Case Club Newsletter - November 2021

Groundwork Rosé (Sustainable)
Cos Nero d'avola (Organic and Biodynamic)
Aveleda Louiero and Alvarihno vinho verde (Sustainable)
vullien jacqère (organic)
ercole barbera (organic)
montebuena rioja (sustainable)
clos coutale cahors (Organic)
tendressa priorat (organic)
Atalier Albariñ0 (Organic)
Dom. Anita Chénas Brureau  (Sustainable)
Handley anderson valley pinot noir (organic)
muga rioja riserva (organic)

 

 

 

GW highres GrenacheRose 17 01

Sans Liege Groundwork Rosé of Grenache

Sans Liege's Groundwork project is all about the fundamentals. Putting to use the empirical knowledge he has gained from making wine for his first label, Sans Liege Wines, Curt Schalchlin seeks to bring his experience to a new set of wines that embrace the soul and simple living of the Rhône Valley and Southern France.

Groundwork is built upon Curt's comfort and confidence as a winemaker, instructing him to trust in the fruit, the vineyards, and his own rich experience as guides.  (He's also co-owner and co-winemaker at The Fableist, so you know these wines are solid, Jackson). 

His 2020 Grenache Rosé was cleanly fermented with secondary malo-lactic arrested.  67% Direct to press Grenache from Kopak Vineyard, 33% saignée from (Old Potrero, Alta Mesa, Alta Colina, Derby, Spanish Springs and Slide Hill).   12% Alcohol.  100% Grenache

 

nerodilupo

 COS nero d'avola

Giusto Occhipinti of COS is a benchmark producer in the Vittoria appellation of Sicily, and certainly one of the most important, influential, producers in all of Sicily if not Italy as a whole.

The winery was founded in 1980 by three friends, Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti, and Cirino Strano; the initials of their last names form the winery’s name. The winery itself dates back to the 1880’s during a period in which there was a huge demand for Sicilian wines. Phylloxera had already devastated many of the world’s top wine-growing regions but it had not yet reached the island.

Sicily has a long history of winemaking, dating back to the 8th century BCE when the Greeks first planted grapes in the eastern part of the Island. It is only more recently though that truly top quality wines and winemaking have arrived there. It was through the hard work and dedication of producers such as COS who showed the potential of Sicily’s terroir and drew attention to the island, especially its ability to produce complex, pure, and fresh wines, despite its location at the very southern tip of Italy.  

This freshness and balance are helped by the soils in the Vittoria region which are blessed with limestone substrates under one to two feet of red clay. For Giusto, “the vineyard is like our life’s savings in the bank, so we must protect it.”

Protecting it means that they work organically and biodynamically in order to support the health of the soil. In fact, they have never used any synthetic or chemical additives in the vineyard since the outset in 1980. Officially, the winery was an early practitioner of Biodynamic viticulture starting in 2000 and was certified (Organic) as of 2007.

The climate of Vittoria is also generally warm and dry making it well-adapted to organic & biodynamic viticulture. Giusto and his vineyard team also prepare many of the Biodynamic treatments in-house, though a few are purchased elsewhere from small, reputable sources for these important products.   As a goal, Giusto seeks to have the transparency of the soil conveyed into the wines themselves.

To that end, he did extensive research on aging vessels and eventually decided on a combination of 440-liter clay amphorae sourced from Spain along with a collection of large neutral botti and also concrete tanks (latter mostly for the Frappato). The clay is porous like oak but has the advantage that it imparts less flavor to the wine than does even large, old casks. All aging at the winery is done in one of these vessels. Stainless steel is only used for assembling the wine prior to bottling.

For many of the wines, the juice remains in contact with the skins for extended periods, even for whites. Giusto feels these extended macerations help the wine obtain natural preservatives which in turn allows them do the aging and élévage with little or no added Sulphur until the bottling when there is only a small addition.  

Among the wines, COS is probably best known for their Cerasuolo di Vittorio, but also equally for their Pithos Rosso which is basically a Cerasuolo di Vittoria aged exclusively in clay amphorae instead of oak.  Throughout the entire range, there is a focus on elegance and purity, especially the joyous, floral Frappato – Sicily’s answer to Cru Beaujolais – and the spicy, fruit-forward Nero di Lupo (Nero D’Avola).

Nero di Lupo  100% Nero d'Avola.  Hand-harvested from vines at least 15 years of age.   Spontaneous fermentation in concrete tanks on the skins, aged in tank for nine months, followed by three months in bottle. 

 

 

aveleda loureiro alvarinho white 2019

Aveleda Vinho Verde (SustainablE)

The estate wine from Aveleda is classic, dry Vinho Verde. Light, crisp, and packed with great white and green fruit, it has lively, fine, perfumed acidity.  While many folks think that Vinho Verde is a summertime quaff; I love its brightness and ability to not only complement seafood and many lighter foods, but its bright mouthwatering acidity cuts through the taste of overwhelming fatty foods like a lightsaber through butter.

The fruitiness of this wine is immediately attractive. It is balanced by the lightly mineral acidity and the fresh texture and acidity. The wine is packed with tangy fruit

80% Loureiro and 20% Alvarinho from Vinho Verde, Portugal.  The floral notes of the Loureiro are merged to perfection with the fruit of the Alvarinho. The result is a complex, elegant wine with a long, persistent after-taste. Delicate, with filigreed lemon-lime flavors offering fruit depth before signing off in a crisp, clean finish. 

Jacquere l alpine Vullien

Vullien Jacquère (organic)

The eastern French region of the Savoie is one of the most exciting wine regions on the planet, and it's near the top of my must-see places to go once we can get on airplanes and visit other countries again.   Savoie is blessed —a cool mountain climate on a warming planet, and about as idyllic a place to grow and make wine as one could ask for.

Known more for skiing and other outdoor pursuits, the Savoie is not so well known as a wine-producing area, though within the area known as the Combe de Savoie, there are a handful of the best producers.

With little-known grape varieties such as Jacquère, Mondeuse, and Altesse nestling alongside Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gamay, the world of Savoie wines begs to be explored. I was astonished at the quality of Jean Vullien’s wines, especially when compared to most other producers in the area. How were they producing such high-quality, clean and fresh wines when so many others clearly couldn’t? It transpired that Jean Vullien learned viticulture in his native Bordeaux and his two sons, David and Olivier graduated from the renowned wine college, La Viti in Beaune.

The region’s best come from a boomerang-shaped string of hillside villages between Grenoble and Albertville (site of the 1992 Winter Olympics) called the Combe de Savoie (Combe is a word of Celtic origin meaning a sharp, deep valley). Jean Vullien and his two sons, David and Olivier, tend 69 acres on the Combe in the villages of Chignin, Montmélian, Arbin, St-Jean de la Porte, and their hometown of Fréterive.

The domain’s holdings include all of the region’s indigenous grape varieties, as well as strategically-placed parcels of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The wines range from a crisp, lemon and mineral Jacquère-based white that British wine author Andrew Jefford would categorize as “Muscadet of the Alps” to complex floral and spiced reds made from Mondeuse. In recent years, David and Olivier have also earned a reputation for their excellent Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wines.

Though the Vulliens have been making wine for 40 years, the family is perhaps best known as a leader in another segment of the wine industry. Since 1890, Vullien Pépinière Viticole (vine nursery) has been supplying young vines to growers throughout France. In fact, they were the source for about 25% of the Chardonnay planted in Chablis after the ravages of phylloxera.

Climatically, the Savoie is more challenged than many other wine producing areas of France, hence the different native grape varieties. Jacquere, which is widely available, drinks like a dry Sauvignon Blanc and is superb with shellfish and seafood. Gamay, which is the principal variety of Beaujolais, is comfortable in this slightly cooler climate too. They are succulent, light and full of fruit with the Gamay Rose airing more on the side of a dry rose. Both work extremely well with Savioe dishes such as raclette, tartiflette, tarte flambee (flammekueche) and cheese fondues.

Jacquère is a variety of white grape found primarily in the Savoy wine region of France.[1] It is a high-yielding vine variety which is used to produce lightly scented, refreshing and gently aromatic dry white wine, such as Vin de Savoie. Jacquère is the grape used in Apremont wines and is the usual wine paired with cheese fondue (a dish from the same region).Vullien's 100% Jacquère is grown on soils of dark Jurassic limestone and black marl with a pebbly topsoil layer of scree. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and the malolactic fermentation is blocked. The resultant wine is light, mineral and brightly acidic with notes of alpine flowers and citrus. Enjoy as an apéritif or with fondue or mountain cheeses.

 

ercole barbera

Ercole Barbera di Monferrato (Organic)

Weston Hoard spent four years living in Piedmont and working for renowned winemaker Paolo Scavino. When he returned to the United States in 2011, he determined to channel his experience in Italy into a new importing project which he named “The Piedmont Guy.” The company “does Piedmont,” and only Piedmont.

Ercole is a project aimed at honoring the work of the unsung heroes of Italy — the grape growers themselves. Ercole, whose English translation is Hercules, is only made possible by a generations-old cooperative of local growers in the Monferrato area. Every fall, these men and women cultivate bright and balanced fruit, allowing us to make real wines that are transmitters of time and place. The place, Monferrato, ranks among the most historic grape-growing areas of Piedmont.  The fruit from this overlooked area gives us Ercole, a family of wines offering remarkable value. Enjoy these one-liter, screw-top bottlings unconditionally. Salute!

This Barbera offers fresh aromas and flavors of raspberries, blueberries, and cherries. Unlike other regions of Piedmont, Monferrato still offers quality Barbera at a profound value. The origin of Barbera likely dates back to the 7th century, and many believe the hills of Monferrato to be the grape’s original birthplace. Monferrato Barbera yields vibrant aromatics, bright red fruits, and finesse.

coutale cahors 11 web

Clos la Coutale Cahors (organic)

Deep in the southwest of France, amidst dramatic rock formations and cliffs, the Lot River slowly snakes its way along the valley floor, coiling covetously around the charming town of Cahors. The diversity in architecture serves as a proud historical mark left by many previous generations of inhabitants.

Once a former Roman town, Cahors was also as a center of commerce during the Middle Ages that served as an important crossroads for pilgrims on the trail to Santiago de Compostella. Among the many specialties that have brought pride to the region, the constant has been its wine.

A.O.C. Cahors is known as the “black wine” of the Southwest—the deeply inky, earthy wines that seem to complement the regional fare of duck (and duck fat!) so wonderfully. Cahors is also the birthplace of Cot, the grape more commonly known as Malbec.

The Bernède family is an intricate part of this tradition, watching over one of the region’s oldest domains that was founded before the French Revolution.

Today, Cahors’ jack-of-all-trades and Renaissance man, Philippe Bernède, continues the family tradition with both heart and ingenuity. Philippe’s vines rest upon the gentle slopes that rise up from the Lot River. He farms 150 acres of land along the alluvial terraces of the Lot Valley that are rich in siliceous, clay, and limestone soils. The microclimate of the vineyards is ideal, with southwest sun exposure and topographic protection against the frost.

Over the years, Philippe has tinkered with the house blend to achieve a greater equilibrium. Today, the blend consists of 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot, creating an intense wine that juggles elegant rusticity with everyday drinkability. Coutale has quite a record of age-worthiness as well and Philippe is not afraid to pull out older vintages of his wines alongside much more expensive Bordeaux. They stand up pretty well!  Philippe’s genius is not only evidenced by his wines - he is also the proud inventor of a successful line of double-hinged corkscrews that stands to change your future bottle-opening experiences!

The vines have an average age of 25 years and are grown organically without the use of chemical fertilizer or pesticides.  According to tradition, the grapes are picked off from the stalks. The vineyard is divided into a number of parcels, in order to produce a number of carefully selected wines. Each plot is vinified separately with a long maceration. Fermentation is carried out in thermo-controlled vats, and, as befits a wine for laying down, the fermenting process takes place at a temperature of 80°F over a period of 15-18 days.

 

montebuena cuvee kpf hq label

Montebuena Rioja (Sustainable)

Montebuena – which means ‘good mountain’ – is the name of one of the best quality areas of the ancient winemaking village of Labastida in Rioja. It is located in the eastern part of the village and covers more than 395 acres.

Labastida’s viticultural records go back several centuries, but the best evidence of its winemaking history is its “lagares rupestres” – man-made formations, carved into large rocks in the vineyards, consisting of three holes where the grapes were pressed to obtain the juice prior to fermentation. These were used between the 9th & 18th centuries.

Montebuena is 100% Tempranillo from 20-25-year-old vines. The winery uses precise viticultural techniques and advanced technology to track the vegetative cycle: they developed a system of weather stations to monitor the vineyards’ health, thus preventing destructive diseases.

Montebuena displays a brilliant deep ruby red color. Aromas of juicy fruit combine with a spicy vanilla bouquet. Smooth and fruity in the mouth, with some well-integrated secondary nuances. Full-flavored with a persistent, pleasant finish.

 

unnamed 3Tendresa Priorat (Organic)

Tendresa is a custom Priorat project from a favored importer.  

Priorat is a Denominació d'Origen Qualificada (DOQ) for Catalan wines produced in the Priorat county, in the province of Tarragona, in the southwest of Catalonia. The DOQ covers 11 municipalities. It primarily produces powerful red wines, which came to international attention in the 1990s. The area is characterized by its unique terroir of black slate and quartz soil known as llicorella.

It is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify as DOCa, the highest qualification level for a wine region according to Spanish wine regulations, alongside Rioja DOCa. Priorat is the Catalan word, the one that appears most often on wine labels, while the Castilian equivalent is Priorato.  The traditional grapes in the region are Carignan and Grenache, but some New World varietals are allowed (Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah).

Early on, winemaking cooperatives dominated. Much of the development of Priorat wines to top class is credited to Carles Pastrana, René Barbier and Álvaro Palacios. Winemaker Barbier, then active at a winery in Rioja owned by the Palacios family, bought his first land for Priorat vineyards in 1979, convinced of the region's potential. At this stage, there were 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of Priorat vineyards. In the 1980s, he convinced others, including Palacios, to follow suit and plant new vineyards in suitable locations, all named Clos. For the first three vintages, 1989–1991, the group of five wineries pooled their grapes, shared a winery in Gratallops, and made one wine sold under five labels: Clos Mogador (Barbier), Clos Dofi (Palacios, later renamed to Finca Dofi), Clos Erasmus, Clos Martinet and Clos de l'Obac. From 1992, these wines were made separately. In 1993, Palacios produced a wine called L'Ermita sourced from very old Priorat vines, which led to an increased interest in using the region's existing vineyards to produce wines in a new style. 

 

 

 raul atalier albarino

 

Raúl Pérez Atalier Albariño 'A Cruz das Ánimas’ (Organic)

Raúl Pérez Pereira is universally considered to be one of the world’s most visionary winemakers. Since he produced his first vintage for his family’s winery in 1994 at the age 22, he has been in the forefront of the conversation about what has been called “The New Spain”.

In 2005, he left his family business to strike out on his own, creating Bodegas y Viñedos Raúl Pérez, which quickly became the point of reference for the Bierzo appellation. In the intervening years, he has expanded his sphere of activity to include the appellations of Rías Baixas, Ribeira Sacra and Tierra de León, but his heart and his home remain in Valtuille de Abajo, the village in Bierzo where his family has been tending vines for well over 300 years.  

In addition to numerous other accolades, Raúl was named “Winemaker of the Year” by German publication Der Feinschmecker in 2014 and “Best Winemaker in the World” for 2015 by the French publication Bettane+Desseauve.

In the February 2018 Decanter, Master of Wine Pedro Ballesteros wrote, “Raúl Pérez is the archetype of the intuitive winemaking genius.” A picture of Raúl in that same article is captioned, “Is this the best winemaker in the world?” Raúl would certainly not self-apply any of these superlatives. In fact, his genius is far exceeded by his humility and generosity of spirit. That humility comes through in his wines. These are not “winemaker” wines so much as they are unadulterated expressions of the villages and vineyards from which they hail.

Atalier is the exciting new Rías Baixas Albariño project from the redoubtable Raúl Pérez, produced in conjunction with his friend and frequent collaborator Rodri Méndez of the Forjas del Salnés estate in the Val do Salnés subzone.  

The origins of Albariño are not universally agreed upon, either by ampelographers or winegrowers. Some believe that the variety is native to the northwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula (insomuch as any grape can be considered truly “native” to Western Europe). Others believe that it was brought over by French monks in the 11th and 12th centuries via the Camino de Santiago. Still others believe its origins to be Germanic. “Alba” is a Latinate root for “white” and “Rin” is the Rhine River, so it’s possible to interpret the name Albariño as “White of the Rhine”.  

Wherever it came from originally, there is no dispute as to Albariño’s ancestral home in Spain: the Val do Salnés. The southern zones of the appellation were historically planted more to red varieties like Caiño Tinto, Loureiro Tinto and Espadeiro, and white varieties like Caiño Blanco, Treixadura and Loureiro Blanco (the latter two of which are still widely planted just over the border in Portugal), but the vast majority of those plantations were pulled up to make way for Albariño over the last three to four decades. With very few exceptions, Albariño vineyards that are referred to as “old” in Condado do Tea or O Rosal top out around 35-40 years of age. In Val do Salnés, however, it is still possible to find some very old parcels. Owing to the predominance of sandy soils in the coastal areas, there are even some plots that survived the phylloxera crisis of the late 19th century, thus making them some of the oldest un-grafted vitis vinifera plantings in the world. Atalier Albariño comes from a trio of such vineyards, all within a kilometer of the coast in the village of Dena.  

Rodri Méndez, the unofficial conservationist-in-chief of the Salnés Valley, is the person responsible for scouting the vineyards and establishing the agreements with the owners, whom he has known all his life. Rodri’s bonafides are rock solid: he’s a member of the family that founded Do Ferreiro, one of the first commercial wine brands in the Rías Baixas. Its founding pre-dates the formal establishment of the D.O. by at least fifteen years, and it remains a reference point domaine, not just in the Rías Baixas, but in all of Galicia. Rodri has since split off to launch his own projects, but he remains almost religiously committed to seeking out, recuperating and preserving historic sites such as the ones that go into Atalier. You see, old vines are not very sought after in this new world of commodified Albariño. Most folks these days want to farm for kilos, and old vines are notoriously miserly with their yields. Almost every year, parcels of un-grafted, pre-phylloxera Albariño vines are either abandoned by people of advanced age or plowed under to make way for new plantations.

A Cruz das Ánimas’ (trans. “The Crossroads of Souls”) is nothing short of explosive. It leaps out of the glass with aromas of oyster shell and etherized granite and follows through with a palate rich in marine-inflected yellow and green fruits and sporting a powerful surge of acidity.  The grapes come from a pair of Atlantic-adjacent sites in the Cambados area of the Salnés valley. Despite the supercharged acid impression here, the harvest was actually undertaken quite a bit later than the average for the zone. The reason for this is that Raúl likes to wait until the malic acid levels in the grapes go down enough to obviate the need for even partial malolactic fermentation (a practice far more prevalent in the Ríaz Baixas than back labels and tech sheets would suggest). The resulting must then ferments and ages in large, neutral French oak foudres. The oxygenation that occurs during this élevage gives the wine a softer, rounder entry that balances the razor-sharp acids that might otherwise render the wine shrill.

Domaine Anita Chenas Premium Les Brureaux

Domaine Anita Chénas premium les brureaux - Sustainable with some Organic practices and minimal intervention

Domaine Anita is named after Anita Kuhnel who has been making wine under the Domaine Anita since 2015. Today, Domaine Anita includes some of the  most prestigious crus of Beaujolais including Moulin à Vent, Morgon, Chénas, Fleurie, as well as some plots located on great terroirs of the Beaujolais-Villages appellation. Anita’s viticultural practices are specific to each plot, but always within her overarching philosophy of sustainable viticulture, with minimal treatments, green harvesting, and strong canopy management.

Anita Kuhnel’s first passion in life was professional cycling, that is until her former husband introduced her to her destiny – winemaking. In 2015, she took over 45 acres of vines first planted in 1973 and created Domaine Anita. Domaine Anita includes some of the  most prestigious crus of Beaujolais including Moulin à Vent, Morgon, Chénas, Fleurie, as well as some plots located on great terroirs of the Beaujolais-Villages appellation.

“I am committed to putting all my energy into making the best wines every day,” Anita declares. “This is why I chose to opt for plot cultivation, which allows each bottle to reflect the character of each plot. I call it, “Making the plots talk.” In the cellar, Anita is assisted by Guy Marion, former head of winemaking at Georges Duboeuf with no less than 52 harvests in Beaujolais. Together they strive to produce terroir-driven wines of the highest quality.   

Lieux dit (single vineyard)  Les Brureaux, located on the village of Chenas, is grown in stony silica soils with high clay subsoils. Grown at high altitude (850 feet above sea level) with a East/North East exposure. This 100% Gamay vineyard is 45 years old and the planting density is very dense. Using the Gobelet training system, the grapes are harvested and sorted manually. Maceration takes 10 days and the wine is aged six months in cement tanks and approximately three months in bottle before it is released.   

92 points, Wine Enthusiast: Selected small berries have produced this rounded, ripe wine. The rich, concentrated fruitiness is succulent, with layers of tannins contrasting with blackberry fruits. This wine should age well and be ready to drink from late 2021.   

91 points, Decanter  Charming aromas of ripe rounded dark berry and cherry fruit. Bright on the palate, fresh and ripe with a generous finish.

91 points Vinous (previous vintage)  Glistening ruby. Expansive, spice-accented black raspberry, cherry and floral scents, along with suggestions of licorice and smoky minerals. Concentrated but energetic in style, offering cherry cola and dark berry flavors supported by an undercurrent of juicy acidity. Slowly building tannins frame the finish, which hangs on with strong, spicy persistence and repeating florality.

These wines are very different from traditional Priorat, and Tendresa is an attempt to rediscover old school Priorat, using traditional grapes, aged in tank, used oak, and amphorae.   This is a balanced, food-friendly style of wine.  This wine comes from organically farmed, old, traditionally terraced vines that sit atop crumbly slate.

 

 handley AV pinot

Handley Anderson Valley Pinot Noir - Organic

Centuries ago, Pinot Noir earned a reputation among the winemaking monks of Burgundy for expressing terroir better than any other variety in the region. Today, wines from California’s remote Anderson Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) show that the grape does the same in their neighborhood.  The 15-mile-long valley sits just 10 miles from the cool, blustery Pacific Coast, and the appellation is dotted with great sites to grow Pinot Noir.

Anderson Valley’s appeal to Pinot makers is its cool climate. It facilitates the sort of elegant, restrained Pinot more akin to Oregon’s Willamette Valley or Burgundy than sunnier climes to the south like Napa, Sonoma and Santa Ynez Valley, regions that tend to turn out bigger, riper, plumper wines.

Surrounded by redwood forests and blanketed in atmospheric fog, the Anderson Valley is one of California’s most picturesque appellations. Centered on the Navarro River, the region is kept cool by moist air flowing in from the Pacific Ocean. High and low temperatures can vary as much as 40 or 50 degrees within a single day, allowing for slow and gentle ripening of grapes which will in turn create elegantly balanced wines.

We've been carrying Handley wines since we opened the shop in 2003; I've always admired Milla Handley's hands-off approach to winemakeing and her more than competitive pricing. Handley firmly believes in a conscious and conscientious approach to farming and winemaking, and purchase grapes from small, local, family growers, and whenever possible,  selecting fruit that is farmed organically.  Winemaker and founder Milla Handley died a few weeks ago.  She was a great winemaker and a lovely person.  

Working with carefully tended, exceptional sites, they strive to create wines which faithfully reflect the unique characteristics of the vineyards and viticultural region, focusing on the Anderson Valley. They select vineyards that fully ripen at lower brix, resulting in wines with low to moderate alcohol levels. From start to finish, they are mindful of the impact on the Anderson Valley, and the implications that farming and wine making choices for future generations.

Winery Notes: "This wine blended from five different vineyards Handley Estate (50%), RSM Estate (19%), Helluva (15%), Lost Creek (9%), and Roderick (7%) embodies the spirit of Anderson Valley. Aromas of warm cherry pie, cola, violets, and a hint of clove on the finish. Round and full on the palate with flavors of red cherries, ripe plum, and notes of cardamom with soft tannins and vibrant acidity to focus the long finish. Aged for 10 months in all French Oak barrels (25% new)."

 

muga reserva 

Muga Rioja Reserva - organic

Bodegas Muga is Rioja Alta’s premier producer and the Muga family are unanimously considered to be one of Spain’s most important winemaking families. The winery has practically legendary status due to its philosophy revolving around adherence to tradition, dynamism, and winemaking of the highest quality. Few producers in the world fashion wines that have such a sense of tradition and place as Muga’s. The wines of Muga have an absolutely distinct, unique, and inimitable profile.

Bodegas Muga was officially founded in 1932 by the Muga family, who at that point had spent several decades working as viticulturists in Rioja Alta. At the time, the Mugas were in the negociant business of buying, blending, and aging wine. Soon after the foundation of the cellars, they started production of their own estate-grown wines. The winery is still owned by the Mugas and every single aspect of its operation is controlled and overseen by the family.

Although the Mugas have maintained all aspects of traditional Rioja winemaking, what makes the family great is their vision for the future and adaptability, while always holding true to their philosophy.  

Composed of 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 7% Mazuelo, and 3% Graciano, the Reserva is produced from a completely traditional and sustainable style of Riojan viticulture, which is in fact organic, but uncertified. Vineyards that are planted in the coolest, highest altitude parts of Rioja Alta. The vines grow on terraced calcareous clay soils from the Tertiary or Cenozoic period. The climate is continental with Atlantic influences. 

A pied de cuve** is done to guarantee the quality of the indigenous fermentation in vats that are assembled by the winery's cooper. This is completely unique to Bodegas Muga. The wines are macerated and ferment in these vats and are transferred to barrels. The wine is aged 24 months in barrels with French & American oak chosen and assembled into barrels by Muga’s cooper. 12 months in bottle after egg white fining. 

94 points, James Suckling:  Lovely, succulent red with juicy berries and plums, together with some chocolate, spice, walnut and cedar. It’s medium-bodied with round tannins and a flavorful finish. Touch of dried fruit in the center palate. A pretty combination of savory and fresh-fruit character. Some orange peel as well. A baby Prado Enea. 

93 points, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate  The red 2017 Reserva, which is sold as Crianza in Spain, is their most popular wine, representing half of the total production of the firm. As is the norm here, it fermented in oak vats and matured in barrels, in this case for 24 months, crafted by their own coopers. The wine is fined with egg whites and kept in bottle for a further 12 months before it's released. I had the wine in the glass for a very long time, and it didn't stop improving; it started a little lactic and creamy, and then it got more and more serious. This is the only red they produced this vintage, so all the best grapes that normally go to other wines were used here; those selected grapes helped to keep the volume of this cuvée, and at the same time, it seems to have boosted the quality of this wine, which feels every bit as good as the 2016. It has a serious palate with fine, chalky tannins and very good balance. This is a textbook Muga red and a triumph over the conditions of the year, elegant and balanced, approachable now and with potential to age.

 

** Pied de Cuve is the winemaking equivalent of a sourdough starter. It is used by winemakers wanting to use wild yeast from the vineyard to ferment their wines. The process aims to build a population of viable (alive yeast) and vital (strong) in the wild yeast culture in a small volume of wine. This helps the winemaker to complete a clean fermentation (low volatility and reduction, without spoilage yeast or bacteria) that successfully consumes all of the sugars leaving a dry wine. The process involves picking a small number of grapes a few days to a week before all of the grapes are going to be picked. The grapes are crushed and allowed to start fermenting. This builds the population of the native yeasts that were present on the grapes. This culture is then added to the rest of the grapes when they are picked.

 

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