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The last time I passed through Burgundy, I had a very interesting conversation with the wine director of La Dilletante, my favorite wine bar/restaurant in Beaune. We were talking about the hype and attention around "natural wines," and his worry that people were clumping very disparate things into a somewhat polarizing genre. To him, there were three different categories of natural wines: one of serious wines, sometimes aged a long time, that are complex, and of a very high quality; the second category was one of experimentation and an often dogmatic refusal to use SO2, coupled with a bit of inexperience on the part of young winemakers, and an inconsistent quality of grapes due to vines in conversion to organic or biodynamic farming (many winemakers say it can take 5-10 years after converting for the quality of the fruit to truly improve); I can't actually remember the third category, so if you happen to find yourself at La Dilletante, please ask the wine director to elaborate!
Of the first category, there are many examples in France (my Burgundy drinking friend tells me that to him, DRC is essentially a natural wine), and there are many arguments that might arise with each example posited. In Spain however, I think there would be no argument that the wines of Goyo Garcia Viadero fit firmly in this category. Nestled in the Ribera del Duero, Viadero is producing deep, layered, and elegant wines, reminiscent of some of the best Rhone or Burgundy wines I've ever tried. Two of Viadero's single parcel wines are co-fermentations, with the finesse and lifted floral aromas of the white varieties offering a complement to the earthy flavors and dark fruit of Tempranillo, but even his pure Tempranillo offering is balanced, with rich fruit and silky tannins. When compared to the often over-extracted, and over-oaked expressions from Ribera, there is an undeniable elegance and complexity to Viadero's wines. These are very special wines, from a very special place, guided by the hand of a true master.
Viadero's family is known for reviving the Ribera del Duero region in the 1980's, and the Valduero winery, run by his father and sisters, is still considered to be one of the most important estates there. Though working at the family domaine was always an option, Goyo Garcia chose to set out on his own in 2003, by taking some small plots near the town of Roa, and removing the use of herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The period of conversion took about four years, with his first vintage in 2008. Unlike many in the region, he harvests early for acidity, allows wild yeast fermentation, and ages his wines in used French barrels. Typically hovering around 13.5%, they are remarkably balanced wines.
It's almost unneccessary to even mention that these are "natural wines," made without manipulation, and with no added sulfites. Like any truly beautiful (and clean) expression of organic farming and natural vinification, they are first and foremost wines of high quality. I would, however, venture to say that considering the challenges of natural winemaking, to make wines of this high a quality is an infinitely greater accomplishment than it would have been with conventional techniques. There were no enzymes, no selected yeasts to guarantee aroma and taste, no new oak to add flavors, or over-extraction for color and tannins. All you have is old school hands-on farming, and careful, attentive winemaking. It sounds simple, but when you taste the single-vineyard wines from Goyo Garcia Viadero, you will know that you are experiencing something exceptional.
~Eben Lillie, with many thanks to Ben Fletcher for notes! Thanks as always to the José Pastor team, and Tess from MFW Wine Co.
Goyo Garcia Viadero produces small amounts of elegant, minimal intervention Ribera del Duero from high elevation plots planted with old vines of Tinto Fino (Tempranillo). The Joven is a great introduction to Goyo's unique style. From a single vineyard of 35 year old vines at about 860 meters of elevation, the grapes for the Joven are hand-harvested, destemmed, and then fermented with indigenous yeasts in steel tank. There is no fining or filtration before bottling, and no added SO2. For a Joven wine, this is strikingly serious and thoughtful without being heavy or extracted. Red and black fruits, with spice and violet show expressively on the nose after 30 minutes open, while the palate is a bit darker and more savory, with taut acidity, pretty tannins and a long finish that would pair nicely with sausages, lamb, or beef. Ben Fletcher
El Peruco is a unique high altitude (~1000m) vineyard in Ribera del Duero, planted with 120+ year old Tempranillo and Albillo vines on chalky clay soils. The wine from this vineyard is a co-ferment of both grape varieties, about 85% Tempranillo and 15% Albillo.All grapes are fully destemmed before wild yeast fermentation in small foudres, followed by long elevage in large barrel. Goyo's winemaking for this wine is strictly non-interventionist and focused on less extraction: there's no racking, no additions (including no added sulphur), no fining, and no filtering. Ben Fletcher
Valdeolmos comes from a single vineyard composed of Tempranillo and Albillo on sandy limestone soils. A coferment of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Albillo, this is typically the most lifted and floral of the Goyo Garcia reds. All grapes are destemmed, fermented with indigenous yeasts in foudre, then raised for more than 16 months in old barrel. Bottling is without fining, filtration, and no added SO2. Ben Fletcher
Viñas de Arcilla is the only 100% Tempranillo wine from Goyo Garcia, sourced from a northeast facing vineyard of very old Tempranillo vines (80+ years) on sandy clay soils. Like Goyo's other vineyards, Viñas de Arcilla is high elevation (around 800 meters) and the winemaking is also similar in approach: everything is destemmed, fermented in old foudre, raised for a long period in old barrel, and bottled without fining or filtration. Goyo avoids extractive approaches to winemaking in general, but as the only 100% red grape single vineyard bottling, Arcilla is fuller and denser than the other wines. Ben Fletcher