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You've heard it before in natural wine offers: Venerable old vines! Bio farming! Esoteric varieties! Not a lick of SO2! Anecdotal production! And that is the certainly case with Nacho Gonzalez's La Perdida, but what is harder to quantify is outsized individuality and—for lack of a better term—soulfulness. La Perdida is made up of about 4 ha of organically-tended, antiquarian vines in Valdeorras in Galacia, many recovered after being abandoned for years. Cultivation and harvest is by hand and vinification and bottling is done without any addition of sulfur. Further, Nacho utilizes tinajas, traditional Spanish clay amphorae, made by Juan Padilla, who supplies a number of bold name growers in Sicily among others.
As someting of a "natty" wine curmudgeon, it always delights me when I drink the exceptions that prove the rule, so to speak. And the vibrant—yet still soil-driven—wines of La Perdida delight with their frank stoniness and their wild kinetic energy. In my albeit limited experience the wines typically benefit from a bit of time in the cellar after arrival. My sense is they don’t care for bouncing around in a container and then a truck, thought they seem bto right themselves after repose. Furthermore, I think a bit of decanting aids the aromatics. The reds are profoundly savory, crackling with wild berry fruit and nervy acidity. The whites all see a degree of skin contact and have fine high-toned mountain wine character following a bit of decanting, with sapid mineral cores and an intriguing blend of floral aromatics complemented by stone fruit and citrus oil flavors. There's a wildness to all the wines, but rather than seeming rustic, it manifests itself in a sense of unbridled energy. And it's just this energy that beckons the next sip and certainly the next glass. This energy is especially manifest in the dynamic 2020s, which Gonzalez views as a great year following the difficult 2019 vintage. The reds are brimming with vibrant fruit and deep earth notes, while the whites are coiled and just beginning to emerge from their post-importation funk with fine aromas of stone fruit and spice. John McIlwain
A Chaira is entirely Doña Blanca from the old O Chao vineyard that Nacho Gonzalez has been working since 2013. The vines are old and low-yielding, planted on steep slopes. The Doña Blanca grapes for A Chaira are harvested separately, fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks, then aged in tinaja, the traditional local amphora. This year's A Chaira has a deeply mineral cast. The nose shows granitic spice and citrus fruits, while the palate has abundant bright mineral texture and notes of lime, apple, mountain herbs, and salt. This is probably the leanest and brightest of the white or orange wines from Nacho Gonzalez this year, and may, as a result, need the most time to harmonize and flesh itself out in bottle. I'd like to check on it in 6 months: my guess is that this wine will fill out with some resting time and show more white fruit and spice.
A Chaira is majority Doña Blanca with a touch of Colgadeira from the steep-sloped, low-yielding O Chao vineyard that Nacho Gonzalez has been working since 2013. The old vines are farmed organically with some biodynamic methods, macerated for 5 days and aged in amphora (tinaja). The nose shows granitic spice and citrus fruits, while the palate has abundant bright mineral texture and notes of lime, apple, mountain herbs, and salt. This is probably the leanest and brightest of Nacho's whites, which is not a bad thing! Super approachable right out of the bottle, with light-medium body, stone fruit on the palate, and great cut. Delicate and balanced.
A Mallada is 70% Garnacha Tintorera and 30% Sumoll, from granite soils. Macerated for 5 days with some of the skins removed each day, then aged in neutral barrel. This is the first vintage in several years in which Nacho eschewed the use of tinajas (large amphora) for his reds, as he continues to define his style and direction with the La Perdida wines. This year, the wine is more open out of the bottle, with delicate notes of crushed dark berries and herbs. There is a familiar presence of very elegant yet rustic tannins. Another prime candidate for aging at least a year if not longer. -EL
The 2020 Malas Uvas is 100% Palomino from various organically-farmed plots, macerated for 5 days and aged from 4-5 months in tinaja. This is a mountain white wine, showing notes of melon, pear, citrus, and salt on the nose, while the palate leans more toward savory earth, herbs, and salty stone.
The 100% Godello O Pando Orange spends 6 months on the skins in tinajas (amphora). Quite a ride of a wine, this needs ample time open. At first whiff, there are intense, high-toned aromas that we can link to slight level of volatile acidity, maybe a touch of apple cider vinegar hits the upper passage of the nose. Give it about a half-hour, and these aromas blow off and reveal a stone-fruited, delicate and savory Godello that redefines the potential of this local grape variety. A memorable wine, and in the upper echelon of skin contact "orange" wines, from the world, let alone Spain. -EL
The positively glowing 2020 is Proscrito is a blend of 95% Palomino and 5% Garnacha Tinotrera. The grapes are destemmed and pressed and aged in tinajas for 2 months and then moved into neutral barrels. Always a darling of natural wine accolytes, this coferment is bright, juicy and super clean this year. The nose shows crushed strawberries, Morello cherries, and wild roses. This has fine cut, brisk acidity, and buoyant energy that should delight lovers of Poulsard and other light reds.
Meu, which comes from a very old and neglected vineyard site that Nacho Gonzalez has recently acquired and begun to rehabilitate. The site made up of calcareous soils is planted with local white and red varieties, including Moutaron, Garnacha Tintorera, Mencia, Palomino, Godello, Doña Blanca, and Colgadeira. 5 day maceration and aged in stainless steel. Last year, we had a few folks who decided this was the best red from Nacho's lineup, and we can see why! Totally delicious, medium bodied, with a fragrant nose of flowers, spice and garrigue, and a zippy finish. Plenty of acid here to see the wine into adult life, though it is particularly enjoyable now.
A highlight of the 2020 lineup, A Seara Ribeira Sacra is a field blend comprised of 60% red varieties and 40% white varieties including Mouraton, Garnaracha Tinotrera, Mencí, Palomino, Godello, Doña Blanca, and Colgadeira. The vines are in sand and schist soils. Unlike all of Nacho's wines, the grapes for A Seara come from outside Valdeorras, from a coplanted plot of red and white grapes in the Val do Bibei, in Ribeira Sacra. Notes here are of rosemary, olives, and spice, with medium body and a lovely clean finish. A real treat!
Comprised of 95% Garnacha Tintorera, 5% Palonmino farmed organically/biodynamically at 650 meters. The fruit is hand-harvested and destemmed. Vinified with native yeasts and without the addition of sulfur, As a sometime natural wine skeptic (is all that glitters glou?), it always delights me when I drink the exceptions that prove the rule, so to speak. And the vibrant—yet still soil-driven—wines of Nacho Gonzalez delight with their frank stoniness and their wild kinetic energy. In my admittedly limited experience the wines typically benefit from a bit of time in the cellar after arrival, my sense is they don’t care for bouncing around in a container and then a truck, thought they seem to right themselves after a couple of months of repose. Further, I think a bit of decanting aids the aromatics. The La Perdida 202O O Poulo has a touch of dissolved CO2 upon opening and a whisper of reduction; a quick decant remedies both. The nose is bosky with dark wild berry fruit framed with a tangle of bracken and underbrush (in a pleasing way) and beautifully ripe berry and black cherry pit notes, as well a a sweet black peppercorn top note (is that Tellicherry?). The just mid-weight palate is awash with hedge fruits, crushed herb, and brambly flavors, with driving acidity and a loamy, mineral core. This has ripe and prominent tannins, which frame all the exuberant forest fruit. There’s excellent balance here and a rising sprightly finish that bodes well for mid-term aging. Fabulous with chicken thighs with a sausage and wild mushroom ragout with cannellini beans and broccoli, though I suspect a rare piece of tuna with red wine lentils would shine just as bright. Brilliant wine and well worth re-visiting on day two. Lovely. John McIlwain
From clay soils, the 2020 O Trancado is 70% Garnacha Tintorera and 30% Mencia that undergoes a 5 day maceration with some of the skins removed every day, followed by aging in stainless steel. O Trancado is the wine from the vineyard of the same name that Nacho Gonzalez inherited from his grandmother. These are the very old, low-yielding (less than 1kg of fruit per plant!) vines that set Nacho on the viticultural path. The Garnacha Tintorera and the Mencía are harvested by hand, destemmed, and ferment with wild yeasts in very large, open topped tinaja. O Trancado is a fascinating wine. The nose is somehow simultaneously elegant and explosive, full of crushed blackberries and white peppercorns backed with delicate violet florals. The palate is vividly alive with citrus, raspberry and blackberry wrapped in finely tuned tannins and coursing acid structure. There are savory herbs and an elegant, nuanced finish, and at moments it is quite reminiscent of Gamay-based wines. This wine is by all means approachable in its youth, but aging at least a year if not 3-5 will reveal a magnificent natural wine.