the whole of Galicia, with wines that are often a real bargain.” Luis Gutierrez (2016)
I’m 100% in agreement, this operation is really hitting its straps and a definite go-to when I see their wines on any restaurant and bar lists.
This is the joint label of Dani Land and Fernando Garcia of Bodegas Maranones, responsible for what are some of modern Spain’s most sought after wines.
They’re based in Rozas del Puerto Real, high in the Sierra de Gredos to the west of Madrid. The combination of extreme altitude, poor granitic soils and old vine Garnacha results in extremely ethereal, delicate yet enviably structured reds.
Tasting these wines blind often leads me to Burgundy, and the guys follow the appellation model. La Bruja is their Village wine, with Rozas the 1er Cru before moving to their Grand Crus Las Umbrias and Tumba del Rey Moro.
Piemonte based architects turned Catalonian natural wine producers - it’s a classic transition. Antonella and Massimo relocated to Penedes in 2007, refurbishing and old farmhouse, building a cellar and seeking out organically farmed vineyards of indigenous varieties, oft underappreciated in the past as producers sought out the classic international varieties to increase ease of appeal.
They now produce an astounding amount of cuvees, of all colours and styles, ranging from methode ancestral to vermouth. Winemaking follows their minimal intervention ethos, with ambient yeasts for fermentation and no additions or filtration.
The house style is already well defined. The whites and orange wines showing wonderful saline and wild herbal character and the reds a wild, unadulterated fruit expression.