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Alberto Nanclares was once an economist. It is our great luck that he decided to move from the Basque country to the Val do Salnes with his wife, and that, once there, he embarked on a viticultural journey. Beginning with a tiny number of conventionally farmed vines, he now organically farms two-and-a-half hectares of Albariño in the form of isolated plots around his village of Castrelo, in Cambados. Organics is difficult and a rarity in humid Rías Baixas, and he is a pioneer in natural farming and low-intervention winemaking in the region.
Alberto Nanclares began making the wines from his vineyards himself in 2007, and has since begun to work with Silvia Prieto in the cellar and the vineyard. Their approach is low-intervention, concerned with emphasizing the character of the Val do Salnes and their unique terroir. They employ no additives aside from modest amounts of sulfur, and all fermentations are done with indigenous yeasts. In particular, they celebrate the acidic structure of Albariño, eschewing any attempt to deacidify the wines. In their cellar, malolactic fermentation is a rarity, so the wines are defined by their racy, vibrant acidity.
In addition to their Albariños, Alberto and Silvia have been working with Roberto Regal in Ribeira Sacra to produce a fascinating and Atlantic-influenced red wine from a single very steep parcel above the Minho. Miñato da Raña is as electric as their Albariños, and as focused in its expression of place.
2018 was a somewhat difficult vintage, and yields (already kept low intentionally) were lower than normal. Spring and summer were rainy and cool, but the vintage was saved by a drier, warmer August and September. Situations in Ribeira Sacra were similar. However, the wines are beautiful and balanced, with dense fruit and bright acidity: awesome expressions of Galicia.
Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto create, in my opinion, the most beautiful, mineral, and elegant wines made from Albariño in the world. From their more accessible wines from a blend of plots to these single vineyard wines, each expression is special. The wines on offer today are, however, the most special. From single parcels of organically farmed old vines, these limited, rare wines are the greatest Albariños that I've had the pleasure of trying. Many of them are wines to age, but each offers great pleasure now, as well. Intense, long, and full of depth, they embody the potential of a grape that has become, perhaps, a little too common. Ben Fletcher
Soverribas is consistently an exceptional expression of Albariño at the highest level, and the 2018 is exactly that. Citrus, briny sea air and fresh cut green herbs unite on the nose, and the palate answers with peach and rock salt around a core of long, intense stony acidity. From a single southwest-facing vineyard (called Paraje Manzaniña), the grapes are harvested in September, pressed whole cluster and fermented with native yeasts then rested on the lees in a very large old oak barrel for 11 months, with bâtonnage for the first three. Bottled without fining or filtering and with only a modest amount of sulfur. This was a bit tight, and could use either a year or two (or maybe even longer?) or a lengthy decant. Ben Fletcher
Crisopa is Alberto and Silvia's fascinating attempt to reconstruct the historical expression of Albariño made in the Val do Salnes, before modernization of viticulture in the region. The grapes come from the same parcel as Soverribas: Alberto selects the best bunches for Crisopa, and harvests them a day before the rest. They were then crushed by foot in open vats before fermenting with skins for 20 days in stainless steel before vertical pressing and racking into large used french oak barrel. The wine rests in barrel for 12 months on its lees, with bâtonnage for the first three months, before bottling without fining or filtering. Like Soverribas, this wine has abundant acidity and minerality, but the pigeage and skin contact add robust texture and notes of quince and ripe lemon zest around a salty, stony core. A fascinating "orange wine" that will only improve over the next few years. Ben Fletcher
The vineyard for A Graña is on sandy granitic soils and faces to the northeast. Alberto and Silvia harvest the grapes by hand, then press them whole cluster into a used 800L chestnut cask and small stainless steel tank to age on the lees for 11 months with some bâtonnage before bottling without fining or filtering. The result is a precise, acid-driven Albariño with a touch of broad, granitic minerality balanced by stone-fruit and salt. Of the single-vineyard Nanclares wines, this is a good choice for earlier drinking - with a long decant. Ben Fletcher
Coccinella comes from a single vineyard of own-rooted centenarian vines near Cambados in the Val do Salnes. Protected from phylloxera by its pure sand soils and facing north-west, this is a very special place with very special (nearly unique) vines. The 2018 vintage was largely rainy in coastal Galica but transitioned to warm and dry weather in August, allowing for a small crop of perfect grapes to be harvested in September. The grapes for Coccinella were hand harvested and fermented with indigenous yeasts in 400L used French oak barrel. Bâtonnage was employed for the first three months of one year of aging in wood, and the wine was bottled without fining or filtering. This is an intensely mineral Albariño with great acidity and length, with floral, citrus and tropical fruit notes overlaid on briny, salty, stony minerality. While Coccinella is beautiful now, it deserves time in cellar or at the very least a long decant. 504 bottles produced. Ben Fletcher
La Tinaja de Aranzazu is Alberto and Silvia's wine made in Tinaja, the traditional amphorae used for hundreds of years in Spanish winemaking. The grapes come from the Paraje Mina vineyard (Alberto's home vineyard) and another old plot of vines on sandy granitic soils. The grapes were hand harvested and pressed whole cluster to ferment with their native yeasts in two tinajas, where the wine then rested for nine months on its lees, with weekly bâtonnage at the start. The tinajas impart a denser, richer texture to this wine, but the core is pure Albariño acidity, with salty, stone-fruit aromas and a long, dense palate. Like the other single-vineyard releases from Nanclares, this could probably use either a long decant or some time in bottle. Ben Fletcher
In addition to their vines in the Val do Salnes, Alberto and Silvia are making wine along the Minho river in Ribeira Sacra with Roberto Regal. Miñato de Raña comes from a very steep, south-facing parcel of 100-year old vines in the Laderas do Minho region, where the soils are mainly granitic. The 2018 vintage was difficult, but the wine is beautiful, elegant and light bodied: a unique expression of the cooler, more Atlantic part of Ribeira Sacra, made with Mencía, Garnacha Tintorera, Godello, and Palomino Fino. The grapes were harvested in late September, then crushed whole-cluster before fermenting in two 200L open-top barrels with 20 days of maceration on the skins and finally pressed into used 500L French oak barrels for nine months of resting without racking. The wine is delicate, herbal, and floral on the nose with notes of violet, rose, fennel, and other wild mountain herbs. The palate is vibrant and exuberant, enlivened by the white grapes: notes of cranberry, pomegranate, sour cherry, and pepper spice swirl around a core of bright acidity and broad, granitic minerality. One of my favorite wines from Ribeira Sacra that I've tasted, a true and exciting expression of Galicia. Ben Fletcher