Laura Lorenzo and Daterra Viticultores Creating Breath-Taking Wines in the Val do Bibei, North West Spain…

Hailing from Allariz in the province of Ourense, Laura Lorenzo enrolled in the local enology school at the tender age of 16 with definite ambition to become a winemaker. Upon graduation, she worked at the nearby Adega Cachín, and then overseas with Eben Sadie in South Africa and Achaval Ferrer in Argentina. After her various apprenticeships, Laura took over the reins at Dominio do Bibei, a dynamic, pioneering producer of fine wine in the Quiroga-Bibei subzone of Ribeira Sacra.

Laura worked there for 10 years developing an attractive style of winemaking that was fine-tuned and focused on the hillsides of the region, specifically to the terruño around the village of Manzaneda. In 2014 Laura and her partner, chef & artist partner Alvaro Dominguez, branched out on their own and formed Daterra Viticultores to cultivate the mountainside vineyards of the Bibei Valley.

Gavela da Vila is comprised of 100% old vine Palomino organically farmed at a variety of elevations, expositions, and soil types in the Val do Bibei. 90% of the grapes were destemmed, with the must seeing just a few hours of skin contact before pressing.

The wine was fermented with wild yeast in used 225 liter French oak barrels, and then raised on the lees in the same barrels for 6 months. Small amounts of sulfur were added after fermentation and at bottling. The wine was not clarified, cold stabilized or filtered.

Daterra Viticultores Gavela da Vila Palomino 2015, Manzaneda, Val do Bibei, 12.5 Abv.

A bright pale gold straw colour, there are plenty of tell tale signs of the wine’s short skin contact. The nose is rich and very expressive with complex notes of savoury pithy yellow citrus, yellow blossom, hazelnut and walnuts, dried orange peel and the most seductive saline, baked apple, aldehydic and oxidative Sherry-Manzanilla notes. The palate entry is electric and vibrant challenging the palate and provoking thought, but most certainly makes your mouth salivate with a saline briney zest, fresh zippy acids and a delicious spicy oxidative leaning yellow fruited finish laced with baked pears and vermouth spices. A really tantalising effort from an incredible new talent in Spain. Only 1,590 bottles produced. Drink now to 2026+.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

From Zero to Hero – The Traditional White Rioja Style That Has Taken the World by Storm…

It’s funny how the status of wines changes in the blink of an eye. I remember asking Maria-Jose Lopez de Heredia why the whites of Bodegas Lopez de Heredia had become impossible to buy within the period of only 1 to 2 years. She rolled her eyes, gave a small gasp and explained that global demand from top sommeliers, top restaurants and fine wine collectors had exploded literally overnight.

For years, she explained, the traditional oxidative white styles of Rioja were very difficult to sell. They were real marmite wines – some people loved them, some hated them. But one thing most people agreed on was their suitability and versatility with a wide variety of cuisines. However, a decision had already been taken at Lopez de Heredia to replant a large portion of their white grape vineyards with higher demand red varieties.

Murphy’s Law in action… and fast forward 7 to 8 years while the red vineyards matured and in that time, the market and demand had been transformed, with the oxidative whites of Lopez de Heredia and a few other producers like Marques de Murrieta becoming some of the most sought after wines for a new generation of wine drinkers. These are consumers who covet these rare, aged, unique oxidative whites as well as increasingly other previously unfashionable styles of wine like Sherry, Madeira, skin contact whites and amphora fermented whites.

So with quantities of white Lopez de Heredia Rioja basically halved, even entry level wines like their Vina Gravonia, aged for 10 years before release, are becoming increasingly rare. The cooler 2007 vintage and current release Gravonia, produced a superb 2007 Blanco from very old Viura vines planted on gravelly soils. The wine was fermented with natural yeasts in old oak vats and then matured in oak barrels for four years before being fined with egg whites and bottled in September 2012.

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Vina Gravonia Crianza Blanco 2007, Rioja, 12.5 Abv.

The 2007 Vina Gravonia Crianza white offers up such complex, individual and unique aromatics and flavours that there is almost nothing else quite like this wine being produced in Rioja, let alone at a similar quality and price point. The nose has such depth and intensity with nuances of cold chamomile tea, old honey, sweet oak spice, bees wax and lemon citrus infusions. The honied lemon tea character slowly gives way to reveal notes of vanilla pod, mushroom soup and subtle forest floor earthiness. On the palate, there is significant textural weight and flavour concentration that corresponds so beautifully to the wines intense tertiary aromatics. The acidity is very precise, fresh and finely balanced with the most subtle savoury character. Another fantastic addition to the long historic Vina Tondonia white Rioja lineage.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vega Sicilia New Release Tasting 2017 with Antonio Menendez Puente and Technical Director Gonzalo Iturriaga de Juan…

There are a few release tastings held in London every year that I really look forward to. Top of the list is of course the new bottled vintage release tasting of Domaine de la Romanee Conti normally held in January or early February. No need for an explanation there. After DRC, there are a couple more that are thoroughly captivating, one being the Gaja new release Cru Barolo and Barbaresco tastings and the other has to be the annual tasting of the new vintages of Bodegas Vega Sicila.

Undoubtedly considered the “first growth” of Spain and one of the most prestigious and respected wineries in Europe, this incredible producer located in the Ribera del Duero east of Valladolid, covers over 1000 hectares with around 230 under vine. Founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who arrived from Bordeaux with cuttings of local grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, and planted them together with Spain’s signature grape Tinto Fino, a local clone of Tempranillo.

The winery began building its formidable reputation after 1903 under the ownership of Antonio Herrero, winning a number of awards, and enjoying extensive international distribution. The estate changed hands several more times before its acquisition by the current owners, the Alvarez family, in 1982. The Vega Sicilia range now includes three cuvees namely the Unico flagship red followed by the Reserva Especial which is a blend of top vintages, both made up of Tinto Fino (80%), Cabernet Sauvignon and a small portion of Merlot, and then traditionally aged for 10 years before release. Nowadays the Unico wines are aged for only 5 to 6 years before bottling. Valbuena is made from younger vines and is only released after 5 years ageing.

The nearby Bodegas Alion estate is the final piece in the Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero puzzle, producing superb high quality wines that can normally be enjoyed in their youth or aged for at least a decade or more. Completing the portfolio selection is their Pintia from D.O. Toro and finally the new(ish) Macan Rioja wines made under the Bodegas Benjamin de Rothschild Vega Sicilia joint venture. All in all, an amazing array of wines that never fail to excite.

Macan Clasico, Rioja 2014

Rich warming perfumed nose with lush opulent fruit notes of earthy black berries, black plums and parma violets, with a tantalising sprinkling of mocha and vanilla pod spice. Texturally very silky and suave with fine density and flesh yet finely focused and balanced, finishing with smokey, rich, bruleed blueberry length. Seriously impressive and utterly delicious.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Pintia Reserva, Toro 2014

Lovely bold dark broody nose laden with black plum, black cherry, smokey cedary graphite and crushed gravel mineral complexity. The palate is plump, full bodied and muscular, showing finely honed tannins, soft elegant integrated acids and a dark forest berry, brambly finish. A fine distinguished Pintia that gets more and more noble with each and every new vintage release.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Bodegas Alion 2014, Ribera del Duero

Dark, taught broody aromatics that are shy at this early phase. Takes a little coaxing out the glass but all the classic Alion notes are there… black berry confit, black damson plums, tar, graphite and liquorice, saline cassis, bruleed coffee beans and caramelised oak nuances. The palate weight portrays great depth and power, plenty of muscle and intense salty caramelised black berry depth. Rich and creamy in texture, there is some tenderness to the under belly but it finishes with picante notes of cedary oak and spicy mulberry coulis. Another serious effort that will reward 10+ years of ageing.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Valbuena 5 2013, Ribera del Duero

The 2013s were generally lighter and fresher and this wine speaks confidently but softly with the aromatics showing real Rioja’ish earthy, savoury tinged red fruit notes. Quite foresty and brambly, there is plenty of bruleed raisined strawberry fruit, lactic milk chocolate and sweet saddle leather complexity. The palate is elegant and fine boned, built around a solid frame of crisp acidity and taught, linear earthy savoury fruit texture. This was always going to be a slightly earlier drinking vintage, which is not a bad thing with so many big vintages released from Vega Sicilia in the past decade. Impressively complex from the outset, this is ready to drink now and over the next 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Unico Reserva 2006, Ribera del Duero

With some back tracking to an older vintage release, this wine displays plenty of power, fragrance and depth, with a most seductive nose of sweet briary, savoury cured meats, strawberry confit, tannery leather, molasses tinged black fruits and a creamy lactic high toned lift. The palate texture is crisp, direct and slightly linear still, displaying fine fresh acids, plenty of sleek, taught savoury earthy black fruits, balsamic richness and a fairly powerful, imposing structure. At almost 12 years old, this release is still very youthful and more about minerality, savoury tannins and tension than sweet accessible fleshy fruit notes. A very serious Unico that you should be in no rush to drink.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vega Sicilia Unico Reseva Especial NV (2018), Ribera del Duero

A blend of 05/06/07, this Reserva Especial possesses power, ripeness and freshness. Immediately vibrant and vital on the nose, the glass is brimming with notes of earthy cassis, bramble berries, black cherry, stewed strawberries, and hints of charcoal, wood smoke and graphite. So compact and dense. The palate is full, opulent, dense and fleshy, conveying weight without being heavy, freshness without being tart, and concentration and length without losing its purity. Wonderfully sleek and polished, this is one of the most exciting Reserva Especial blends for a number of years. Drink now or cellar for 25+ years. A real block buster.

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Valbuena Vertical 2007-2009

Valbuena 5 2007, Ribera del Duero

Beautifully complex aromatics with dried herbs, briary, black cherry, sweet sappy wood spice and graphite minerality. Palate fruit has subtle molasses tinges with notes of winter stewed fruits, raisined strawberries and creamy, earthy bramble berry concentration, polished ripe tannins, creamy fleshy elegance and a long gravelly mineral finish. You can drink this now but will improve with a further 5+ years ageing.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Valbuena 5 2008, Ribera del Duero

The 2008 exhibits a tantalising nose of a spicy exotic red fruits, cassis leaf, red cherry, sappy spice, polished mahogany and picante cedary wood smoke notes. The black berry fruits have an opulent, ripe, caramelised edge with plenty of flesh, concentration and a saline acidity on the finish. Lovely balance, superb drinkability already but plenty of life still to live.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Valbuena 5 2009, Ribera del Duero

Youthful and taught, the aromatics speak more of wood spice, pithy red cherry skins, strawberry confit and earthy stewed plums. The palate is lactic and forward with plenty of creamy depth and fleshy baby fat. Still coming together, this is perhaps not quite yet ready to pull out the cellar. A lot of tannin power and density and still playing it’s cards close to its chest. Snuffle this one away in the cellar depths for another 5 to 8 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Rioja Alta’s Torre de Oña Martelo 2012 Bringing New Excitement to the Red Rioja Category…

La Rioja Alta is one of Rioja’s most respected wineries and recently launched a new premium wine produced from its Torre de Oña estate. Made from a single vineyard, this ‘reserva’ wine from the region’s coolest and highest sub-region, Rioja Alavesa, is a rare new premium addition to the Rioja Alta portfolio.

A blend of 95% Tempranillo and a 5% field blend of Mazuelo, Garnacha and Viura from 60+ year old vines, this is a very classy, polished expression from one of Spain’s most famous Rioja producers. This Reserva spends 24 months in 80% American and 20% French oak barrels, a higher proportion than normal according to Julio Sáenz, winemaker for La Rioja Alta. Despite the large US oak percentage, the wine retains impressive purity, minerality and varietal typicity for a premium Rioja.

Rioja Alta Martelo Rioja Reserva Tinto 2012, 14 Abv.

A beautifully piercing perfumed nose with hints of chocolate mocha spice, powdered cocoa, violets and small intense black berries with a definite gravelly mineral undertone. The wood notes are finely integrated and only show a subtle piquant mocha spice on the palate mixing with crunchy strawberries and earthy bruised red plum notes. No doubting this wine is engineered around taught, crisp premium Tempranillo with its hallmark fresh acids and red berry fruit purity. The finish is fairly linear and suggests subtle notes of polished oak, balsamic and buttered brown toast spread with red currant jam. Very youthful and tight, decant this delicious gem for 45 mins if drinking now or cellar for another 8 to 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

(Price point Circa £35 per bottle in the UK)

The Tenerife Odyssey – Tasting the Epic Maiden Release Migan Tinto 2016 from Envinate…

When I visited Tenerife recently, Roberto Envinate introduced me to two exciting new wines in their portfolio. One was the tiny 3 barrel production Vidueno 2016 red made exclusively for the US and Mexican markets, and which I reviewed here recently…

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/12/07/the-unicorn-slayer-came-to-town-today-the-tenerife-odyssey-resurrected-tasting-vidueno-2016/

The other wine was the maiden release of the Envinate Migan 2016 Tinto. The grapes for this special wine come from two terroirs in La Perdoma (La Orotava) grown on ungrafted vines trained in the cordon trenzado method of between 100 and 120 years old.

The grapes from the two terroirs were fermented separately in concrete tanks. The “La Habanera” site’s grapes were fermented with 100% stems including a long maceration. The second terroir, “San Antonio”, was fermented with 20% stems with a 12 day maceration. The wines were then aged in neutral 600 litre barrels for just over 12 months with bottling due to take place in December 2017.

Envinate Migan Tinto 2016, Vinos Atlanticos, 12.5 Abv. (Barrel Sample)

The final blend for this wine is made up of 60% of the Habanera terroir and 40% of the San Antonio terroir. Such a beautiful bright translucent cherry red colour, the nose is a little darker, deeper and slightly broody. Lovely cherry blossom perfume mixes with volcanic basalt minerality, pithy red cherry, red apple skins and subtle sappy stalky spice. The palate is amazingly intense, as you’d expect from fruit from 100+ year old vines. Such crystalline red berry fruits, cherry sherbet nuances, tart electric acids and salty red liquorice complexity. Also super dense, fabulously concentrated and impressively long, with an elegant texture. Very impressive indeed! Possibly one of the best reds I’ve tried from Tenerife yet. Wow!

(Wine Safari Score: 96-97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Unicorn Slayer Came to Town Today ~ The Tenerife Odyssey Resurrected Tasting Vidueno 2016…

I make no secret that I enjoy drinking (slaying) unicorn wines! Some people get annoyed by even the mention of the term but I just love how evocative the word is. Of all Roberto Envinate and his team’s wines, this has got to be the rarest. Only 3 barrels of 228l were produced, all of which went to the USA and Mexico. The fruit all came from one unique terroir and is a blend of all the varieties (vidueno) that are planted in that vineyard, which is how wine was traditionally made.

This is a superb blend of 50% Listan Blanco, 45% Listan Prieto, and 5% Tintilla from vines of over 100 years old. This was bottled in July 2017 with no Sulphur additions.

Vidueno de Santiago del Teide 2016, A Chingao Vineyards & Envinate, DO Ycoden Daute Isora, Tenerife, 12 Abv.

When you know you are drinking a rarity, a wine does perhaps taste even better, or does the anticipation just awaken your taste buds a little? This beautiful blend is an alluring crushed cherry red with a smokey ruby depth. The nose is fairly reserved and restrained at first, even reductive, as you’d expect on an old vine 2016 wine from Tenerife. You do catch glimpses of the volcanic terroir with a dusty sweet cherry nose, crushed basalt and subtle peppery bramble berry spice. The palate is tantalisingly fresh and energetic, like a young tea total yoga instructor ready to put you through your paces at 6.30am in the morning. The texture is sleek, taught, vibrant and slightly lean, but all the better for it. Lovely layers of basalt and crushed gravel minerality melt into a complex pithy cranberry fruit medley with yet more red cherry and sour red plum fruit notes. This wine tastes like summer, even in the depths of winter. It’s so delicious, mouth watering and cool fruited, finishing with a lovely dry powdery chalky tannin grip. Long last since I tasted a wine that excited me this much, not because of its grandeur and flamboyance, but perhaps because of the lack there of. This wine challenges you, asks you questions… and the answers are all positive. Really, really lovely Roberto!

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting Suertes del Marques Blanco Dulce Solera NV (Nov 2014 Edition)…

Since circa 2011, Suertes del Marques has produced a tiny amount of dessert wine from primarily Listan Blanco. The must is drawn off the other white cuvées and fermented to around 8 or 9 Abv before being fortified with spirit to 15% Abv. Only around 100 x 50cl bottles are produced each year and are marked with the date they were drawn from the Solera. They did not have an accurate spec sheet for the wine when I visited, but based on taste, this wine must have an RS of between 80 and 120 g/l residual sugar(?)


Suertes del Marques Blanco Dulce Solera NV (Nov 2014 Edition), Listan Blanco / Malvasia Aromatica, Valle de la Orotava DO, Tenerife, 15 Abv.

The colour is striking, being a wonderfully translucent shade of old gold and dark straw. On the nose, the senses are assaulted with notes of caramelised nuts, toffee apples, butterscotch, Madagascan vanilla pod, caramelised white peaches and the most vivid Sauternes like notes of dried apricots and bruleed oranges. But this is neither a late harvested wine nor a botrytis wine, and so the fruit aromatics remain pure and intense. The palate reveals great harmony and elegance, superb integration of sweet fruit and vanilla oak spice notes with seamless fresh acids and a long, honied, nutty finish. There are no clawing sugary notes or any tiring jammy fruits. Everything is superbly well proportioned and eminently drinkable. I expressed my dismay that Suertes del Marques don’t commercialise this wine further. It’s so delicious and food friendly (we enjoyed a bottle with Tenerife goats cheese and walnuts) that it would certainly find an instant cult following on the dinner party tables of London. In the past, only a handful of bottles were exported, but hopefully we will see a little more of this wine in London.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)