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5/29/2012

Gerry Dawes Quoted in The New York Times, Sat., May 26, 2012 in Eric Asimov's "In Spain, the Promise of Godello "


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Glass of Godello at sunset at Adegas D. Berna, Valdeorras.   
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com.  
(Not published with The New York Times article.)  


 In Spain, the Promise of Godello  
by Eric Asimov
The New York Times, Saturday, May 26, 2012

Excerpt: 
 

". . .Some people have already made up their minds about godello. Gerry Dawes, who has been writing about Spanish wines for decades and who recently went into the importing business, has called godello “Spain’s emerging hope as an equivalent to the great white Burgundies.”  

Others aren’t so sure. To assess godello for ourselves, the wine panel tasted 20 bottles from recent vintages, including 11 from Valdeorras and 3 each from Bierzo, Monterrei and Ribeira Sacra. Florence Fabricant and I were joined for the tasting by Kerin of Tinto Fino and Michael Madrigale, the head sommelier at Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud. 

Michael, it is safe to say, was far more familiar with white Burgundy than with godello, and he was not buying Mr. Dawes’s comparison, at least not yet. He said he often found the wines confusing, as if the aromas were telling one story and the flavors another. . ."

Godello Slide Show May 2012
________________________________________________________________________________  

About Gerry Dawes
  
Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 


". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts. 
 
video
Trailer-pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

5/15/2012

Ribeira Sacra Tasting Notes with Photographs

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Basilio Izquierdo, who made the top Rioja CUNE wines for 30 years, tasting wines in Ribeira Sacra. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012


Ribeira Sacra Tasting Notes

Ribeira Sacra Summum, the highest red wine designation must contain a minimum of 85 per cent preferred red varieties, 60 per cent of which must be mencía. 

Summum wines can be sold as a designated varietal only if the wine contains 85% of that variety.

White Summum wines must be made entirely from the preferred varieties.  

Wines with just a non-Summum designation must contain at least 70% of preferred varieties and those that do not pass the Summum analytical and organoleptic tests are classifed simply as Ribeira Sacra. 

Ribeira Sacra Denominación de Origen (DO) Regulatory Council President José Manuel Rodríguez, 
owner-winemaker of Décima. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.


(Adega is Gallego for bodega, or wine cellar)

*Tasted at the bodega
**Tasted at outdoor wine fairs in Chantada and Castro Caldelas, Ribeira Sacra.
 

*Adega Algueira, Doade - Sober (Lugo) Amandi subzone (Raúl Pérez, consultant)

Fernando González of Adegas Alguiera. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

Algueira Blanco $22 (Plurivarietal) 2008 Summum (40% godello, 40% albariño, 20% treixadura;13%) Beautiful nose of white peach, honeysuckle and minerals.   Silky and rich with white peach flavors and a mineral finish.  93 pts.
 

Algueira 2006 Summum $30 (90% mencía, 10% merenzao; aged 10 months in 3 yr. old oak; some stems left in; 14%)  Somewhat closed, attractive nose of fruit, oak and minerals.  A rich, tannic, juicy, mineral-laced, somewhat oaky, but balanced  that needs three years in bottle.  92 points. 

 
Author tasting wines with Raúl Pérez at Adegas Alguiera in Amandi, Ribeira Sacra, July 2012. 
Photo by Fernando González of Adegas Alguiera.

*Adega Moure, Escairón (Lugo) Ribeiras do Minho


José Manuel Moure, owner of Adegas Moure, producers of Abadia da Cova, 
which is one of the most spectacularly situated vineyards in Riberia Sacra. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.


Abadia da Cova Albariño 2008 Summum $22 (100% albariño; 12.5%)
White peach and melon nose.  Dry and well balanced with peachy, melony flavors and a long, stony, mineral finish.  89 points.


Abadia da Cova Mencía 2008 Summum $25 (100% mencía )
Nice nose of ripe fruit, graphite.  Cabernet franc-like with sweet black currants, dark chocolate and minerals, bitter finish.  88 points.


**Adegas Chao do Couso, Pobra de Trives (Orense), Quiroga-Bibei (Raúl Pérez, consultant) 



 
Chao Do Couso Soutollo Tinto Ribeira Scara, Restaurante O Canton, El Ferrol. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.


Soutollo Mencía 2007 Summum $30 (13.5%) Ripe black currants, graphite and horse barn rusticity in the nose.  Smooth, sweet currant fruit with graphite minerality and structure.  Good food wines.  89 points. 

Alcouce Mencía 2006 Summum $25? (13.5%) Nose of oak and minerals.  Big, rich, sweet, smooth with black and red currant fruit and a minerality obscured by oak tannins.   88 points.
 


Bodegas y Viñedos Raúl Pérez (Made at Pedro M. Rodríguez Pérez, Sober (Lugo), Amandi 

Raúl Pérez at Adegas Alguiera in Amandi, Ribeira Sacra. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

Raúl Pérez draws a sample of red wine in Bierzo. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

El Pecado 2007 Ribeira Sacra $75 (sold as Guímaro Barrica in Spain; says 100 per cent mencía on the label, but is 80 per cent mencía, 10 per cent caíño tinto and 10 per cent garnacha tintorera; fermented in 1,500 liter egg-shaped barrels from Austria for 12 months with battonage; 13.5%).  
Ripe, extracted red fruits, oak and some minerality.  Deep extracted attractive red currant fruit, very juicy acidity, rustic touches, oak and minerals, a laudable example of a modern Spanish wine made to fit a commercial profile.  93 points.
(Note:  This wine has been rated by some as high as 98 points, but while I find it to be a good wine, it seems not to be a prime example of Ribeira Sacra.) 

**Adegas Costoya, A Teixeria (Ourense), Ribeiras do Sil (“Enology” by Enológica Témera, S.L., Jorge González, a Ribiera Sacra native.)
   
Carlos Costoya with his wine, Alodio (he also produceds Thémera), 
at the Fira do Vinho in Castro Caldelas 2009. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2009.

Carlos Costoya's wife (r) opening a bottle of Alodio at La Fira do Vinho in Castro Caldelas. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

Alodio Mencía 2007 Summum $15 (13%) Graphite and currants in the nose.  Delicious, full-flavored currant, cherry, pomegranate and dark chocolate flavors, lots of minerals and no oak, all balanced by good acid levels and moderate tannins for structure.  92 points.  Exceptional value.
        

Thémera 2005 Summum $25 (Mencía; aged briefly in acacia and chestnut; 13%) (Note to editors: sic, spelling differs maddeningly from Enológica Témera) Light oak, ripe red fruit, dark chocolate and mineral nose.  A wonderfully delicious wine with deep, rich cherry, cranberry and pomegranate flavors; a superb balance of acid, fruit, dark chocolate, light oak marking and minerals.  94 points.  Very good value.
 

D. Ventura, Losada Fernández, Ferreira de Pantón (Lugo), Ribeiras do Minho
(Consultant Gerardo Méndez of Rías Baixas’s Do Ferreiro; some of these wines may have small percentages of Brancellao and Garnacha; all are incredible bargains.)


Gerardo Méndez, Do Ferreiro. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

Viña do Burato 2008 Summum $20 (80-year old vines from Viña de Balboa vineyard, Minho; mencía; slate/granite; non-certified organic; 12%) Nice nose of pomegranate, currants and minerals.  Delicious, eminently drinkable pomegranate and currant fruit with wonderful bracing minerality.  Exemplary, young Ribeira Sacra with loads of flavor at low alcohol and with no oak.  92 points.
 
Pena do Lobo 2007 Summum $23 (Amandi region vineyard; mencía; granite; non-certified organic; un-oaked; 13%) Nice ripe currants and pomegranate tinged with graphite in the nose.  Superb balance of perfectly ripe currant and pomegranate fruit and a compelling minerality reminiscent of Graves or Chinon.  Calls you back to the glass again and again.  94 points.
 
Viña Caneiro 2007 Summum $26 (Doade/Amandi region vineyard; mencía; slate; non-certified organic; un-oaked; 13%)  Lovely, haunting Ribeira Sacra nose of red fruits and minerals.  Exceptional, complex balance of rich wonderful red fruits (pie cherries, red currants, pomegranate) and a long, lingering mineral finish, no oak to mar it.  A stunningly good wine with few or any flaws and a steal at the price.  96 pts.
 
*Dominio do Bibei, Manzaneda (Ourense), Quiroga-Bibei (Sara Pérez and René Barbier, Jr., consultants)

 
Dominio do Bibei owner Javier Domínguez at his winery in the Quiroga-Bibei subzone. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

La Pola Godello Summum 2008 (with Dona Blanca grapes; 12.8%)
Somewhat tropical nose.  Spicy and complex with rich, sweet white peach and good acidity.  93 pts.  (Also tasted was the La Pola 2004, a blend of 60% Godello, 40% Dona Blanca, which was at the quality level of a Meursault.)


Dominio do Bibei owner Javier Domínguez at his winery in the Quiroga-Bibei subzone. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.


La Lama 2004 Summum (mencía, garnacha, moratón; 13%)
Nose of exotic fruits and minerals.  Impressive on the palate with fresh acidity, moderate alcohol and pretty raspberry/black cherry fruit.  91 points.
 
           
Javier Domínguez also employs local in-house talent at Dominio do Bibei. Laura Lorenzo, with Suso Prieto Pérez, diligently helps to manage the vineyards 
and monitor the development of the wines. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

Finca Míllara Bodegas y Viñedos, Pantón (Lugo), Ribeiras do Minho
 
Finca Míllara 2007 $45  (mencía; 13%)  Nose of graphite, ripe fruit and oak.  Soft up front, but rustic, with some ripe red fruits and oak in the finish.  87 points.
 
Guímaro, Pedro M. Rodríguez Pérez, Sober (Lugo), Amandi (Raúl Pérez, consultant) 

    
Raúl Pérez. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

*Guímaro Mencía 2008 Summum $15 (Contains some caíño tinto; 13.5%)
Light toast, red fruits and minerals in the nose.  Gutsy, rich and fruity with black currants, cherries, a slate minerality shored up with skin tannins and light oak.  A delicious crowd pleasing wine that is more akin to a Bierzo wine than Ribeira Sacra.  90 points.  Great value.      
 
Guímaro B2M 2007 Summum $29  (Mencía field-blended with small amounts of caíño tinto; aged 14 months in oak; 2500 bottles made; 13.5%) Nose of deep, ripe pomegranate, oak and minerals.
Brassy, gutsy, big, sweet cola and pomegranate fruit; oaky with lots of minerals.  Delicious, but a bit too much of a good thing and more like a Bierzo wine than a Ribeira Sacra.  Very similar to El Pecado 2007 [see note] at $25 less .)  93 points.
 
*Pena das Donas, Pombeiro, Pantón (Lugo), Ribeiras do Minho

 
Riberas do Sil, in the lower Sil in the Ribeiros do Minho area where Pena Das Donas is located. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

Antonio Lombardia, one of the owners of Adegas Pena Das Donas, who makes the stellar Almalarga Godello. 
With him a his vineyardist-partner, Jesus Vázquez Rodríguez and visitor Basilio Izquierdo, 
who made the top Rioja CUNE wines for 30 years. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.


Almalarga Godello 2008 Summum $21 (13%) Beautiful nose of lime, white peach and minerals.  Soft, silky and well balanced with lovely, sweet white peach fruit, and a haunting, lingering bitter almond and mineral finish.  93 points (This summer I drank the 2006 Almalarga and rated it 96 points.) Exceptional value. 

Verdes Matas Mencía 2007 Summum $21 (100 per cent mencía; 12.5%)
Pomegranate, currant and mineral nose.  Balanced, perfectly ripe and rich, with plenty or juicy cranberry, pomegranate and currant flavors, dark chocolate and a long, complex, mineral-laced finish.  93 points. 

 
Antonio Lombardia, one of the owners of Adegas Pena Das Donas, who makes the stellar Almalarga Godello. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.


**Peza do Rei, César Enríquez Diéguez, A Teixera (Ourense), Ribeiras do Sil

César Enríquez Diéguez, owner and son of the founder of Peza do Rei at the Fira do Vinho in Castro Caldelas. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2012.

Peza do Rei Blanco 2008 $23 (70% Godello, 20% Treixadura and 10% Albariño; 13%)
White stone fruit, minerals.  Delicious, sweet white peach fruit with lime, honeysuckle, stony minerals and a long, acid-laced finish.  89 points.  Good value.
 
Peza do Rei Colheita 2007 $40 (mencía; 12 months in French oak; 13.5%) Oak and ripe fruit nose.  A big mouthful of ripe, rich currant fruit, tarry licorice flavors, low acid and good minerality peeking through an oaky finish.  A wine with market appeal, but not particularly Ribeira Sacra typicity.  88 points.

(More Ribeira Sacra tasting notes for wines not in the American market to follow.)

About the author

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand prize in 2009 and received the Association of Food Journalists 2009 Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià.


video

Mr. Dawes is currently working on a reality television
series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

Experience Spain With Gerry Dawes: Culinary Trips to Spain & Travel Consulting on Spain

Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected): gerrydawes@hotmail.com

5/11/2012

Another Five Dali Melting Watch Award Restaurant: Casa Bigote, Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Andalucía)


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Persistence of Memory* (Salvador Dalí) Five-Watch Rating

 Casa Bigote
Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Andalucía)

 (From my article Spain's Best Undiscovered Restaurants, Departures, May 2011)

The town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in the southern region of Andalucía, is famous for its sherry, in particular the Manzanilla produced by La Gitana, whose owner, Javier Hidalgo, once said, “If you ever have Manzanilla at sunset on Bajo de Guía beach, you will never drink it again without seeing the Sanlúcar sunset in the glass.” 

(See Andalucian Journal: April in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Home of Manzanilla Sherry: Adventures with Javier Hidalgo, Producer of La Gitana Manzanilla, in Las Marismas, Lunch in a Very Secret Place)


Javier Hidalgo drinking his Bodegas Hidalgo Napoleon Amontillado  

as an aperitif before our riacheros lunch. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010 / gerrydawes@aol.com

The best place for drinking sherry on Bajo de Guía beach is Casa Bigote, where the tapas and Manzanilla are legendary. Authentic, raffish and utterly captivating, the original building is an old-time fishermen’s tavern crammed with bullfight posters and decades’ worth of oddities dragged in by local fleets’ nets (Roman amphoras, a whale’s jaw, blowfish, etc.). Chef Fernando Hermoso, who began cooking on fishing boats, serves only local fish and shellfish from the Guadalquivir River—where Columbus and Magellan began their historic voyages—and the Atlantic Ocean. His huevo marinero, a sublime monkfish-and-shrimp dish served bubbling hot with a fresh egg cracked on top, is a culinary epiphany.

 
Langostinos de Sanlúcar with La Gitana manzanilla, in evening light,
Bajo de Guía beach on the Guadalquívir River, Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010 / gerrydawes@aol.com.

Across the alleyway, in the restaurant’s upstairs dining room overlooking the Guadalquivir, he serves his justly famous langostinos de Sanlúcar (prawns steamed or grilled with sea salt). Or have the rape a la marinera (monkfish with saffron sauce) or raya a la naranja agría (skate in bitter Seville orange sauce) while gazing out at the Coto Doñana, one of the world’s great bird reserves, where researchers believe they may have found the buried ruins of Atlantis. Dinner, $70. 10 Bajo de Guía, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz, Andalucía; 34-956/362-696.

Where to Stay: In Sanlúcar’s barrio alto, the Posada de Palacio (rooms, from $110; 9-11 Calle Caballeros; 34-956/365-060) is an old family home transformed into a hotel. -- Gerry Dawes

20111112-cover-article-thumb_archive_thumb
_________________________________________________________________________________
 
About Gerry Dawes
   
Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 


". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 


video
Trailer for a proposed reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

5/09/2012

Photographic Gallery of Spanish Chefs & Food Personalities


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José Andrés with "The Ultimate Gin & Tonic," made with Hendrick's gin and Fever Tree tonic water, Bar Blanca at The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel, Beverly Hills. All photos by Gerry Dawes ©2011. Contact gerrydawes@aol.com for publication rights.

* * * * *


(Slide Show, click on images to enlarge.)


___________________________________________________________________  


About Gerry Dawes


Gerry Dawes is a writer-photographer-and lecturer on Spain.  He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads and plans customized gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to SpainHe was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003.

Gerry Dawes was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 


". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 


video
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

5/08/2012

God and Men (Godello and Mencía) in Ribeira Sacra: Winemaking in Spain's Most Exciting Wine Region for Terroir-Driven Wines


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Chef Michael Chiarello, Bottega, Napa Valley with José Manuel Rodríguez, President of the D.O. Ribeira Sacra and producer of The Spanish Artisan Wine Group wine, Décima, in José Manuel's precipitously steep Ribeira Sacra vineyards on the Sil River. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 / gerrydawes@aol.com. 


* * * * *
by Gerry Dawes
(First published in The Wine News)


Over the past few years, La Ribeira Sacra, a barely accessible, exquisitely rural wine region in northwestern Spain's mountainous Galicia (some 350 miles northwest of Madrid), has begun to show the most exciting potential I have encountered in more than 40 years of traveling the wine roads of Spain. Here God and men, using primarily godello for white wines and mencía for reds, are creating such irresistibly delicious, enticing, often profound wines that the Ribeira Sacra is rapidly becoming one of the most compelling wine regions on earth. In the bargain, Ribeira Sacra just may be the most strikingly beautiful wine region in the world with its terraced vineyards of dry farmed, old vines indigenous grapes that plunge precipitously hundreds of feet down the slopes of the majestic damned-up canyons of the Miño river, meandering from the north and defining the western zone, and the Sil, flowing from the east and marking the southern tier. Ribeira Sacra is one of only two areas in Spain--the other is Priorat--that practice "heroic viticulture," the laborious care and harvesting of vineyards from such steeply inclined terraces.



Slide show on Ribera Sacra.

Although lost in time until recently, Ribeira Sacra has been making wine since the Roman occupation (and possibly longer). In just the past five years, the region has awakened from its centuries-long backwater slumber and appears poised to make a major and possibly long term impact on the Spanish wine world--including becoming a major moderating force for a wine culture that has allowed itself to become obsessed with a predilection for overblown, overripe, overly alcoholic, inky monster style wines. At last a Spanish region has emerged whose terruño (terroir) can rival the ethereal, sublime qualities of the great French Atlantic-climate influenced, terroir-driven wines such as red and white Burgundies and the cabernet franc-laced reds of the Loire Valley.

Stephen Metzler, President of Classical Wines (Seattle, WA; www.classicalwines.com), who represents Ribeira Sacra's Adegas Cachín (Peza do Rei and Finca Millara) says, "My view of Ribeira Sacra is as a Northern European terroir whose wines have structure and acidity, so the pursuit of extract hereBbut not overripeness--is advisable. It is the opposite of most of Spain, where they need seek acidity to provide support for their fleshiness."

However, Roger Kugler, former wine director of New York's Sula and Boqueria and a Spanish wine specialist, does not agree about "the pursuit of extract." He says, "There is a tendency to over-extract some of these Ribeira Sacra reds at the moment, but I think that will pass as the winemakers catch up with the trend against such over-extracted wines which is now gaining ground all over the world."

More than any other place in Spain, the wines of Ribeira Sacra are being produced by people trying to get it right in the vineyards rather than manipulating the juice once it is in the cellars. Dominio do Bibei owner Javier Domínguez told me in March at his winery, "We began by working the vineyards, cutting yields and getting them into the right conditions to make good wine."

Ribeira Sacra winemaking indeed often seems to be a dramatic departure from the practices that have been characteristic for the past fifteen years of the rest of Spain, where winemakers have too often relied on overripe fruit, which produces fat, jammy wines with high alcohol content and low acidity. And winemaker-driven cellar techniques such as extended macerations, barrel fermentation, battonage (stirring of the lees), barrel toasting and extended aging of new oak have been used to achieve a formulaic flavor profile designed impress wine critics. 

In fact, Ribera Sacra red wines, when produced without cellar gimmicks may be the longed-for antidote to some of the more grotesque types of wines that have characterized Spanish winemaking for the past fifteen years. In August, while drinking his Lalama 2003 with me at New York's Boqueria Soho tapas restaurant, Javier Domínguez made a statement that many fine wine lovers and Spain aficionados fervently hope is true, "I think we are beginning to see a group of people in Ribera Sacra trying to make wines with a stamp of authenticity. I believe this is totally contrary to what has been going on in the rest of Spain for many years, over-ripeness, over-extraction, over-oaking, too much alcohol, etc."

The tiered slate and/or granite bancales, or terraces, some dating to the Roman occupation nearly 2,000 years ago, have a great deal to do with why Ribeira Sacra wines can be so profoundly terroir-driven, intriguing and delicious. The old vines, which are driven deeply into the fractured stone of the terraced hillsides, impart a marked minerality to the wines, depending upon the stone composition, which can range from mostly granite in Chantada and a granite-slate mix in Ribeiras do Minho in the west to Amandi, where the terrances are mostly slate, to some slate-and-granite in Ribeiras do Sil and slate- or schist-laced clay in Quiroga-Bibei.

The inclines of most Ribeira Sacra's vineyards are usually from 30 per cent to 80 per cent but, in some cases, Denominación de Origen (DO) Regulatory Council President José Manuel Rodríguez says is "even steeper at 100 per cent or more!" (Germany's famous Bernkasteler Doktor vineyard in the Mosel is on a 100 per cent incline.) The steepness of Ribeira Sacra's riverside slopes allows graduated harvesting because of the differences in altitude, which can vary as much as 500 to 600 feet from top to bottom in the same vineyard area, with the earliest ripening vines being in the lower, therefore warmest, rows nearest the river. The vendimia (harvest) continues for ten to fifteen days until the uppermost vines are picked. The climate varies from the more direct Atlantic weather influences in the western Minho, which receives some 35.5 inches of rain annually, while the more southern and eastern Sil areas only get 20 to 27.5 inches per year. The Minho's median temperature is 56 degrees Fahrenheit, while the Sil is one degree warmer, but can reach temperatures of 95 to 100 degrees at midday in summer.

The grapes in the old vineyards of Ribera Sacra are often field blends of mencía or godello mixed with little-known ancient Galician red varieties. The Ribeira Sacra Regulatory Council has decreed that the "preferred" varieties for red wines are mencía, brancellao and merenzao, but also authorized and tolerated are caiño tinto, mouratón (also called negrada), sousón and the inky garnacha tintorera (gradually being eliminated as an authorized variety) and the seldom-encountered tempranillo (so widely grown in the rest of Spain). The preferred white wine varieties are the predominant godello, plus albariño, dona blanca, loureira, torrontés and treixadura.

Many Ribeira Sacra wines already have a clear identity: Their persistent terruño (Spanish for terroir) minerality is more readily evident here than in any other region in Spain, including Catalunya's Priorat, whose wines' inherent minerality is often obscured by new oak. Many Ribeira Sacra red wines exhibit the haunting, slate-driven, graphite flavors that characterize the best Priorat wines (whose pre-dominant varieties are garnacha tinta and cariñena), but Ribeira Sacra's qualities are derived from distinctly different grapes, primarily mencía, often blended with small percentages of the other unique indigenous varieties. And, because Ribeira Sacra's grapes are grown in a cooler Atlantic-influenced climate rather than a hot Mediterranean one, the wines achieve lively fresh fruit flavors from grapes that almost never attain over-ripeness.

Some Ribiera Sacra wines still offer unique, rustic country flavors from a bygone era. But, each year Ribeira Sacra wines have become increasingly sophisticated, often without totally losing that charming rustic touch, which imparts a authentic sense of place that is considered a virtue, rather than a flaw, by many admirers of these wines. The reds are usually quite delicious with a depth of ripe, juicy red and black currant, red berry and/or pomegranate-like fruit, that haunting minerality and moderate 11.5 to 13 per cent alcohol levels, all integrated beautifully and balanced by a fine acidity. Plus, the wines are often un-oaked or so judiciously oaked that the wood doesn't become a pre-dominant or even noticeable factor. All of these factors contribute to making these wines eminently drinkable, exquisitely well balanced and seamless in the best examples, which gives them an exceptional affinity with a wide range of foods.

White wines, made predominantly from godello, comprise less than seven per cent of Ribeira Sacra's production, but some also show exceptional promise. There are also some delicious blends of godello with albariño, treixadura and other native Galician white varieties. One wine in particular, Pena das Donas Almalarga Godello from 80-to-100 year-old vines, stands out and shows the potential of Ribeira Sacra whites. Almalarga has all the complexity and minerality of a fine white Burgundy such as a Puligny-Montrachet, but with the marvelous godello grape and mixed granitic-slate mineral flavors, instead of chardonnay from calcareous soils. Thus far, Pena das Donas has not resorted to the current vogue in Spanish white winemaking--fermentation in new oak barrels and frequent battonage--both of which can obliterate the lovely fruit and haunting mineral tones that are so enticing in this wine.

Over the past decade, I had seen glimpses of excellent potential in Antonio Lombardia's Pena Das Donas, José Manuel Rodríguez's Décima, Javier Seoane's Pradio, Primitivo Lareu's Sabatelivs, Dr. José María Prieto's Regoa and even such rustic wines as Viña Cazoga, Cividade and Os Cipreses. And, in restaurants elsewhere in Galicia, I have often ordered wines from some of the region's larger wineries--Vía Romana (Chantada), Abadia da Cova (Ribeiras do Minho), Rectoral de Amandi (Amandi), Ponte de Boga (Ribeiras do Sil) and Val de Quiroga (Quiroga-Bibei)--which produce very drinkable, inexpensive wines, primarily for Galician consumption. In March at the Chantada wine fair, I encountered several little-known, but very promising wines: Diego de Lemos, Pincelo, Quinta de Albarada, and Terras Bendaña. And, at lunch at Chantada professor's small "hobby" bodega in the middle of vineyards overlooking the Minho, we drank an unlabeled red wine that was gorgeously rich with only 12 per cent alcohol! At the Castro Caldelas wine fair in July, I tasted Adegas Costoya (Alodio and Thémera), Peza do Rei and Chao do Couso (Alcouce and Soutollo), all available in the U. S., and several more such as Sollio, Adega Vella, Bellaleira, Viña Pederneira and Solaina worthy of consideration.

In the past few years, several winemakers from outside the region--Bierzo's Raúl Pérez (several wineries; see below) and Gregory Pérez (Regina Viarum), Priorat's husband-and-wife team René Barbier, Jr. and Sara Pérez (Dominio do Bibei), Rías Baixas maestro Gerardo Méndez (D. Ventura) and Dominique Roujou de Boubee (Ponte da Boga), a French consulting enologist living near Barcelona, have all appeared to help refine Ribeira Sacra wines. And, just this year, significant articles about Ribeira Sacra's wines and winemakers have appeared in The New York Times, Gentleman's Quarterly and The Wine Advocate, which is having an explosive effect. Even in today's market, in which elmundovino.com, one of Spain's leading wine websites, reported this summer that Spanish wine exports were down by a staggering $55,000,000 and Catalunyas INCAVI (Cava Institute) is reporting the equivalent of nearly 19,000,000 bottles of unsold wine, Riberia Sacra wines sales are up 35 per cent in the past year, according to Regulatory Council President José Manuel Rodríguez.

Recently, some very promising, even exceptional wines (see Tasting Bar)--some made by these carpet bagging winemakers, have appeared in the American market. Gerardo Méndez, the owner-winemaker of top-rated Rías Baixas Do Ferreiro Albariños, advises Ramón Losada on his D. Ventura Viña do Burato, Pena do Lobo and Viña Caniero, three truly superb, very reasonably-priced red wines from an organically farmed vineyard in Ribeiras do Minho and two more in Amandi. The wines, from organically farmed grapes fermented with native yeasts, are among the most fruity, balanced, terroir-driven and gloriously delicious wines in Spain, yet none rises above 13 per cent alcohol, and they are un-oaked. Also in Ribeiras do Minho, from sharply inclined vineyards overlooking the Sil River (the Minho, Sil and Bibei meet nearby), Antonio Lombardia and his partners at the Pena Das Donas produce Almalarga Godello, one of the greatest white wines I have tasted in Spain, along with a first-rate Mencía, Verdes Matas.

Javier Domínguez, a native Galician, is the owner (with his wife, Maria) and artistic inspiration behind the striking Domino do Bibei hidden in the tortuous mountains of the Quiroga-Bibei area. Domínguez hired Priorat husband wife team, Sara Pérez (Clos Martinet) and René Barbier Jr. (Clos Mogador), to consult on his critically acclaimed wines, the godello-based Lapena and three reds, Lapola, Lacima and Lalama. Domínguez also employs local in-house talent--Suso Prieto Pérez and Laura Lorenzo Domínguez--who diligently manage the vineyards and monitor the development of the wines. Moving steadily away from overly long macerations and avoiding a surfeit of new oak, they are using upright, epoxy-lined cement ovals and larger wooden tanks for their wines.
 
When I visited Domino do Bibei in 2009, Domínguez told me, "Even if I don't make any money for ten years, what concerns me more is making the greatest wine possible from these grapes and this land." One of his wines, approved as "experimental" by the DO, is Lalama, a blend of mouratón and garnacha tintorera (an inky grape reminiscent of Alicante bouschet), with no mencía. Domínguez is also very enthusiastic about the propects for his brancellao, a grape which he says "produces pretty light-colored, elegant red wines that remind me of Burgundy."

Raúl Pérez, a diminutive 38-year old, is the quintessential flying winemaker, who "flies" around northwestern Spain in a Mini-Cooper, making or consulting on more than a dozen wines. Pérez began making wines--now critically acclaimed--from his family's vineyards in his native Bierzo. He also makes several wines in neighboring Galicia's Monterrei, Rías Baixas and Ribeira Sacra, including Fernando González's Algueira, Chao Do Couso (Alcouce, Soutollo), Guímaro and El Pecado, which in Spain was first sold as Guímaro Barrica (barrel aged). El Pecado, which recently received an astronomical score from a famous American wine newsletter, is described as 100 per cent mencía, but is actually 85 per cent mencía with 10 per cent caiño tinto and 5 per cent brancellao, with the two latter grapes imparting a rustic, exotic touch.

Pérez told me, "soy enólogo de viña" ( I am a vineyard enologist), but it could easily be said that he is also enólogo de prensa (meaning either a wine press or a printing press).  Recently, Pérez has received some serious press attention from major European and American publications and his fame has skyrocketed. Pérez does believe that great wine begins in the vineyards and he prefers barrels to be four-to-five years old with no discernible toasting, since believes charring adversely affects the taste of the wines. Pérez's wines can be quite good and his rise to fame has helped spotlight the region, but his individualistic winemaking approach seems more about making denomination of origen "Raúlista" wines rather than exemplary representatives of any one region.

The Ribeira Sacra is divided into five subzonas which, because of climate, soil differences and vineyard orientation can produce wines that are markedly different in character, so much so that DO President Rodríguez says, "There might as well be 20 different DOs." From northwest to southeast, the subzones are Chantada, whose magical vineyards line the Minho in northwestern Ribeira Sacra; Ribeiras do Minho, with awesomely beautiful vineyard sites south of Chantada; Amandi, with strikingly steep vineyards in the center of the region whose southern boundary is the Sil River; Ribeiras do Sil, running south of the Sil from Minho in the west along the deep Sil canyons to Castro Caldelas; and Quiroga-Bibei, in whose eastern zone around Quiroga there are some non-terraced vineyards, but along the Sil and Bibei rivers in the southeastern reaches are some more majestic, steep, terraced vineyards.

Dominio do Bibei's Javier Dominguez, told me, "One thing I like about the Ribeira Sacra is the differences between the subzonas. For instance, the wines of Chantada are much more fruity. The wines of Bibei, where I have my vines and bodega, have much more minerality and the fruit is not as exuberant. I am not fond of wines with pronounced fruit, what I prefer are the mineral components."

Roger Kugler, also a fan of wines with mineral terruño, says "many Ribeira Sacra red wines are showstoppers. Because the steep vineyards and slate soils of Ribeira Sacra produce mencía with a deeper minerality and richness than can be found in Bierzo, for instance, and the region has been called the next Priorat, for good reason."

It is important to understand that Ribeira Sacra wines are unique originals that should be judged on their singularly distinctive merits. Even though the wines naturally may exhibit certain characteristics reminiscent of Burgundy, the Loire or Priorat and a few producers seem to be trying to imitate some of those styles, Ribeira Sacra wines are usually quite unique. Because of the region's historic isolation, indigenous grape varieties and climate, the style and provenance of these wines may take some getting used to because they are indeed a river of wine unto themselves, a wine river well worth exploring in depth.

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About Gerry Dawes


Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià.

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés.

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 


video
A trailer for a proposed reality television series
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain
featuring top American guest chefs.


5/05/2012

Photo Opp / Cigalas (Dublin Bay prawns) at Pontevedra Municipal market, Galicia.


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Cigalas (Dublin Bay prawns) at Pontevedra Municipal market,  Galicia. 
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2010 / contact gerrydawes@aol.com


________________________________________________________________________________  
About Gerry Dawes  


Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 


". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
 
video
Trailer for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

5/04/2012

Spanish Mushrooms, Setas, Hongos, etc. and Mushroom Dishes (With More to Come)



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Setas, sauteed mushrooms in cazuela (clay dish), served with 
Valdespino Tio Dego Amontillado Sherry, Jerez de la Frontera. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2006 / gerrydawes@aol.com.



Side show on mushrooms from around Spain.
(Double click on lower right corner to go to Picasa web album, 
then at upper left click on slide show for an enlarged version.)
Any comments or corrections will be very much appreciated.


5/03/2012

Gerry Dawes's Visual Encyclopedia of Spanish Gastronomy & Wine

  

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  (A work in progress with frequent new additions and updates.)


Alcachofas con jamón Ibérico.
Copyright Gerry Dawes 2010 / gerrydawes@aol.com

Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com

5/02/2012

Gerry Dawes's Visual Encyclopedia of Spanish Gastronomy & Wine: Cardos (Cardoons)



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Cardos con semillas de granada, cardoons with pomegranate seeds, at El Crucero in Corella (Navarra).
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010 / gerrydawes@aol.com

Gerry Dawes can be reached at gerrydawes@aol.com

Grilled snails with sea salt and rosemary at Casa Elias, Xinorlet (Alicante).



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Grilled snails with sea salt and rosemary at Casa Elias, Xinorlet (Alicante).
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010 / gerrydawes@aol.com.
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