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For many years, the annual arrival of the Daterra Viticultores wines has been celebrated by the staff at Chambers Street. Enthusiastic hand sells always follow, and soon the small allocation we receive dwindles down to a bottle or two. Before starting to write this piece about the wines, I found myself wondering why we never wrote a newsletter about this project, and the inspired winemaker, Laura Lorenzo, who is behind it, but it didn't take long to realize why, considering we usually sell all of the bottles within a week or two of their arrival! This year, after tasting the new arrivals from Laura, it seemed like the right time to practice some restraint and write a newsletter about her wines before we started whittling away at our allocation.
Laura Lorenzo started Daterra Viticultores in 2014, with the help of her partner, Álvaro Domínguez. Originally born out of her desire to keep regional traditions and varieties alive, the project has grown to cover several vineyard parcels, in distinct microclimates and subregions in Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras, in Galicia, and reaching as far as a natural park in Arribes (Castilla y León), in the valley of the Duero river (known as the Douro in Portugal). The name "Daterra" is, in her words, "a tribute to the wine growers who put their vineyards in my hands. The relationship with the vineyard is different from that established with other crops. With the vineyard, family history is relived and for that reason it is the last thing the farmers leave because they know that, if they do, it's over." With the case of the Daterra project, the histories of these vineyards are far from over, and are instead finding new life through her efforts.
Long before forging her own path as an independent winemaker, Laura decided to pursue a career in wine as a teenager, and attended enology school near her hometown of Allariz, not far from her present day winery. After school, she worked at a local winery and then traveled to South Africa to work with Eben Sadie, and Argentina to apprentice at the Achaval-Ferrer estate. She returned to Galicia to make the wines at Dominio do Bibei, in Ribeira Sacra, and after her tenure there, finally took the step to begin her own project.
After spending many years in the region with Dominio do Bibei, Laura developed a love for the area, the grape varieties, and the families who own and tend vineyards in this rugged backcountry. She began making wines before she had a permanent space to age them, but eventually was able to restore a tiny old windery in Manzaneda, where she now does all fermentation and aging. Farming is holistic, without chemical treatments, and fermentation is always with indigenous yeast, with minimal sulfur use, usually just at or before bottling. Slowly growing her operation, she has now reached a total surface area of around 4.5 hectares, including parcels in Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras, and one vineyard on the border with Portugal, which Laura discovered after beginning her hunt for old, nearly extinct, Mouratón vines. The search led her hours from her home base in Manzaneda, to the property of an old farmer nestled in a natural park on the banks of the Duero, in Arribes. Now, across her several parcels, she works with numerous local grapes, including Mencia, Mouratón, Garnacha Tintorera, Merenzao, Doña Blanca, Palomino, Colgadeira, and Godello! There are surely more that are unnamed in some of her 100+ year old parcels.
The wines that Laura Lorenzo produces are truly singular. Though I have tried numerous Mencia wines over the years, none have had the rawness and grit that Laura's have. Her expressions of Mencia have an animal character to them, mineral depth, the faintest lift of volatility which catapults wild berry and allspice aromas out of the glass. The whites have had an evolution over the years, and now have beautiful textural complexity, and structure, partly from the varieties involved, and the mostly granitic terroir, but clearly as a result of her careful winemaking, inclusion of skins during fermentation, and aging vessels as well. We're excited to share the new releases from the 2019 vintage, and encourage you to try some of these very special wines!
A fascinating blend of Juan Garcia (Mouratón), Tinta Madrid (Tempranillo), and several indigenous varieties from the area, from a parcel of 100-130 yr old vines. This unique parcel is located in a national park (Parque Natural de Los Arribes del Duero), and is primarily composed of granitic and sandy soils. Laura found the vineyard after beginning a hunt for Mouraton, and discovering an old farmer named Angel Mayor, who encouraged her to work with the grape, which is disappearing in the region, and is often sold in bulk for commercial wine production, where it becomes part of a blend. Partially de-stemmed, with 12 days of maceration and fermentation in a combination of large chestnut barrels and stainless steel. Aging is for 11 months in chestnut barrels.This wine is wild and pure, expressing aromas that confuse and delight my neural signals. I wrote in my initial tasting note that it's "more fun than a waterslide." Zippy, chiseled, stony and fresh, with a long mineral finish. The aromas are lithe, and range from allspice to rose petals. A real trip, and a very special red from a young DO (Arribes del Duero) that is rarely seen stateside. -EL
The wild child is back! All Mencia, from a South facing parcel of 50 year old vines on granitic sandy soil, at 400m elevation, in the valley of the Sil river. Fruit is de-stemmed, and fermentation is in 4000L foudres, with aging in the same foudres for 11 months. Total SO2 15mg/l. Upon opening, there are aromas of olives and black cherries, soil and savory. A bit volatile, but truly in the best way. When winemakers describe how volatile acidity can lift the aromas and increase the enjoyment of a wine, this is exactly what they're talking about. The wine stands out with a type of animal aroma that is hard to describe, but is clearly a transmission of the grape and the rugged countryside of Ribeira Sacra. On the finish, bright red fruits, mineral structure, and fine tannin.
A blend of Malvasia, Verdejo, and a local grape called Puesta en Cruz, all from a single vineyard in the Arribes del Duero DO of Spain, bordering with Portugal. Laura Lorenzo ended up discovering an old farmer named Angel, and his 100-130 year old vineyard, after searching for plantings of Mouratón, also known as Juan Garcia. Planted on this same parcel were some very old vines of local white varieties, so the Proxecto Sinerxia began! As with the Portela do Vento Blanco, grapes are partially de-stemmed, and see 2 weeks of skin contact. Fermentation and aging is in 500L chestnut barrels and 1000L clay tinaja (local type of amphora). The nose offers aromas of pickles, stone fruit, and lemon thyme. The mid-palate shows delicate fleshiness from the skin contact. A fascinating white that would pair fantastically with herb-crusted fish, nicoise salad, or any salty or fried foods.
This wispy white is primarily Palomino (90%), with inclusion of other local grapes, Colgadeira, Dona Blanca, and Godello. All the grapes come from a single vineyard in the Val do Bibei, that is co-planted with these varieties, at about 600m elevation on granitic soils. The grapes are partially de-stemmed, and macerated on the skins for 2 weeks. Fermentation and aging is in large chestnut barrels for about a year, before bottling without fining or filtration. It should be noted that Laura has been doing short macerations with the skins for many years now, so the implementing of skin contact is clearly to extract some texture from these interesting grapes, and not in any way influenced by the increasing trendiness of "orange wines." Lovely mouthfeel of chamomile and stone fruit (white peach, white nectarines). Stony, and structured, not just from skins, but also from the influence of the granite. -EL
All Mencia, from a parcel that Laura purchased in 2018, average vine age around 25 years. Portomourisco subregion of Valdeorras. Primarily Granite soils, with a mixture of gravel, clay and gneiss. 500-600 m elevation. Partially destemmed, fermentation in stainless steel, and aging in large 4000L foudres for 10 months before bottling with minimal sulfur. The Casas de Enriba may be the more civilized of the two Mencia offerings. Light to medium body, with dusty tannins, red cherry and overripe strawberry, rhubarb and allspice. The finish is delicate and refined. While the initial aromas and hit of acid from the first taste excite the palate, the finish cools and relaxes. -EL