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Here we are in those sultry days of August, when our wine inclinations lean towards anything cold, and the food pairing and pure refreshment value of clean, mineral white wines is paramount. As honorary Muscadet Ambassadors, we are known to extol the virtues of the whites from the Pays Nantais, but today we focus our attention on some exceptional whites from the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal. A similarity between all of these wines, of course, is the Atlantic influence, and the unique concentration of myriad types of granite, schiste, and slate, all of which lend pronounced minerality to the wines of the area. It should be mentioned that an important factor here is the distinction between vines farmed conventionally with chemical fertilizers vs. organically farmed vineyards with deep root sytems that are able to access the mineral rich bedrock/sub-soil. As you can probably guess given our reputation over the last 21 years, we will be focusing on estates that work with principles of organic and bio-dynamic farming and ferment with native yeast.
Pedralonga is a family run estate in Rias Baixas that has worked organically since the 90's and began employing bio-dynamic methods in 2007. They ferment with wild yeast and have most of their vineyards on granitic slopes. Their whites have always been some of my favorite in the region for their freshness and mineral structure. A recent addition to their offerings has been the very popular 'Serea,' an Albarino from young vines that is very attractively priced at $18.99!
Xurxo Alba is making a number of expressions of Albariño and other local Galician grapes in Cambados, in the Rías Baixas DOC in Galicia. His farming and winemaking are innovative and experimental, as he pursues organics and biodynamics in this challenging climate, ferments his wines exclusively with native yeasts, and adds little to no sulfur during production. This is an extremely Atlantic-influenced area, and the Albamar wines show that influence clearly.
Nanclares y Prieto (Alberto Nanclares and his winemaking partner, Silvia Prieto) farm two-and-a-half hectares of scattered plots of pergola trained Albariño around Cambados in Rias Baixas. They produce a range of wines, including serious single vineyard wines from very old vineyards. Yields are kept low, seaweed from the nearby Atlantic is used as fertilizer, and there is no plowing. The same care and attention is taken in the cellar, where Alberto and Silvia avoid additives (other than small amounts of SO2), ferment with indigenous yeasts, and neither fine nor filter the wines. 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.
I can't begin to express my fascination with the crystalline purity and unforgettable structure and length ot the Nanclares y Prieto wines. A longer article about their project can be found here, and we will have a later release this year of their single vineyard expressions, but I do highly recommend these 2021 wines. Alberto is particularly fond of the vintage if that's any indication of how good these wines are and how good they will be with some bottle age.
By no means an attempt at a list, these are simply a few Iberian whites that we absolutely love for this time of year!
*** All wines will be available for pick up or delivery after Tuesday, 8/9 ***
The Serea Albariño is made using Pedralonga's younger vines, but there is nothing entry-level about this wine. The grapes are farmed organically and hand-harvested before being fermented and aged in stainless steel. Pair with grilled fish and winter salads.
From 7.5 ha of organic and biodynamically farmed vines, this Albarino is full of energy! Pedralonga means "big rock" in Gallego, which refers to the chunks of granite that protrude from the vineyard soils and create the textured, mineral core of the palate. With flavors of citrus, green apple, white flower, briny sea spray, and light herbs, the wine is delicious and bright.
This beloved entry level cuvée from Albamar is made from grapes sourced from multiple sites with mainly sandy soil. The fruit from each parcel is vinified separately (some in stainless steel, some in barrels) gaining structure and complexity of flavor from six months spent on the fine lees. This is a very good, classic expression of Albariño with plenty of saline minerality and joyous notes of stone-fruit and sea air. -BF
Alberto Nanclares and Sylvia Prieto are making expressive, exciting wines from Albarino and other local grapes in Rias Baixas. This wine is from multiple sites in Cambados on granitic and sandy soils. The vines range in age from 30 to 60 years, a the wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts and raised in small tanks for close to a year. The 2021 shows pronounced mineral intensity, laser-like acidity and subtle bitterness in the finish. The tautness of this Albarino is remarkable. I think 2021 may be a vintage that stands out for this focused mineral character, more than any preceding vintage in recent memory. -EL
Tempus Vivendi comes from vineyards near Sanxenxo, south of Cambados. The grapes are crushed, fermented with indigenous yeasts, blended, and aged for 7 months on the lees, 75% in stainless steel and 25% in used barrels. A wine from many tiny parcels, from grapes that Alberto and Silvia purchase from organic growers. Salty-savory, lean, with herbal and dried herb notes. Super long finish, seashells and beach vibe.