The wines of Goyo Garcia Viadero

9/16/19 -

The last time I passed through Burgundy, I had a very interesting conversation with the wine director of La Dilletante, my favorite wine bar/restaurant in Beaune. We were talking about the hype and attention around "natural wines," and his worry that people were clumping very disparate things into a somewhat polarizing genre. To him, there were three different categories of natural wines: one of serious wines, sometimes aged a long time, that are complex, and of a very high quality; the second category was one of experimentation and an often dogmatic refusal to use SO2, coupled with a bit of inexperience on the part of young winemakers, and an inconsistent quality of grapes due to vines in conversion to organic or biodynamic farming (many winemakers say it can take 5-10 years after converting for the quality of the fruit to truly improve); I can't actually remember the third category, so if you happen to find yourself at La Dilletante, please ask the wine director to elaborate!

Of the first category, there are many examples in France (my Burgundy drinking friend tells me that to him, DRC is essentially a natural wine), and there are many arguments that might arise with each example posited. In Spain however, I think there would be no argument that the wines of Goyo Garcia Viadero fit firmly in this category. Nestled in the Ribera del Duero, Viadero is producing deep, layered, and elegant wines, reminiscent of some of the best Rhone or Burgundy wines I've ever tried. Two of Viadero's single parcel wines are co-fermentations, with the finesse and lifted floral aromas of the white varieties offering a complement to the earthy flavors and dark fruit of Tempranillo, but even his pure Tempranillo offering is balanced, with rich fruit and silky tannins. When compared to the often over-extracted, and over-oaked expressions from Ribera, there is an undeniable elegance and complexity to Viadero's wines. These are very special wines, from a very special place, guided by the hand of a true master.

Viadero's family is known for reviving the Ribera del Duero region in the 1980's, and the Valduero winery, run by his father and sisters, is still considered to be one of the most important estates there. Though working at the family domaine was always an option, Goyo Garcia chose to set out on his own in 2003, by taking some small plots near the town of Roa, and removing the use of herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The period of conversion took about four years, with his first vintage in 2008. Unlike many in the region, he harvests early for acidity, allows wild yeast fermentation, and ages his wines in used French barrels. Typically hovering around 13.5%, they are remarkably balanced wines.

It's almost unneccessary to even mention that these are "natural wines," made without manipulation, and with no added sulfites. Like any truly beautiful (and clean) expression of organic farming and natural vinification, they are first and foremost wines of high quality. I would, however, venture to say that considering the challenges of natural winemaking, to make wines of this high a quality is an infinitely greater accomplishment than it would have been with conventional techniques. There were no enzymes, no selected yeasts to guarantee aroma and taste, no new oak to add flavors, or over-extraction for color and tannins. All you have is old school hands-on farming, and careful, attentive winemaking. It sounds simple, but when you taste the single-vineyard wines from Goyo Garcia Viadero, you will know that you are experiencing something exceptional.

~Eben Lillie, with many thanks to Ben Fletcher for notes! Thanks as always to the José Pastor team, and Tess from MFW Wine Co.

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