Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Rías Baixas, Galicia
The association, he relates, is “A group of small grower-producers who rebelled against commercial wine styles in Rías Baixas and produce their own unique wines using native yeasts.” He continues: “Each wine is distinctly different from the others. There are 14 members of this association. I have six of them, with probably four more to come. Why? These wines are among the greatest white wines of Spain, that’s why.”
I am not knowledgeable enough to say whether they are the greatest or not, but I loved the scintillating, complex 2010 Albariño from O’Forollo ($23.99); enjoyed the lush, flavorful 2010 Avó Roxo ($24.99); and admired the lithe, fresh 2010 Cabaleiro do Val ($24.99).
Back label in the U.S. for Avó Roxo, member of the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas, Autores do Viño.
Each member farms his own-clone grapes and makes unique, individual terruño-laced, spoofulation-free Albariños of character, style, grace, balance, charm and breed in his (or her) own adega (bodega) using wild native yeasts to ferment the wines. These producers do not believe, as many commercial wineries do, that they should bottle early in the year after the previous vintage. Most bottle their wines in early July, in time for the group’s Festa do Albariño held each year in Meaño at the end of July.
Gerry Dawes with Francisco (“Paco”) Dovalo López, owner of Cabaleiro do Val, is the founder and president of the Asociación of Bodegas Artesanas, Rías Baixas, Galicia.
Adega Cabaleiro Do Val, Meaño (Pontevedra) Bodeguero Artesano Francisco Dovalo Cabaleiro do Val Albariño 2010
13.5% 12/750ML $27.99
Cabaleiro do Val, Paco Dovalo's great Albariño, Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas.
Paco Dovalo says the grapes obtained from the original Albariño vines made wine that is the model for what he tries to achieve in what he calls “my indigenous artisan wine,” Cabaleiro do Val. Dovalo, wine our ancestors. Dovalo has kept some of these old vines, which he says are unique among Albariño vineyards in Rías Baixas. Dovalo says that his wine very much reflects his personal taste, which is rooted in tradition and in his memory of wines from a by-gone era.
Though he and his fellow artisan grower-producers respect that tradition and still work their own vineyards, some of which have been in the family for generations, they have evolved by incorporating modern vineyard management and winemaking equipment. But, though they have “modernized” to a certain degree, many of the winery maintain rustic touches and they continue to produce exceptionally high quality artisan wines that their ancestors would have been proud of.
One day a decade ago, I was on my way from Rías Baixas to Ribeira Sacra. I was driving through an area known more for cheeses than wine when I reached the small town of Melide. It was nearly four o’clock and I still had not had lunch, so when I saw a hotel-restaurant, I stopped. At first taciturn, as Gallegos sometimes are, the son of the chef-owner (a damned good cook trained in France) opened up as lunch service was wearing down and made some recommendations to this American stranger. First, he offered a couple of excellent Galician cows’ milk cheeses–slices of Arzua-Ulloa and of the breast-shaped classic Tetilla–and he suggested that I might like to try a glass of Cabaleiro do Val Albariño to accompany the cheeses.
The wine was stunning. He told me that it was from the jefe who had organized a group of artisan producers, who were rebelling against making Albariños like most of the larger wineries were producing. I wrote down the name of the winery and vowed to check out these producers, but it was nearly three years later when I finally tracked them down and it would be another five years before I founded The Spanish Artisan Wine Company and began to import Cabaleiro do Val and five more of these splendid artisan wines.
Dovalo may see his dreams for the artisan wines of his group come true. Although the wines have hardly seen the light of day in Spain outside of Galicia, the wines of the Asociación of Bodegas Artesanas are now on the lists of such great American restaurants and wine bars as Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Blue Hill (New York City), Crabtree’s Kittle House, Picholine, Petrossian, Terroir Tribeca, Tertulia, Barcelona Wine Bars (Connecticut) and Solera.
Avó Roxo joined the Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas in 2010 and is one of the group’s newest members. Avó Roxo is a traditional family winery and all their wine production comes from their own 3.5 hectares (8 acres) of Albariño vineyards are located in the heart of O Salnes, a privileged environment for the growing and harvesting of the Albariño grape. The winery began producing wines in the 1930’s under the management of Serafín Gondar. In 1975 Serafin passed the vineyards and winery to his son Antonio Gondar, who continued the wine’s development. Avó Roxo won several awards in the 70’s, including 1st place at the XXII Albariño Wine Festival in Cambados in 1974.
The winery was named after the founder Serafín, whose nickname was Avó Roxo, Grandfather Purple (don’t ask) in Gallego. In 2007 his grandson Antonio Gondar Moldes took over ownership and management. He renovated and re-energized the bodega and winemaking. In 2007, the year he took over, Avó Roxo produced only 7,000 bottles, under 600 cases.
Gondar, whose day job is doing electrical installations, says, "My dream is to live only from the winery and expand production to 12,000 bottles, doing all the vineyard work my grandfather used to do because our grapes give exceptional aromas and taste to our wines.” Practically all the wines of Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas are only sold locally to individuals and a few restaurants.
Few of these marvelously original, high quality wines have ever been sold in Madrid or anywhere else in Spain, but now wines like Avó Roxo are on the lists of such American restaurants as the great New York (State) restaurants as James Beard Outstanding Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns and at Crabtree’s Kittle House, which has one of the best wine cellars in the United States.
Lagar de Broullón 2010 is made by José Pintos. Beautifully balanced, Pintos's wine is full-flavored and quite complex with lychee and green apple flavors braced by a long, clean, mineral-laced finish, but has just 12.5% alcohol, which helps make it very easy to drink. It is ideal with many different dishes, but especially with grilled fish, shellfish (for which Galicia is famous), octopus, rice dishes and cheeses.
José Pintos, artesan grower-winemaker of Lagar de Broullón, sings during a lunch break
at the Festa del Encontro do Viño de Autor at Meaño (Pontevedra).
Lagar de Broullón’s dedication to quality focuses on the vineyard and the grapes, which José Pintos believes is the most important element in wine. Although the winery has modern a vinification system, Pintos tries to make his wines with as little intervention as possible. He believes that his signature wine is steeped in tradition and through meticulous vineyard work, he tries to achieve the highest quality in his wine. We believe that Pintos has achieved his goal. His Lagar de Broullón is one of the finest wines in our portfolio.
O' Forrollo, one of the six Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas de Rías Baixas Albariños brought in by
The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections.
Fernando Meis Otero, O'Forrollo. All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.
His first harvest as an officially registered Rías Baixas bodega produced just over 250 cases of O Forrollo Albariño. His son, Fernando Meis Otero, took over the direction of the winery in 2001.
During the past decade, Meis has adapted new technology, in viticulture as well as in the production in the winery, but never forgetting his roots and with one objective: to produce a Rías Baixas Albariño of excellent quality. O Forrollo’s 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) of vineyards are in the heart of the Val del Salnés (Dena –Meaño), an area which produces some of the best wines of the D.O. Rias Baixas. 85% of O Forrollo’s vines are in a single vineyard divided into four sub-parcels, the remaining 15% is in smaller plots.
Albariño grapes growing on trellises, Val do Salnés, Rías Baixas (Galicia).
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.
Meis says, “The harvesting of our grapes depends upon several factors that we consider indispensible for producing a wine of excellent quality: The climate, taking into account all the environmental factors that can affect the maturation of the grapes; the degree of ripeness, taking very much into account the acid balance, which will dictate when we pick the grapes and is a vital element in the quality of the future wine.”
@JohnBGilman of View From the Cellar on Twitter: "2010 Rozas Albariño. Maybe the greatest Albariño I have ever tasted - - kaleidoscopic minerality, blazing purity."
“Gerry’s 2010 albariños, from Rías Baixas, were notable, especially Manolo Doval’s Rozas: a great floral aroma, feather-light, grace, a swirl of subtleties.” - - Howard G. Goldberg
Manolo Doval, Producer of Rozas, Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas.
All Photos by Gerry Dawes©2012.
The bodega was founded by Dovalo’s ancestors, who made wine for the family’s own consumption. Over the years, the winemaking gradually evolved into the modern era, where Dovalo says that his family has succeeded in integrating tradition with modern elements such as stainless steel and including the latest techniques for thermic stablization.
The winery has limited production, which allows Dovalo to carefully monitor his vineyards during the growing season. The albariño grapes are picked at what Dovalo assesses as the optimum point of ripeness–never overripe–for making a great white wine.
Hazards of being an artisan grower-producer. Eulogio Gondar, Lagar de Candes, wearing a eye patch
after being injured when a grapevine he was pruning poked him in the eye.
Lagar de Candes Albariño 2010 12.0% 12/750ML $25.99
In the glass this Albariño is a light golden color. The nose offers aromatic complexity with floral notes of orange blossoms, green pears and lime, supported by racy Alsatian Reisling-like acidity and a traces of minerality in the finish. Lagar de Candes winery and vineyards are located in the village of Meaño in the heart of the Rías Baixas Val de Salnés, which has excellent growing conditions for the Albariño grape. In and around the town of Meaño some of the greatest Albariños of Galicia are made.
Eulogio Gondar represents the fourth generation making wine here. Eulogio took over the winery just over a decade ago and, following the footsteps of his ancestors who believed that the best Albariños were made from the best grapes married to the soil and climate of the Val do Salnés, an area long known for its small family vineyards.
The Meaño area has its own microclimate suitable for the cultivation of the vine and its own unique granitic-laced soil, resulting in grapes with excellent balance of acids and sugars, with an optimum ripeness that over the years has given albariño from this area a special identity.
Eulogio uses modern winemaking coupled with artisanal techniques to make excellent wines. Dedicated to making his grapes and his wines as natural as possible, Gondar had dedicated a portion of the family’s vineyards to NATURA, which designated an ecologically protected space that falls within the NATUR AGRO project dedicated to protecting the agricultural environment.
About Gerry Dawes
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"Gerry Dawes, I can't thank you enough for opening up Spain to me." -- Michael Chiarello on Twitter.
"Chiarello embarked on a crash course by traveling to Spain for 10 days in 2011 with Food Arts
"In his nearly thirty years of wandering the back roads of Spain," Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia...His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth..." -- James A. Michener, author of Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
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