Ribeira Sacra: A Renewed Obsession

5/30/12 -

The Mencia grape is to Ribeira Sacra as Gamay is to Morgon or Syrah is to Cote Rôtie – a grape perfectly matched to its terroir. One doesn’t have to be a viticultural historian to know that it takes inspired people in addition to great grapes and great terroir to spell success. Today we’re celebrating a superb vintage in Ribeira Sacra, the burgeoning career of a new importer, and one young winemaker’s outstanding work with a special three-pack selected to renew your obsession with Ribeira Sacra. Read more below…   

Gerry Dawes has been travelling in Spain for over 30 years. He has been to Ribeira Sacra many times and considers himself a true Galicia-phile. Tired of passing his discoveries off to other importers, Gerry has taken the plunge and started importing his favorite Spanish wines to the States, with a focus on the northwest of Spain.  This has been a breath of fresh air; the wines are delicious, and show the best of what Ribeira Sacra has to offer: vibrancy of aroma and flavor, layers of red fruits, juicy acidity, minerals, and flowers with a lingering saveur, “red wines with the soul of white wines”, to use a colleague’s words.  Esteemed critic John Gilman, upon tasting Gerry’s group of wines, proclaimed on his Twitter-feed that he had tasted “the new Holy Grail of Ribeira Sacra producers”, calling them, “low-octane fireworks.”  As Gerry’s first customer here in NYC, I concur;  Sabatelius, Decima, and Cazoga are delicious and authentic to their respective places.  I am especially fond of the Sabatelius from the Chantada sub-zone on the western side of the Minho.  This is a project led by sculptor/painter turned vigneron, Primitivo Lareu. Chantada is the coolest and most Atlantic influenced Ribera Sacra sub-zone and Lareu produces wines with beautiful freshness.  Thanks to Gerry for bringing these wines our way!

The next chapter to my renewed obsession takes shape with a visit to the Guimaro winery back in late April.  At 38 years old, Pedro Rodriguez Perez, who runs the Guimaro bodega is the youngest vigneron working in the Amandi sub-zone.  One of my favorite people in Spain, he always has a smile on his face and is full of vitality as well as thoughts about how to move his family-owned bodega forward. Perez does some of the best work in the region.  With prime vineyard sites in the Amandi sub-zone, steep, south facing, with broken slate and schist soils, the family is farming organically with the goal of becoming certified.  With the help of one of Pedro’s closest friends, enologist extraordinaire Raul Perez, Guimaro has turned out an impressive line-up of wines, wines as breathtaking as the landscape.

An e-mail about Ribeira Sacra is not complete without mention of the brilliant D. Ventura wines.  The 2010 Vina Caneiro, from the Amandi sub-zone and one of the best vineyard sites in the region, may be the best Ribeira Sacra for the money.  This vintage has unusual clarity and finesse on the palate, as well as unrivaled aromatic appeal.  The 2011 Do Burato, a long-time store favorite, has come down in price to just $15.  That is $13.49, with a case discount, for a Mencia-based wine that rivals many Morgons at twice the price for its insatiable drinkability and complexity.

These recent developments make wines from Ribeira Sacra some of the most exciting to chill down and drink over the summer.  In the 3-Pack we have D. Ventura's Do Burato, Guimaro's Joven, and the Sabatelius.  Please consider some of my favorite Mencia pairings for these wines:  Argentinian-style grilled meats with chimichurri, shredded pork tacos, or a mixed grill of sausages. Buen Provecho!

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