Purity, Mencia and the Brilliant Wines of D. Ventura

11/12/2007 - After the rousing success of our last e-mail celebrating the unique wines of Gorrondona we wanted to find something even more exotic and that is actually pretty easy in the portfolio of Andre Tamers. Andre is part of the new breed of Spanish importer that is more in line with a Joe Dressner or a Neal Rosenthal than an Eric Solomon or a Jorge Ordonez. Andre is looking for wines of real character and purity that have a sense of place. Many Spanish wines today are made in the style that famous wine critics like and are sacrificing their identity for high points and brisk sales. D. Ventura is a winery that epitomizes this traditional and terroir-focused sensibility. The wines of D. Ventura are possibly one of Andre's biggest coup's yet.

I have always loved the wines of Bierzo which are made from the indigenous grape varietal called Mencia. Mencia, when done right, offers wines of great aromatic complexity, purity of fruit and transparency of terroir. Well this wine is Mencia, but it is not from Bierzo, which was a new one to me when I tasted it, as I assumed all Mencia was from Bierzo. But, alas, I was proved wrong, I love when that happens.. This was from Ribeira Sacra which literally translated means "Sacred Banks." Hailing from the inner region of Galicia which is much more famous for the racy Albarinos from Rias Baixas than red wine this is a fun yet pretty serious wine anomaly. In fact this is the first red wine I have heard of from Galicia. Then again I am not the world's foremost expert on all things Iberian. The vineyards are steeply terraced and mostly on stone with a little soil. They are quite a sight to see as the landscape is quite dramatic.

Ramon Losado used some of his family's old holdings to start up the D. Ventura winery. Since Roman times the vine has been cultivated here. The terraces are very steep - - -almost Mosel-like and are very dangerous to work. In fact the danger is so high that all the grapes are carried by dumbwaiter. The methods in the vineyard are as close to natural as possible including natural yeast to start fermentation, farming by hand and no filtering or cold stabilization of the wines.

The two wines we are featuring today are from two very distinctive vineyard sites. The Burato is from an area north of the Mino River in Amandi. Amandi is a very famous area for vines and that is where the Caneiro is from (look down!). The landscape is lush and the soils are more alluvial yielding an earlier drinking wine. The 2006 is a smoking bottle of wine and a lovely value. Floral aromas with some fresh, dark berry fruit, mineral with some lovely cracked pepper. Very pure palate with great inner mouth aromas and a feeling of being alive. This is rich and leaves a hint of pepper on the backend. A great wine and a great value.

With the Vina Caneiro the vineyard site is right on the Mino river in the great Amandi area and steeply terraced. The soil is pure slate and is referred to as Losa locally. This provides a serious contrast to the Burato. This is quite a bit richer than the Burato with deep cassis fruit and a nice stoniness due to the slate. The minerality is really vivid which is all the more impressive considering how dark and rich the fruit is.

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