In the late summer of 2011 I was invited to a Martin Scott tasting to sample its Spanish portfolio under the direction of Patrick Mata. As a bonus, several of Raul Perez wines were also made available for tasting. I remember being excited at the effort and the potential of the older indigenous grape varietals from Rias baixas, Monterrei, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras and Bierzo. Not only was the mencia grape featured, but many of the other lesser known varieties were on display. Sold in limited qualities, the quality matched the price of some fine red burgundies. I left with a great impression and enthusiasm for wines that would reach the NY market.
In mid December, a special wine tasting event was held at the Instituto Cervantes in midtown Manhattan showcasing the winemaking efforts of Raul Perez, who is fast becoming Spain’s young, great winemaker responsible for helping to revitalize dormant viticulture in Spain, which has been otherwise ignored or left for dead.
Unlike the flying winemaker who tries to impress his stamp on wines so that the formula creates monochromatic wines, Raul Perez respects the terroir to make wines of distinction. He is also not afraid to make contrasting styles of the same varietal. Take Prieto Picudo, an under planted but quality varietal. Raul has crafted three distinctive styles. In Tampesta, from DO Leon, the prieto picudo is shown in its pure essence, aged in stainless steel, vines displaying clay soil and a cooler elevation than nearby Ribera del Duero. In another bottling, Delitto e Castigo, Raul has constructed a fruit bomb, syrah-like, for a New World palate. And in yet a third effort, under the simple label Raul Perez, the prieto picudo is given more of a backbone, for aging potential.
But it’s the aging potential from some of these old vine indigenous grapes which are an important aspects of his portfolio. Grapes from Galician yesteryear such as Souson, Brancellao, Caino Redondo, Bastardo, Zamarrica, Verdello Tinto, Serodio Tinta and of course Mencia are blended to express maximum terroir, creating wines with good acidity and minerality, as well as structure for laying the bottles down for the future. As a sampling, the wines were low in alcohol, exhibited good acidity and freshness, balanced and aromatic, delicious drinking in the expression of red burgundy. For modernity, look no further than El Pecado, mencia tannic in structure and big on fruit.
Raul’s whites can be likened to Meursault, great minerality and body. In Raul’s Sketch wines, the 40 year old vines with proximity to the water adds a saline quality to the flavor profile, while the Muti wines express the Albarino grape from a granite soil. The Godello grapes used in Ultreia make for very elegant, stony and minerally wines with aging potential as well. With contrast the Leirana is big, round and tart, a fatter style of white.
Look for these wines soon and lay them down over the next ten years. I suspect we will be talking about Raul’s wines for a long time to come.
Wines by Raul Perez
Whites: Sketch, Leirana, Rara Avis, Ultreia, Muti
Reds: El Pecado, Ultreia, A Trabe, Goliardo, Tampesta, Dargo, Muti, La Tentacion, Quinta da Muradella, Raul Perez, Delitto e Castigo