The wines of Laura Lorenzo - Daterra Viticultores

8/17/21 -

For many years, the annual arrival of the Daterra Viticultores wines has been celebrated by the staff at Chambers Street. Enthusiastic hand sells always follow, and soon the small allocation we receive dwindles down to a bottle or two. Before starting to write this piece about the wines, I found myself wondering why we never wrote a newsletter about this project, and the inspired winemaker, Laura Lorenzo, who is behind it, but it didn't take long to realize why, considering we usually sell all of the bottles within a week or two of their arrival! This year, after tasting the new arrivals from Laura, it seemed like the right time to practice some restraint and write a newsletter about her wines before we started whittling away at our allocation.
Laura Lorenzo in the vineyards (Photo courtesy of Liz Fayad / Jose Pastor Selections)

Laura Lorenzo started Daterra Viticultores in 2014, with the help of her partner, Álvaro Domínguez. Originally born out of her desire to keep regional traditions and varieties alive, the project has grown to cover several vineyard parcels, in distinct microclimates and subregions in Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras, in Galicia, and reaching as far as a natural park in Arribes (Castilla y León), in the valley of the Duero river (known as the Douro in Portugal). The name "Daterra" is, in her words, "a tribute to the wine growers who put their vineyards in my hands. The relationship with the vineyard is different from that established with other crops. With the vineyard, family history is relived and for that reason it is the last thing the farmers leave because they know that, if they do, it's over." With the case of the Daterra project, the histories of these vineyards are far from over, and are instead finding new life through her efforts.

Terraced vineyards / Portrait of a Colgadeira vine (Photos from Jose Pastor Selections)

Long before forging her own path as an independent winemaker, Laura decided to pursue a career in wine as a teenager, and attended enology school near her hometown of Allariz, not far from her present day winery. After school, she worked at a local winery and then traveled to South Africa to work with Eben Sadie, and Argentina to apprentice at the Achaval-Ferrer estate. She returned to Galicia to make the wines at Dominio do Bibei, in Ribeira Sacra, and after her tenure there, finally took the step to begin her own project.

After spending many years in the region with Dominio do Bibei, Laura developed a love for the area, the grape varieties, and the families who own and tend vineyards in this rugged backcountry. She began making wines before she had a permanent space to age them, but eventually was able to restore a tiny old windery in Manzaneda, where she now does all fermentation and aging. Farming is holistic, without chemical treatments, and fermentation is always with indigenous yeast, with minimal sulfur use, usually just at or before bottling. Slowly growing her operation, she has now reached a total surface area of around 4.5 hectares, including parcels in Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras, and one vineyard on the border with Portugal, which Laura discovered after beginning her hunt for old, nearly extinct, Mouratón vines. The search led her hours from her home base in Manzaneda, to the property of an old farmer nestled in a natural park on the banks of the Duero, in Arribes. Now, across her several parcels, she works with numerous local grapes, including Mencia, Mouratón, Garnacha Tintorera, Merenzao, Doña Blanca, Palomino, Colgadeira, and Godello! There are surely more that are unnamed in some of her 100+ year old parcels.

The wines that Laura Lorenzo produces are truly singular. Though I have tried numerous Mencia wines over the years, none have had the rawness and grit that Laura's have. Her expressions of Mencia have an animal character to them, mineral depth, the faintest lift of volatility which catapults wild berry and allspice aromas out of the glass. The whites have had an evolution over the years, and now have beautiful textural complexity, and structure, partly from the varieties involved, and the mostly granitic terroir, but clearly as a result of her careful winemaking, inclusion of skins during fermentation, and aging vessels as well. We're excited to share the new releases from the 2019 vintage, and encourage you to try some of these very special wines! 

-Eben Lillie

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