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Martín Crusat and his wife Patricia have been making wine form their own three parcels of vines in O Rosal in Rias Baixas since 2012, employing organic and biodynamic practices in the vineyard and a light touch in the cellar. The soils here are mainly clay, and the climate is very strongly influenced by the atlantic, commonly lending a salty, bright element to the wines. Mainly working with the local star, Albariño, the Crusats also have plots of Loureiro and Caiño Branco and purchase some young-vine Sousón (an indigenous red grape) from a neighbor to make this wine, a claret made from all of the previous mentioned varieties. O Acordo is deep red in the glass, with a nose of candied red fruits and red and purple flowers with a salty, sea air tinge. The palate is bright and fresh and very light: initially very acid-driven but opening over time to notes of raspberry and blackcherry, with plenty of clay-y minerality. There are no real tannins here, so this is a great wine to drink with very light foods or before dinner. I'd encourage you to give this a chill before opening, then leave it for 30 minutes to an hour to allow for the aromatics and the palate to truly come alive. At this point, I think this is one of the most interesting natural wines in the store - for less than 20 dollars.Ben Fletcher
O Esteiro is a blend of Caíño, Espadeiro, and Mencía from vineyards along the Atlantic coast in Rias Baixas, farmed organically by Xurxo Alba. Although Rias Baixas is better known for Albarino, this is a refreshing red, perfect for the summer. On the nose, it is exceedingly mineral and saline with delicate red fruits, while the very light bodied palate shows bolder berry notes alongside tons of refreshing, salty minerality and structuring acidity. I keep returning to the balance of minerality and bright herbaceous notes offered by this wine! Ben Fletcher
Anima Mundi is a project from Agustí Torello Roca, who also makes sparkling wines under the AT Roca label. Based in the Eastern Penedès, where Macabeu is the most important local grape and also at its most expressive. This pet-nat is from adjacent parcels of Macabeu and Xarel-lo on limestone soils, partially fermented in old 225L barrels and stainless steel before bottling to finish fermenting in bottle with no filtering, sulfur, or other additives. Mineral, linear, and totally refreshing, this the perfect sparkling wine for hot summer days or drinking before dinner! Ben Fletcher
The valleys of Ribeiro have been renowned for their white wines, dry and sweet, for hundreds of years. Only in the first part of the 20th century did this reputation begin to diminish due to war, vine diseases, and the introduction of over-productive but inferior tasting grape varieties like Palomino. But any historian of wine or appreciator of elegant white wines will tell you that Ribeiro is a special place, and that the decomposed granitic soils (the sabrego) and old terraced vineyards are capable of producing truly exceptional wines. Bernardo Estevez manually farms roughly 5 hectares of vines that range in age from 20 to 100 years old. His agricultural approach is strict biodynamism, and he is an important proponent of biodynamics in Ribeiro. The majority of the white grapes are Lado and Treixadura, probably the two "noblest" grapes of the appellation. The rest of the blend in the Chans e lus (soil and light) Castes Branco is composed of the other indigenous grapes: Silberilla, Godello, Albilla, Loureira, Verdello Antiguo. He harvests his vineyards by hand, then presses the grapes whole cluster into an old 500L French oak barrel and an ancient 1500L chestnut foudre, where they ferment with indigenous yeasts. The wine rests in barrels for 10 months before bottling with very minimal sulfur, and then rests again in bottle at length before release. For me, this bottle delivers all of the many pleasures of Ribeiro white wine. Jubilant and expressive on opening, the nose is full of granitic stone, white and yellow flowers, wildflower honey, and melon. The palate is beautifully balanced between granitic minerality that lends ginger spice, length, breadth, and texture and the ripe fruit notes of peach, melon, and citrus. Despite the intensity of these different flavors, the balance between them yields a surprisingly delicate and thoughtful wine that will accompany the flavors of the fall and winter table very well. Ben Fletcher
The wines from Bernardo Estevez in Ribeiro are one of my most exciting discoveries this year. Elegant, traditionally made, and very carefully farmed, I find them almost singularly satisfying. This red is the first wine without sulfur additions that Bernard Estevez has made. From a large variety of grape varieties (Brancellao, Souson, Caino, Mencia and other indigenous varieties), co-planted on a few plots on schist soils. The aromatics are highly expressive and very open, with intense notes of crushed blackberries, schist minerality, and white and black pepper. The palate is brighter and more precise than the bold nose suggests, with notes of raspberries and black cherries overlaid on a deeply mineral, spicy background surrounded by precise tannic and acid structure. This deeply impressed me, and it was incredible with Peking duck in early December. Ben Fletcher
I love old classic Rioja. There is a stately quality to the wines and particularly to the Gran Reservas. By the time they reach us, they have spent so much time in wood and racked so many times from barrel to barrel that they have been inoculated against any damage that oxygen might cause. Consequently, they can live seemingly forever, becoming endlessly mellower, more harmonious and complex. If you like the sound of this, then please consider buying (then re-buying) the Akutain 2004 Gran Reserva. This is a tremendous example of really traditional Rioja. At the outset it's full of baked strawberry and cherry fruit, accented by the dill and vanilla character of old American oak barrels. But one sits with it in the glass, it takes on grander dimension, with meaty notes reminiscent of drippings from a roasting pan and more earthy truffly notes as well. The acidity and structure are spectacular, as one would expect from a great vintage such as '04. The general energy of the wine is a marvel and will make a great cellar addition. Sam Ehrlich
Juan Peñagaricano Akutain worked at CVNE and La Rioja Alta before planting his own vineyard in Rioja Alta in 1975. Ever since, he and his son, Jon Peñagaricano, have sought to produce classicly styled Rioja wines at a smaller scale, sourcing grapes from their own plots, which they work without chemicals and harvest by hand. Since 2015 they have produced this wine, a Cosecha (unaged) Rioja, fermenting Tempranillo and a little bit of Garnacha in fiberglass and resting the wine in the same container before bottling without fining or filtering. The 2018 shows the terroir of Rioja Alta without any distractions: it is a wine of pure fruit and earth. Notes of ripe cherry abound on the nose, interspersed with notes of green tobacco and earth. The palate follows, with similar pretty cherry quality and a long and broad clay-y minerality. This is a cosecha Rioja, without oak or long aging, and as a result it is much lighter than the wines that many think of as Rioja: it is perfectly suited to drinking with a slight chill into the summer. Ben Fletcher
The Bohigas family are long-time farmers and winemakers in Catalunya, farming organically and producing sparkling and still wines from the local grape varieties . This still white wine is a great, affordable introduction to one of the most interesting white varieties in Spain: Xarel-lo. Xarel-lo is the most important white grape in the production of Cava and other sparkling wines in Catalunya, and a great grape variety for producing crisp and mineral still wines. The grapes for this wine were harvested by hand and fermented in stainless steel before bottling: it is bright, crisp and mineral with notes of salty stone and citrus. A new daily drinker, perfect for lighter food or just drinking on its own. Ben Fletcher
"Mondo" comes from a parcel of 30 year-old Verdejo vines planted on sandy clay soils over limestone bedrock with significant iron deposits in the La Seca municipality. The parcel, like Manuel and Isaac Cantalapiedra's other vines, is farmed organically with some biodynamic practices. Although their plots are technically within the Rueda appellation, the father and son duo has rejected the modern, industrial styles that the region is known for, and elected to remain outside of the appellation as a result. The vines are tended by hand and harvested by hand, then destemmed, and fermented with skins in neutral French oak barrels. Skin contact lasts for 30 days before resting on the lees for 11 months. This is a powerful, elegant skin-contact white wine with notes of spice, ripe stone and orchard fruits, and a slightly oxidative note on the nose. The palate is expansive and intense, running through a variety of different yellow and green fruit notes: quince, apricot, yellow apple, lemon, pear. These are balanced by a ferrous, intense mineral seam and plenty of bright acidity. Really an incredible representation of Verdejo! Ben Fletcher
This is an atypical expression of Toro. Manuel and Isaac Cantalapiedra source the grapes from high-elevation (780 meters, very high indeed for Toro) organically-certified vineyards near Villabuena del Puente. The grapes are harvested by hand and 90% are destemmed and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel; the remaining 10% ferment with the stems in open-top fermenters. After macerating for 25 days, the grapes were pressed into neutral French oak barrels to rest for 11 months. There is no filtering or fining, and the only sulfur addition is small and takes place at bottling. This shows the depth and intensity of classic Tinto de Toro (Tempranillo), without the extraction or intense tannins that we typically think of in the region. Instead, there's delicate spice notes, mineral structure, and refined, pure red fruit notes. A real treat, and a great value. Ben Fletcher
Castellroig is one of the finest values in sparkling wine and a great example of the wines of Corpinnat: it is farmed organically, harvested by hand, aged at least 18 months on the lees, and fermented with native yeasts. Marcel Sabate and his team have a remarkable understanding of their vineyards and have mapped out every minute shift in terroir on their estate; this fanatical approach to quality shows in the bottle. The focus of this cuvée is Xarel-lo, a favorite among the grapes of the Penedès for its refreshing mineral qualities and notes of mountain herbs. A light-on-its-feet bubbly for everyday occasions. Ariana Rolich
Costers del Priorat's Petit Pissarres is 60% Garnacha Tinto and 40% Samso (a.k.a. Carignan), from organically farmed vineyards planted on the unique slate soils of Priorat. The Llicorella, or decomposed slate,, and the vintage's warmth, lend this wine a bold, dense character, but also mineral lift. The fruit character is dark, suggesting plum, blackberry, and black currant on the nose, while the palate is more lifted with notes of cherry, blueberry and blackberry around a core of slate-y minerality, with just a touch of oak spice. Ben Fletcher
Portela do Vento is made from a blend of Mencia and Garnacha Tintorera, from biodynamically farmed parcels throughout Ribeira Sacra. Mostly destemmed, and made in a bright, easy drinking style, this is pretty and red-fruited with lots of granitic minerality. The nose shows granite spice, pomegranate and cherry, while the palate emphasizes strawberry notes. Bottled without fining or filtration, and with no added sulfur. Ben Fletcher
Listán Prieto from vineyards at around 1000-1200m near Santiago del Teide on Tenerife. This vineyard has sandy volcanic soils, and the vines are 70-100 years old. Climactically, this region is dry, windy, and continental in character, shielded from Atlantic influence by Mount Teide and elevation. The grapes are harvested by hand and fermented with indigenous yeasts with a maceration period of 10-20 days and punch-downs daily before aging for eight months in concrete and used French oak. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a touch of sulfur. This year's Benje Tinto is open and ready to go - a great expression of the spice, minerality and intensity of Tenerife's volcanic soils paired with the delicacy and freshness of Listan Prieto. Ben Fletcher
100% Albillo Real, from Esteban Celemín’s vineyard that he planted in 2014 with clonal selections from surrounding, ancient ungrafted vineyards. The soils in this plot are particularly chalky – unusual in the area, where most soils are clay or sand. In 2018, he harvested this vineyard last, seeking to get the greatest amount of ripeness and concentration possible from these younger vines. Farming is organic, with some biodynamic treatments, and vinification is very traditional: the grapes are foot trodden, then pressed slowly and gently with a basket press into five old 225L French oak barrels, where native yeast fermentation takes place and the finished wine ages for 10 months. In contrast to Las Avutardas, Señora Vale shows slightly brighter fruit notes: white and yellow flowers, freshly sliced apples, green herbs, and Bosc pear on the nose. The palate has a juicier texture as well, with a bright seam of chalky minerality surrounded by notes of bosc pear, butter, and apple. Like Las Avutardas, I think this is a great choice for anyone who enjoys the white wines of the Rhone, or even Chardonnays from warmer sites.
100% Albillo Real from vines around Castronuño. This is Esteban’s expression of the traditional, slightly oxidative skin-contact wines of the region, made in the classical clay tinaja or amphora. The Albillo Real grapes’ thin skins macerate gently in the juice for 40 days, lending little in the way of color but plenty of flavor and texture. The nose is bright but very bold, with notes of apricot, orange peel, and citrus, while the palate shows concentrated apricot, peach, and pear alongside savory density. The clay and the skins give this a truly unique texture that I find simultaneously substantial and truly refreshing.
Verdeja is the local name for old, pre-clonal selection Verdejo in Castronuño and Toro, and while this wine shows plenty of Verdejo character this is clearly not a wine trying to be Verdejo from Rueda! Embracing Verdejo’s tendency towards oxidation, Esteban Celemín makes this wine in the traditional method of this region, with 1-2 days of skin contact and the inclusion of some raisinated grapes. The result is a very highly concentrated, but totally dry, expression of Verdejo. This shows appealing ripe green herb (fennel, coriander, celery) notes intermingled with charred lemon notes on the nose, and the palate is dense with plenty of mineral acidity and citrus and stone-fruit notes.
"Conas brancas?" means "what to do about the whites?," referring to old vines of white grapes that were planted among the Mencia and Merenzao vines in the vineyards worked by Fedellos do Couto. For many years these grapes were too abundant to blend into the red wines, but not vigorous enough to bottle on their own. Eventually, this bottling became the answer: a field blend of Godello, Dona Blanca, Albariño, Treixadura, Lado, and Torrontes that reflects the terroir and the local white varieties of Ribeira Sacra. About 75% of the grapes are fermented whole cluster, then macerated on their skins for 40 days, while the Godello is pressed into old barrels. Finally, these are blended to produce a vibrant medium-bodied wine with notes of beeswax and pear but also salinity and bright acidity. 2016 was a cooler vintage, which shows in the stony, mineral concentration of this vintage of Conasabrancas. This would be well-suited to the table at Thanksgiving, a friendly, medium-bodied white wine to pair with roast potatoes, stuffing, or mushrooms. Ben Fletcher
This 100% Tempranillo wine from Ribera del Duero is a fantastic value from biodynamically certified vineyards. Coming from vines aged between 10- and 20-year-old, the wine is fermented for 9 days and then aged 80% in stainless steel and 20% in oak. This is a classic, fuller-bodied expression of warm climate Tempranillo: dark fruit, earth, a bit of leather and medium tannins are in balanced with freshness and some herbal character. A great wine for hearty weeknight fare, it can also stand up to steak or lamb. Ben Fletcher
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 Garcia'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. (Wine arrives 3/12/20) Ben Fletcher
I adore the wines of Goyo Garcia Viadero, who is making natural wines in Ribera del Duero with his wife Diana Semova Geogieva. They farm high altitude plots of old vines, vinify in a traditional and low-intervention fashion with indigenous yeasts and without sulfur additions, and produce wines of great complexity and elegant beauty. This bottling, 100% Malvasia from old vines macerated on the skins, is a new addition to their line-up. Tasting it in Mid-July, it impressed me immensely. The nose is redolent of exotic spice (white tea, allspice, star anise) , roasted almond, and stone fruit, while the palate shows apricot, peach and jasmine, with bright notes of ginger. The skin-contact grants delicate, refined tannins and rich, waxy body to the wine. Truly, one of my favorite "orange wines" that I've ever encountered: intense, elegant, and memorable. Ben Fletcher
Guímaro (which means "rebel" in Gallego) was founded by Pedro Rodriguez in 1991, in Amandi, the most celebrated subzone of Ribeira Sacra. Here Mencía and other indigenous varieties (Merenzao, Mouratón, Brancellao, Caiño, Sousón...) are planted on very steep terraced slopes of slate on the northern bank of the river Sil. The vines on these south-facing slopes (almost cliffs, really - I definitely recommend checking out a photograph of these precariously steep vineyards) produce wines of great mineral intensity and character. Camiño Real comes from six terraced vineyards around Amandi, with about 85% of the blend Mencía and 15% other indigenous red varieties. Pedro harvests the grapes by hand and ferments them together in open-top oak vats with 40 days of maceration on the skins before raising in an foudre and 225L and 500L barrels. Right now, this shows a bit tight, but it will blossom with air or further bottle age into a great expression of Ribeira Sacra: structured, medium-bodied, spicy and very gastronomic. Ben Fletcher
A Seara is this year's new wine from Nacho Gonzalez, the first (as far as I'm aware) from outside Valdeorras. A Seara hails from a coplanted plot of red and white grapes in the Val do Bibei, in Ribeira Sacra. Although the vinification is basically identical to Nacho Gonzalez's other wines (100% destemmed, fermentation in stainless steel, aging in tinaja) the change in terroir is fascinatingly clear. The nose is spicy, with black pepper, mint, and smoke balanced by ripe cherries, raspberries, and red plum skin. The palate echoes, with ripe red fruits and a long, smooth, cooling granitic minerality. Compared to the other 2019 wines from La Perdida, there's less salt here and more spicy, smoky character, and the palte is long, sapid, and integrated. With a few months of rest, I think this will grow to be an exceedingly elegant natural wine.
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, ferment with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks, then age 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.
Malas Uvas is a blend of 20% Dona Branca and 80% Palomino - the two least appreciated grape varieties in Valdeorras. The grapes come from Nacho Gonzalez's old 'O Chao' vineyard, where they are hand-harvested, fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel, and macerate on their skins for about five days. 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. While somewhat austere and acid-driven at the moment, I am confident that this wine will relax and harmonize over the next few months to yield a bold, structured, alpine white wine.
2018 was the first vintage for Meu, which comes from an old and neglected vineyard site that Nacho Gonzalez has recently acquired and begun to rehabilitate. The site is planted with the local white and red varieties, the vines are very old, and production is very low. Like last year, this is clearly a very special wine. It shows intense floral and berry notes on the nose, and the palate is lively and well-structured with red fruit, blueberries, earth, and stone. Very pretty now, but certainly destined to improve.
O Pando is a mountain vineyard of mixed grapes, including Godello. This is one of two wines that Nacho Gonzalez produces from the vineyard's Godello vines. This, the white which sees less time on the skins, is hand harvested, destemmed, macerated for 4-5 days, and fermented in open-top tinaja. The 2019 O Pando shows notes of citrus, salt and orchard fruit on the nose, counterposed to a bright palate with crunchy tannins and notes of lime and savory earth. This is a really texturally interesting wine, that I think will surely improve in bottle. A recently opened bottle of 2015 O Pando showed extremely well, so I wouldn't hesitate to hold onto this wine for year or considerably more, but this was also one of the more approachable and appealing wines to drink now or in a few months at a recent tasting.
The O Chao vineyard is planted with Godello, and Nacho makes two wines from the grapes of this old-vine, low yielding mountain plot. This, the orange, spends much longer on the skins than the white. Nacho harvests the grapes by hand, fully destems, then ferments with native yeasts in open-top Tinaja and macerates the grapes with the skins for 5-6 months. The maceration is gentle, providing texture and density without overwhelming tannin. In fact, the O Pando 'Orange' is perhaps softer and more immediately appealing than the O Pando 'White' in this vintage. The remarkable, herbal nose shows basil, pine, jasmine, and ginger alonside quince and apricot. The palate is less herbal, instead emphasizing lime, white apple flesh, and granitic spice framed by pretty, soft tannins.
O Poulo is the biggest and boldest of Nacho Gonzalez's red wines. 95% Garnacha Tintorera, with 5% Palomino, this is a dark and brooding natural wine. The grapes come from a small, old vineyard near Larouco, the grapes were destemmed, then cofermented in a single 400L open-top tinaja, before pressing into an old 400L French oak barrel to rest for a year. Production is tiny. In the glass, the wine is nearly ink-black, but the nose shows great promise: smoke, pork fat, blackcurrants and granitic spice. The palate is structured with tannins and acidity wrapped around a cooling, granite minerality. The fruit here is a bit restrained at the moment, but my experience with the wine in other vintages suggests that this will change: 2018 O Poulo opened in November showed macerated blackberries, plum skin, black pepper and salt. I adore this wine, but I'd wait to open it until those very special aromatics start to emerge: probably about 9 months to a year from now. And don't be afraid to decant.
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. The wine is raised for six months before bottling, then held for another six months in bottle before release. O Trancado is a fascinating wine. A bottle of 2018 opened in November 2020 was one of the best wines I drank this year, with spectacular notes of blossoming violets, kirsch, alpine, herbs, and granitic spice overlaid on a supple, long, mineral palate. Tasting the young 2019, I feel confident that it is headed for similar, if not greater, heights. 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. A joy right now (perhaps the most approachable ofthe red wines at the moment) this will only improve over the next 5 years, I am confident. Lovely - the sort of wine that compels poetic language. Ben Fletcher
The La Perdida Proscrito is a favorite of staff and of customers every year. 95% Palomino (a white grape) and 5% Garnacha Tintorera (a dark-fleshed black grape), this clarete comes from various parcels around Larouco. The grapes coferment in stainless steel tanks, then are pressed into old barrels of chestnut and French oak. Proscrito shows cranberry, pomegranate, and tart cherry notes on the nose, paired with appealing undertones of tomato skin and lemon zest. The palate is wild and buoyant, with fresh strawberries, pomegranates, salty minerality and savory earth. This is appealing now, but I'm very confident it will be even better a few months into 2021 as the wine's herbal and savory character continue to grow and the texture of the palate lengthens and intensifies.
Vindemiatrix is Diego Losada’s most affordable and approachable wine, from 7 plots of mostly Mencia on Bierzo’s valley floor (around 500m above sea level). These sites are drier and somewhat warmer than the other plots that go into Losada’s other wines, but on similar clay-limestone soils. Vinification is the same also, following Diego Losada’s low-intervention approach: hand-harvested in early September, fermentation and brief maceration in concrete tanks, and then 7 months of resting in the same vessels, and finally racking into bottles. 2019 was a bit warm, and the Vindemiatrix is fruit forward, with black cherry, raspberry, and strawberry notes complemented by refreshing mineral acidity. An incredible value from one of the most exciting winemakers in Bierzo! Ben Fletcher
(Was $24.99) Amanda comes from Alfredo Maestro's old vines of Garnacha Tintorera, planted on clay-limestone soils at about 850m of elevation. While this is certainly a rose wine, it's color and red fruit flavors come from the red-hued flesh of the grapes, rather than from the skins: the grapes are pressed directly, without contact with the skins. This yields a deeply colored but translucent wine, with notes of cherry and raspberry on the nose and an electric red fruit palate with delicate tannins and a vibrant seam of limestone minerality. An outstanding rose wine with lots of character.
Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto make some of our favorite Albarinos. Recently, they've also been making some very interesting red wines from Rias Baixas (and also a small project in Ribeiro). A Senda Vermella hails from organically farmed plots of Caino and Mencia in Rias Baixas, around the villages of Cambados, Vilanova and Barro. 80% of the juice is from the 2018 harvest, picked in September, fermented whole-cluster, and aged in a blend of very old French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. The other 20% comes from the 2017 vintage (far cooler than the 2018 vintage), which saw the same treatment and had aged on its lees in used barrels since the previous winter. Once united, the wine aged a further 9 months on its lees before being bottled without fining or filtering and with just a touch of SO2. The bottled wine rested for a further 10 months before release. This is outstanding: delicate, defined, and elegant. On the nose, plenty of crushed black pepper, delicate herbaceous notes, and crushed raspberry and blackberry. The palate is light and fresh, showing more Caino than Mencia: red berries, thyme, black pepper, around a mineral core. Complex, but so appealing that it disappears fast - qualities that this wine shares with the Nanclares y Prieto Albarinos. 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
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, the wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts and raised in small tanks for close to a year. The 2019 is a stunning expression of focused, acid-driven Albarino, with notes of lime, sea shell, and the slightest tinge of tropicality. An absolute favorite of the whole staff here. Ben Fletcher
Oriol Artigas organically farms 7.5 hectares of very old vines in Alella, just north of Barcelona. His approach in the vineyard is low-impact, influenced by biodynamics: he does not do much pruning, encourages the growth of supportive plants among the vines, and follows the lunar calendar. El Rall is a new bottling from Oriol, from old vines of Merlot, Syrah, Garnatxa and Sumoll, vinified in stainless steel, some macerated whole cluster and some pressed directly, bottled without fining, filtering, or any additions. El Rall shows pretty green notes from the Merlot alongside bright and refreshing red and purple fruit and a bit of Syrah spice. At 12.5%, this bottling is more substantial and dense than Oriol's other red wines, but still refreshing and cooling, with delicate tannins. Serve with a bit of a chill. Ben Fletcher
(Was $24.99) Pepe Raventós stepped outside of the Cava appellation in 2012 to create the Conca del Riu Anoia designation. The de Nit rosé was the first Conca wine and continues to sate and impress us with its lively expression of calcareous soils, rich with marine fossils. This is an incredibly versatile sparkler that has crisp, pretty stone fruit and light raspberry fruit with a gorgeous minerality. AR
This 100% Garnacha wine from the Gredos is one of my favorite summer bargains: great for barbecues, grilling and steak all summer long. Paso de Cebra is a blend from 7 vineyards of old Garnacha vines planted on high altitude (~1100 meters) granitic sandy soils in the mountains west of Madrid. This well-balanced wine shows the trademark bright acidity of the Gredos terroir against full and dense dark fruits over a cooling granitic minerality. Drink this wine slightly cool with anything off the grill this summer! Ben Fletcher
Ruben Diaz makes this delicate orange wine from old Chasselas vines in the Gredos Mountains. The maceration of the juice on the skins is gentle and relatively brief (about a week), and the resulting wine is salty, with notes of citrus and stone fruit. A beautiful introduction to orange wines, and a really food friendly expression of Chasselas.
Viña Somoza is a pioneering winery working to revive Godello, the indigenous white grape of Valdeorras. Javier Garcia works a number of vineyards throughout Valdeorras, all planted to Godello, which has been reestablished as the region's premier white grape after years of dominance by relatively neutral Palomino. Godello has nice texture and weight (especially when raised on the lees, as Neno is), but balanced by a fine and bright acidity. Neno shows the fullness characteristic of Godello with some leesy texture and notes of pear and apple, but also fine acidity (especially in the 2016 vintage) and cooling minerality. Ben Fletcher
Valdeorras is better known for white wines from Godello than red wines, and the Somoza Godello has become something of a staple at Chambers Street the past few years, but this blend of red grapes from a large number of small parcels from Vina Somoza is a lifted, dense, and hedonistic red wine from the region. Winemaker Javier García Alonso macerated Mencía, Garnacha Tintorera, Mouratón, Merenzao, Gran Negro, and Brancellao grapes together for a little more than a month in open-topped neutral fermenters before pressing the juice into 400L and 500L barrels to rest on its lees over winter. The result is a spicy, dark fruited wine with notes of plum, blackberry and exotic spices on the nose, and a structured but delicate palate of mixed small berries (raspberry, blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry) and bright minerality that finishes with long dense spiciness. The character of the Mencía certianly shines through, but the bright acid of Garnacha Tintorera and the delicate red fruit of Merenzao (Jura's Trousseau) are equally apparent. A beautiful wine that opens splendidly with air to reveal more and more length and surprising power. Ben Fletcher
Moristel, the grape that this wine is made from, is almost completely new to me: this is the first varietal Moristel wine that I've been able to taste. Jancis Robinson describes the grape variety as frail, and I suspect that it is low-yielding and difficult to grow - which has led to its replacement in its native Aragon by internation varieties in the past 20 years. This expression, from natural winemaker Toni Osorio, is somewhere between a rose and a red wine, mostly transparent and very vibrant. The nose is somewhat floral, with notes of violent and purple flowers, while the palate shows cranberry, pomegranate, and citrus notes. A truly interesting and very fun and refreshing light red!
Montsant is better known for its red wines, but this fresh and interesting white from Sara and René of Venus La Universal makes a strong case for the region's whites. Made from 50% Macabeu, 40% Garnatxa Blanca and 10% Cartoixa aka Xarel-lo from organic vineyards, roughly 20% of the grapes are macerated on the skin for 24 hours (providing a soft, complex textural structure to the finished wine) while the remainder are directly pressed into clay amphorae and large old barrels. Dido Blanc shows the influence of the poor decomposed granitic soils of Falset. These soils and the warm climate help promote full ripening and exuberant fruitiness, while the granite simultaneously expresses itself in the wine with balancing minerality and acidity. This was outstanding with buttery, garlicky shrimp over rice with lime and cilantro and would be similarly well-suited to other flavorful seafood dishes, I think. Ben Fletcher
Sara and René of Venus La Universal make one of my favorite rosados every year, and the 2018 continues this trend. Made from a blend of Garnacha, Carignan, and Syrah, plus the white grapes Macabeu, Garnacha Blanca, and Garnacha Gris, all pressed and fermented together and aged for 10 months in barrels before bottling, the Dido Rosa expresses the minerality of the granitic Falset soils in this part of Montsant. While this shows a pale, peach-y pink, this is a dense, deeply mineral rose with gentle tannic structure and notes of raspberry, blood orange, and apricot. If you're opening this right now, I'd encourage you to give it a few hours of air or to decant; if you can, hold on to this so it can reveal more of its seductive character in the next few years. Ben Fletcher
I never know quite what to say about Bobal. Probably the best note is "plummy" but this can be taken in many different directions. Good Bobal wines, like this one, conjure the image of fresh plums - less-good bobals often make me think of cooked plums or even fruitcake! But this wine, from Vera de Estenas in Utiel-Requena (near Valencia) shows the fresh and joyful side of plummy Bobal at a great price. There's plenty of density to the palate, and the fruit is ripe and juicy , but there's a backbone of minerality and delicate tannins that invite another sip. Perhaps it is the clay-limestone soils, or the old vines (ranging from 50-100 years), or even the cooling Mediterranean winds that lend this balance. Ben Fletcher
Las Rosas is on the east coast of La Palma: the plot is buffeted with intense winds. 100% Listan Negro, fermented in concrete.
Malvasia from La Palma has had a reputation for quality since the 17th century. Victoria Torres' expression of the grape variety is dry, aromatic, crystalline, and very special. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts in old foudres for nine months, then rested before blending and bottling.
Victoria Torres' Negramoll comes from a variety of sites across the island at different elevations and in different microclimates. All of the vineyards are farmed organically, unirrigated, and ungrafted. Harvested at different times depending on their specific situation, they ferment separately in tanks and barrels with some stem inclusion before blending. The final wine ages for 12 months in old sherry casks.
The Mein vineyard surrounds the old San Clodio monastery in Ribeiro's Avia valley, on the region's classic sandy granitic soils. Winemaking has a long history here as a project first of the Romans, and then the region's monastic orders. In 1988, the vineyard was replanted to local varieties, first white then red, by Javier Alén and his associates. Since then, the Vina Mein wines have been models for the revitalization of traditional winemaking in Ribeiro, and have evolved towards a bright, dense, style emphasizing purity of fruit: fermented and aged in stainless steel, the wines spend an extended period on the lees to contribute structure and body. The 2017 shows ripe apple, peach and tropical notes on the nose, while the palate is generously peachy and very mineral. The finish is broad and granitic, and this is a great late summer and fall white wine, suited to a range of foods or sipping on its own. Ben Fletcher
Zorzal takes the Graciano grape to new heights with this inexpensive but outrageously delicious 35-year-old, organically-farmed vines in Spain's Navarra region (Rioja's overlooked neighbor). This is a generous, crowd-pleasing, and thirst-quenching red on the fuller side of medium-bodied. It is pretty and perfumed, with flavors of juicy purple plum, ripe red raspberry, and dark cherry, violet flowers, soft funky earth, spearmint leaf, cinnamon spice, smooth tannins, rich texture, and just enough acidity. Unfined, unfiltered, and fermented with native yeasts. Ariana Rolich
As I understand it, 2017 was not an easy or fun vintage in the Gredos Mountains of central Spain: rain at the wrong time, drought and excessive heat following, and two brutal summer hails ripped through the region, massively reducing yields. But the Garnacha wines that I have tasted from the vintage are all absolutely fantastic. The 2017 Pegaso 'Zeta,' from 60+ year-old organically-farmed vines near Cebreros, is an elegant, fresh style of Garnacha from slate soils. The nose is exuberant, with raspberry and blackberry notes alongside slate-y earth and spice, which continue on the long, delicately structured palate.