Sheep and cattle graze thick grass between Iago Garrido's vines on a terraced slope tucked into a forest valley behind the ancient Monasterio de San Clodio. Healthy virgin soils produce exceptionally bright and refreshing treixadura, which ferments with other native Galician white varietals to become his traditional field blend. Iago is among the first of a new wave of brave biodynamic producers on the rise in Galicia.
In his youth, Germán Roble Blanco lived with his grandmother Aurora in Albares de la Ribera, where she taught him to love the mountain and the vines that grow there. Her friends watched him grow and promised their vineyards to his care in old age. They live on through their vines, which Germán lovingly expresses by parcel in tiny batches as they come—whites and reds ferment together as they always have. These are authentic garagiste mountain wines, par excellence. No SO2.
Ramón Jané broke 500 years of family tradition in 2006 by vinifying a portion of his grapes with his wife Mercé Cuscó and best friend/oenologist Toni Carbó as Mas Candí—they had always sold their crop to large cava producers. They remain grape growers first, farming biodynamically on the inland edge of the Garraf massif, and plan to keep their production limited. Over centuries of tasting, the Jané family has tailored their farming to focus on indigenous xarel•lo, which grows best in their living calcareous clay soils.
Ramón and Toni and Xarello
Old Xarello vines above Sant Sadurni
Carriel Dels Vilars
vi de l'Albera (Alt Empordà)
Carles Alonso crafts paranormal wine in the shadows of the Pyrenees with grapes from his wild jungles of vineyards. He left his job as director of investments at Caixa Catalunya in 1979 to build his stone house in the tiny hamlet of Els Vilars, grow his own food, and craft natural wine from 2.5ha of slate slopes 250m above sea level. His vines grow wild among native grasses, flowers, and bugs, competing for water and struggling for nutrients in Girona’s arid climate, untended but for a single aggressive winter pruning and a touch of caldo bordelés after flowering. Their savage fruit makes for haunting wine full of mediterranean character kept fresh by the tramontana that blows from the mountains to the north.
Yes, those are indeed vines reaching out of the grass.
Enric Soler is known as the king of xarel•lo. His subtle, elegant wine is the fruit of a family plot of some of the oldest xarel•lo vines in the world, biodynamically farmed, bush-trained, and draped in a carpet of thick, indigenous ground cover. He is a minimalist in the cellar, leaving the grapes to reflect their beautiful provenance. Since his first vintage in 2004, Enric’s wines have defined classic, and helped establish xarel•lo’s reputation as a world-class varietal.
Vinya dels Taus means 'vineyard of the moles.' The soil is alive and biodiverse, teeming with native flowers, grasses, and lots of beneficial bugs--happy hunting for the healthy population of dirt wolves that live there!
Wood from Nun grafted to roots on a steep vineyard at the limit of where Xarel.lo can ripen in Alt Penedès sets the bar for excellence in young vines.
Bodega de Forlong
Jerez hasn’t seen wines like these in 150 years. Rocío Áspera and Alejandro Narváez farm their white Pago of chalky vineyards outside El Puerto de Santa María without chemicals, a rarity in a region once known for producing the world’s most exquisite wines. Their attention to soil quality brings life to the magic of albariza: wines electric with scintillating minerality. Rocío and Ale make mosto, the colloquial name for unfortified palomino and popular favorite in the Cádiz province, elevating it to new heights with a subtle touch of dry pedro ximenez. They use 100% palomino in the barrel room, where flor transforms their superb mostos into vintage sherries, made in the same fashion as the great Jerez of the 19th century, without solera. Instead of fortifying their sherries with brandy from the interior as D.O. Jerez mandates, Forlong relies on the natural concentration of alcohol, acidity, and crucial minerals in their fruit to support a healthy aging under flor. The purity of their outstanding fruit makes their fino en rama among the finest produced since the industrial revolution.
Albariza tastes like oyster shell, summer 2017
Ale with baby Tintilla de Rota in albariza, winter 2017
D.O. Terra Alta
Francesc Ferre’s family has been farming grapes organically in Corbera d’Ebre for over 200 years, but only just began making wine in 2009 with then 21 year-old Francesc at the helm, fresh out of school. It looks as if a giant pulled a ripcord from the earth to create the mountains on either side of their mediterranean valley, flanked by a forest to the east and a modern phalanx of windmills on its blustery western ridge. Corbera’s combination of hot, dry days in the Mediterranean sun, evening marinada onshore wind, and cool nights at Corbera’s high elevation allows grapes to maintain their acidity in otherwise arid conditions and makes it an ideal place to grow fresh, vivacious garnatxa.
Old vines destined for Sang de Corb, winter
Layers of pure calcium in the Quart vineyard make for zippy, zesty, mineral garnatxa
Sal de moro (calcium) sparkles vinya del quart
Luís Palacio’s father planted the first certified organic vineyard in Rioja in 1980, and quickly converted the rest of his family’s holding when he saw the results. Three decades later, Luís has the most beautiful vineyards in Rioja—pools of green life in a desert of red clay. A plot of 150 year-old own-rooted graciano and tempranillo peludo vines provide the genetic material for four generations of vineyards, the last of which Luís planted himself. His debonair wine reflects the simple genius of generations of patience and observation—distinctive fruit, thoughtfully presented.
Luis in Viña Alto del Pozo
Celler La Salada
vi de taula (Penedès)
Toni Carbó built Mas Candí with his best friend and business partner Ramón Jané before starting Celler La Salada in 2012. His family’s estate soils ring with life; they’ve been farmed sustainably for generations, untouched by chemicals. Toni’s old vines express Vi Català as it was when his grandfather made it: fresh, characterful, and lively. No additions whatsoever.
A once-abandoned vineyard of sumoll in the mountain forest of Castellroig
viño de mesa (Ribera Sacra)
When D.O. Ribeira Sacra tried to tell Xabi Soeanes how to make his wine, he left. He crafts it without intervention from the biodynamically farmed fruit he grows on a windy, terraced cliff overlooking the Miño where it joins the Sil. Horses nibble the native grasses growing beneath his vines. Looking to his region's past, Xavi is slowly grafting the recently arrived mencía his father planted to native varietals like brancellao and merenzao (known as bastardo in Spain and trousseau in Jura). Xavi picks his fruit early, when it’s firm and fresh, as his abuelos did two generations ago, before acidification became common practice in the region. The result is pure terruño with uncommon soul, a window into the history of Ribeira Sacra.
D.O. Cava (Penedès)
Rimarts started in a garage in 1987. Brothers Ernest and Ricard Martinez worked with their father from the start. Twenty years later at his passing, they set a new course for excellence by forging lasting relationships with local organic farmers and their stellar fruit. Their insightful craftsmanship, curated fruit, and patience make for brilliant vintage brut nature cavas that redefine classic in postmodern Penedès.
Rimarts at work
Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León (Bierzo Alto)
Germán Roble Blanco is a visionary. Although he is the first in his family to make wine, he spent his adolescence with his grandmother Aurora in Albares de la Ribera, where she taught him to love the mountain and the vines that grow there. Before returning to Bierzo, he traveled Burgundy, absorbing the delicacy of its cold climate wine and bringing its minimalist ethos to the windy mountains of northern Spain. The mencia of Albares de la Ribera ripens slowly in the crisp mountain air, and ages slowly in Germán’s cellar in neutral barrels and amphora until stable, lacing fine structure over subtle fruit, herbs, and lingering earth.
Viñas de Monte
Mountain wine. Elegance, Restraint, and quaffability.
Sara i René
The Bellvisos vineyard has never seen herbicides or pesticides of any kind—it had been abandoned over fifty years ago, before they became available in the region. There are no neighbors to worry about either; the surrounding slopes are too steep to plant. Husband and wife team Sara Perez and René Barbier, of Mas Martinet and Clos Mogador renown, purchased and restored the steep licorella slope vines in 2001 to craft just 1300 liters of their vinous lovechild.
René in the Bellvisos Vineyard
It's unterraced, and almost too steep to walk
I wouldn't call it soil, per se
Sidra Natural (Gijón, Asturias)
Jesús García Castiello cultivates a pastoral dream of fading tradition at his family's llagar in the lush countryside outside Gijón. He keeps over forty native cider apple varieties in the orchard alongside his slow food restaurant, where he ferments them without any additions. Some come from his grandfather, who taught him everything; others grew from seedlings in his nursery. Every seed produces a different tree with new fruit, flavors, and textures that come together in Casa Segundo's elegant, expressive cider.
D.O. Conca de Barberà
Mariona Vendrell and Albert Canela fell in love studying winemaking in Tarragona and started Succés Vinícola in 2011 at the tender age of 20. They exploded onto the scene with a still red wine made with Conca de Barberà’s favorite grape, trepat, which was traditionally used in the region’s rosé cava and first vinified tinto only a decade ago. Albert’s uses his family’s vinous connections to source Succés’ fruit from older, organically farmed vineyards owned by local abuelos and continue to push the boundaries of what's considered possible in the region with good farming and introspective winemaking.
old vine trepat
limestone before breakfast
Trosset de Porrera
Diego and Eduardo Duran care for a tiny plot of organically farmed vines eking out an existence on a precarious slope of inhospitable quartz and slate just outside the mountain village of Porrera. It’s incredible the plants survive the extreme conditions, and that the Durans can farm it: the slope has a 60% incline. Their centenarian cariñena vines are scarcely taller than your hand and produce less than a pound of concentrated, mineral fruit every fall.
Dic terraces by hand to plant his Olim vineyard on a cool, windy, north-facing slope up the valley opposite Vall Llach.
Porrera from Olim
Vi de Vila
The view from the top--those tiny things are vines, and produce just a pound of fruit each. You can count the berries on each vine with your fingers.