This month in Dirt, we set out to explore the wines of the man who is likely Spain’s most visionary winemaker, Raúl Pérez. Though superlatives such as these are often widely contested, you will be hard pressed to find anyone in the know about Spanish wine who objects to that statement. Raúl’s wines are widely adored and appreciated for their elegance, complexity, and downright meticulousness. From his careful farming to his next-level talent for winemaking, his wines are legendary. It is a true pleasure to have gotten them in enough quantity for our club members.
Raúl was born into a winemaking family in Bierzo, one of Spains hotspots of Mencía production. In his early twenties, struck by his love for winemaking, he set out on his own, and founded his own eponymous estate, where he’s been making award winning wines ever since. Indeed, the wines of Bierzo, and Mencía more broadly, owe much of their modern success to Raúl’s efforts. This month we’ll explore Raúl’s most textbook Bierzo Tinto from his main estate, ‘Altreia Saint Jacques’, along with one of his cru bottlings from his brand new project, Vizcaína, Las Guñidas.
Raúl grew up in Valtuille de Abajo, the most prominent village in the Bierzo appellation in terms of hectares planted to vine. Whereas many of this bottlings are focused on specific vineyard sites with their unique and differing terroir, his standard-bearer is his Ultreia Saint Jacques, named for the famous pilgrimage site that in part built the appellation’s vinous foundations, represents a blend of fruit from his best sites. It therefore offers an expression of Bierzo Mencía that is both complete and approachable. Ultreia Saint Jacques represents a blend of predominantly Mencía, with Bastardo (aka Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (aka Alicante Bouschet) rounding out the blend. Raúl ferments this wine, as all, naturally with (most) whole clusters retained for structure. Aging is done in a mix of stainless steel tank and old wood. The result is a bright and fruity wine, with distinct notes of earth, spice, and floral elements, lending credence to the claim that Mencía is Spain’s answer to Pinot Noir.