The Sacred Banks of D. Ventura

10/3/2009 -

We have received our yearly supply of the D. Ventura wines. They are amongst our favorite tipples from Spain for their vivid fruit and earth flavors and their clear concise representations of the visually striking Ribeira Sacra terrain. The D. Ventura wines avoid the pitfalls that seem to trip-up many of the young winemakers in Spain today. The male chest thumping of over-extraction and the often pervasive new oak flavors are elements you will not find here. These are balanced wines of utmost purity, medium bodied at most, with Gamay-like juicy acidity, wonderful depth, and an aromatic personality that must be experienced. Ramon Losada’s family owned vineyards are positioned on slate terraces – built by the Romans - located directly above the rivers Minyo (in Do Buratos case) and the river Sil (Pena do Lobo and Vina Caneiros). The average age of the vines is 80 years, and they have been in his family for generations. The vineyards are thoughtfully farmed without the use of artificial treatments; Ramon says that organic viticulture is imperative to the future of his vines. The soils here are predominantly a type of brown slate the locals call Losa, with clay and alluvial soils interspersed in the mix. Atlantic breezes blow down through the river valleys creating a cooling effect. The slopes are so steep that harvest takes place with the use of a dumb-waiter in Vina Caneiro and Pena do Lobos. Vineyard work here is treacherous. For the vinification Ramon has a small space in his garage where the juice is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts. In the first few vintages produced Gerardo Mendez from Do Ferreiro gave his friend Ramon some help with the know-how to carryout a natural vinification. The end result is, as stated above, wine of pure aromatic complexity, delicacy and finesse.  At this moment oenologists are scrambling to find land to exploit in Ribeira Sacra. Wine-making here is in its infancy. No one knows just how much better these wines can get. Dr. Jay Miller of the Wine Advocate recently awarded a wine from Ribeira Sacra an unprecedented 99 points. It’s likely that some have delusions of grandeur that the next it wine can be made with elaborate cellar work and fancy oak barrels from famous French forests. For at least awhile their lack of knowledge of these people, their climate, and their soils will make themselves apparent. In the meantime, I will continue to savor D. Venturas wines and continue to shout from my soapbox: if you want a true vin de terroir from Spain, drink these, and get back to me.

P.S. I spent sometime with Ramon back in June. He is an incredibly thoughtful and compassionate man. He is a veterinarian by trade, and spearheads a foundation to preserve the ancient Celtic pig of Galicia. Unfortunately, due to car sickness I was unable to taste the by-products from this wonderful beast or sample his mother’s tortilla, which according to my much-experienced colleague is the best to be had in Spain.

-Chris Barnes

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