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The Gredos mountains at the center of the Spanish plateau are known mainly for dense, mineral Garnacha, but there are a vast number of different styles of that wine produced in their high-altitude vineyards. This, the Cien Lanzas from 4 Monos, is a beautiful example of high-altitude Garnacha (with a tiny touch of Carinena and Garnacha Blanca) from the village of Cenicientos, made in a whole-cluster, spicy style with a longer (21-40 day) macerations. Long, spicy, dense and dark, it remains lifted by the signature high-altitude acidity and broad , cooling, granitic minerality of the terroir of the Gredos. This was incredible with steak tacos in its continuing youth, but I wouldn't be afraid to hold onto a few bottles as this further matures. Ben Fletcher
O Esteiro is a blend of Caíño, Espadeiro, and Mencía from vineyards along the Atlantic coast in Rias Baixas, farmed organically by Xurxo Alba. Although Rias Baixas is better known for Albarino, this is a refreshing red, perfect for the summer. On the nose, it is exceedingly mineral and saline with delicate red fruits, while the very light bodied palate shows bolder berry notes alongside tons of refreshing, salty minerality and structuring acidity. I keep returning to the balance of minerality and bright herbaceous notes offered by this wine! Ben Fletcher
Xurxo Alba is making a number of expressions of Albariño and other local Galician grapes in Cambados, in the Rías Baixas DOC in Galicia. His farming and winemaking are innovative and experimental, as he pursues organics and biodynamics in this challenging climate, ferments his wines exclusively with native yeasts, and adds little to no sulfur during production. This is an extremely Atlantic-influenced area, and the wines show that influence clearly. The entry level cuvée is made from grapes sourced from multiple sites with mainly sandy soil. The fruit from each parcel is vinified separately (some in stainless steel, some in barrels) gaining structure and complexity of flavor from six months spent on the fine lees. 2019 was a difficult vintage (late summer rains on the coast) that ended up producing beautiful wines with lots of very pretty structure and texture. This is a very good, classic expression of Albariño with plenty of saline minerality and joyous notes of stone-fruit and sea air. Ben Fletcher
Anima Mundi is a project from Agustí Torello Roca, who also makes sparkling wines under the AT Roca label. Based in the Eastern Penedès, where Macabeu is the most important local grape and also at its most expressive. This pet-nat is from adjacent parcels of Macabeu and Xarel-lo on limestone soils, partially fermented in old 225L barrels and stainless steel before bottling to finish fermenting in bottle with no filtering, sulfur, or other additives. Mineral, linear, and totally refreshing, this the perfect sparkling wine for hot summer days or drinking before dinner! Ben Fletcher
Iñaki and Rosa Maria Etxeberria produce Bengoetxe in the cool, very green Basque country on the border with France. The humid climate and the influence of the Atlantic Ocean yield wines with lots of bright acidity grown from native grapes (in this case, Hondarribi Zuri and a tiny bit of Gros Manseng). The Exeberrias pursue a lower-intervention and more serious style of Txakoli, harvesting by hand, fermenting with native yeasts, and resting for a full year on the lees in steel tanks before bottling without captured CO2. Bengoetxe is from vineyards from a slightly warmer site, and the wine shows rich citrus, melon, smoke and herbs on the palate. The 2019 is outrageously good, a total knockout for the price: long and extremely mineral on the palate, with brilliant acidity and freshness. I don't know if I'll manage to save a bottle or two (as it is so very tasty right now), but my feeling is that is could also age quite brilliantly. Ben Fletcher
The valleys of Ribeiro have been renowned for their white wines, dry and sweet, for hundreds of years. Only in the first part of the 20th century did this reputation begin to diminish due to war, vine diseases, and the introduction of over-productive but inferior tasting grape varieties like Palomino. But any historian of wine or appreciator of elegant white wines will tell you that Ribeiro is a special place, and that the decomposed granitic soils (the sabrego) and old terraced vineyards are capable of producing truly exceptional wines. Bernardo Estevez manually farms roughly 5 hectares of vines that range in age from 20 to 100 years old. His agricultural approach is strict biodynamism, and he is an important proponent of biodynamics in Ribeiro. The majority of the white grapes are Lado and Treixadura, probably the two "noblest" grapes of the appellation. The rest of the blend in the Chans e lus (soil and light) Castes Branco is composed of the other indigenous grapes: Silberilla, Godello, Albilla, Loureira, Verdello Antiguo. He harvests his vineyards by hand, then presses the grapes whole cluster into an old 500L French oak barrel and an ancient 1500L chestnut foudre, where they ferment with indigenous yeasts. The wine rests in barrels for 10 months before bottling with very minimal sulfur, and then rests again in bottle at length before release. For me, this bottle delivers all of the many pleasures of Ribeiro white wine. Jubilant and expressive on opening, the nose is full of granitic stone, white and yellow flowers, wildflower honey, and melon. The palate is beautifully balanced between granitic minerality that lends ginger spice, length, breadth, and texture and the ripe fruit notes of peach, melon, and citrus. Despite the intensity of these different flavors, the balance between them yields a surprisingly delicate and thoughtful wine that will accompany the flavors of the fall and winter table very well. Ben Fletcher
Juan Peñagaricano Akutain worked at CVNE and La Rioja Alta before planting his own vineyard in Rioja Alta in 1975. Ever since, he and his son, Jon Peñagaricano, have sought to produce classicly styled Rioja wines at a smaller scale, sourcing grapes from their own plots, which they work without chemicals and harvest by hand. The Reserva is a very classic expression of traditional Rioja, aged for 17 months in mainly American oak and then for a year in bottle before release. This shows the hallmark notes of coconut and spice, with plenty of red and purple fruit. A beautiful fall wine.
The Bohigas family are long-time farmers and winemakers in Catalunya, farming organically and producing sparkling and still wines from the local grape varieties . This still white wine is a great, affordable introduction to one of the most interesting white varieties in Spain: Xarel-lo. Xarel-lo is the most important white grape in the production of Cava and other sparkling wines in Catalunya, and a great grape variety for producing crisp and mineral still wines. The grapes for this wine were harvested by hand and fermented in stainless steel before bottling: it is bright, crisp and mineral with notes of salty stone and citrus. A new daily drinker, perfect for lighter food or just drinking on its own. Ben Fletcher
Camino Roca is an organic winery in the Basque country of Spain, producing traditional Txakolina with native yeasts and no additives other than a modest amount of SO2. This is classic Txakoli, crisp, refreshing and light with a light buzz of effervescence. There are notes of lime juice, salt, around a mineral core. A great choice for spring sipping or with lighter seafood!
"Mondo" comes from a parcel of 30 year-old Verdejo vines planted on sandy clay soils over limestone bedrock with significant iron deposits in the La Seca municipality. The parcel, like Manuel and Isaac Cantalapiedra's other vines, is farmed organically with some biodynamic practices. Although their plots are technically within the Rueda appellation, the father and son duo has rejected the modern, industrial styles that the region is known for, and elected to remain outside of the appellation as a result. The vines are tended by hand and harvested by hand, then destemmed, and fermented with skins in neutral French oak barrels. Skin contact lasts for 30 days before resting on the lees for 11 months. This is a powerful, elegant skin-contact white wine with notes of spice, ripe stone and orchard fruits, and a slightly oxidative note on the nose. The palate is expansive and intense, running through a variety of different yellow and green fruit notes: quince, apricot, yellow apple, lemon, pear. These are balanced by a ferrous, intense mineral seam and plenty of bright acidity. Really an incredible representation of Verdejo! Ben Fletcher
This is an atypical expression of Toro. Manuel and Isaac Cantalapiedra source the grapes from high-elevation (780 meters, very high indeed for Toro) organically-certified vineyards near Villabuena del Puente. The grapes are harvested by hand and 90% are destemmed and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel; the remaining 10% ferment with the stems in open-top fermenters. After macerating for 25 days, the grapes were pressed into neutral French oak barrels to rest for 11 months. There is no filtering or fining, and the only sulfur addition is small and takes place at bottling. This shows the depth and intensity of classic Tinto de Toro (Tempranillo), without the extraction or intense tannins that we typically think of in the region. Instead, there's delicate spice notes, mineral structure, and refined, pure red fruit notes. A real treat, and a great value. Ben Fletcher
Castellroig is one of the finest values in sparkling wine and a great example of the wines of Corpinnat: it is farmed organically, harvested by hand, aged at least 18 months on the lees, and fermented with native yeasts. Marcel Sabate and his team have a remarkable understanding of their vineyards and have mapped out every minute shift in terroir on their estate; this fanatical approach to quality shows in the bottle. The focus of this cuvée is Xarel-lo, a favorite among the grapes of the Penedès for its refreshing mineral qualities and notes of mountain herbs. A light-on-its-feet bubbly for everyday occasions. Ariana Rolich
A treat for lovers of Castellroig, the Rosat is a refreshing rosè sparkling wine made from organically farmed Garnacha and Trepat grapes, fermented with native yeasts, and aged a minimum of 18 months on the lees before disgorgement. A lovely, rosy watermelon hue, dry and frothy, with deep and delicious flavors of raspberry, cranberry, orange rind, sea salt, and Mediterranean herbs. This rosat is always cold in our fridge at home, ready for smoked salmon brunch, a sardine snack, and fish from the grill. Ariana Rolich
Ramon Parera and Jordi Arnan have been making wines under the Celler Pardas label since 1996, when they acquired an old estate in Alt Penedès. They have a passion for the traditional grape varieties of the region, and this wine epitomizes that passion, reviving an old and rare grape variety. Malvasia de Sitges (also known as Malmsey in Madeira or Malvasia di Lipari in Sicily) has a fascinating history as a (very, very old) grape used for the production of sweet wines, often made from dried grapes. Today, it is nearly extinct in Catalonia, where it is found on only about 2.5 hectares (at least as of 2010 or so, according to Jancis Robinson). As a result, this is the first dry wine that I've ever tasted made entirely from this variety (with the possible exception of wines from the Canary Islands, however I think that those wines come from the distinct Malvasia de Lanzarote grape...). Based on this wine, I would love to taste more! Pardas Blau Cru is a stunner, with electric, nervy acidity, beautiful citrus, stone fruit, and sea salt on the palate, and a delicately floral nose. There's a bit of body, and lots of mineral structure from the clay-limestone soils characteristic of this area of the Alt Penedès round out the palate. A great wine that expresses the nexus of tradition and innovation that characterizes Catalan wine these days! Ben Fletcher
Pardas is a winemaking project from Ramon Parera and Jordi Arnan in the Alt Penedes dating back to 1996. Their focus has been on old indigenous grape varieties of the region, and the Rupestris is mostly Xarel-lo with a small amount of Malvasia de Sitges, both classic grapes of the region. This is a great, fresh example of Penedès terroir, with a salty mineral core enveloped by notes of citrus, pear, and melon. Ben Fletcher
This is not a Brut Rosé for the faint-hearted! Dark, savory, peppery and unforgettable, it's formidable enough on its own, but may be best paired with food. Fried food, pan-Asian cuisine... the list is endless! It's quite structured for a sparkling wine, think more of a light Lambrusco than a sparkling rose, and you get the idea. Minerality here is expressed through some structure, and flavors of fresh soil. No SO2 added. Eben
Costers del Priorat's Petit Pissarres is 60% Garnacha Tinto and 40% Samso (a.k.a. Carignan), from organically farmed vineyards planted on the unique slate soils of Priorat. The Llicorella, or decomposed slate,, and the vintage's warmth, lend this wine a bold, dense character, but also mineral lift. The fruit character is dark, suggesting plum, blackberry, and black currant on the nose, while the palate is more lifted with notes of cherry, blueberry and blackberry around a core of slate-y minerality, with just a touch of oak spice. Ben Fletcher
Portela do Vento is made from a blend of Mencia and Garnacha Tintorera, from biodynamically farmed parcels throughout Ribeira Sacra. Mostly destemmed, and made in a bright, easy drinking style, this is pretty and red-fruited with lots of granitic minerality. The nose shows granite spice, pomegranate and cherry, while the palate emphasizes strawberry notes. Bottled without fining or filtration, and with no added sulfur. Ben Fletcher
Albahra is Envinate's Mediterranean wine, from vines of Garnacha Tintorera and Moravia-Agria planted in clay-limestone soils near Albacete in Castilla-La Mancha. The Garnacha Tintorera and the Moravia-Agria are vinified separately: the Garnacha with some stems in cement vats, and the Moravia fully destemmed in used barrels. After about 8 months they are blended together and bottled without fining or filtering and with only a small amount of SO2 added. Albahra seems to get better and better each vintage, and the 2019 is no exception. Showing perhaps a bit leaner on release than the 2018, this has tons of texture, beautiful mineral brightness, and lots of red fruit and spice. It will only improve, but what a pleasure right now! Ben Fletcher
Listán Prieto from vineyards at around 1000-1200m near Santiago del Teide on Tenerife. This vineyard has sandy volcanic soils, and the vines are 70-100 years old. Climactically, this region is dry, windy, and continental in character, shielded from Atlantic influence by Mount Teide and elevation. The grapes are harvested by hand and fermented with indigenous yeasts with a maceration period of 10-20 days and punch-downs daily before aging for eight months in concrete and used French oak. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a touch of sulfur. This year's Benje Tinto is open and ready to go - a great expression of the spice, minerality and intensity of Tenerife's volcanic soils paired with the delicacy and freshness of Listan Prieto. Ben Fletcher
100% Malvasia (of some sort?). Malvasia has had a presence in the area of Castronuño for a very long time but was often pulled up and replaced with Doña Blanca or Chasselas in the last 50 years. Esteban found these vines near a vineyard of Albillo Real that he is working with and hypothesized that they are remnants of Malvasia plantings from long ago that made their way to the area from the Canary Islands or from Madeira. The vines are farmed organically and vinified in a traditional style in large barrels where the skins gently macerate in the juice for three months. This method does not impart a lot of orange color to wine, but the influence of the skins in texture, tannin, and flavor is clear. Aromatically, this recalls other orange wines made from Malvasia that I’ve tasted, with lots of jasmine, ginger, and stone fruit notes on the nose. The palate is dense, textured, and concentrated but still possesses a balanced, mineral acidity. Truly a fascinating and refreshing orange wine!
100% Albillo Real, from Esteban Celemín’s vineyard that he planted in 2014 with clonal selections from surrounding, ancient ungrafted vineyards. The soils in this plot are particularly chalky – unusual in the area, where most soils are clay or sand. In 2018, he harvested this vineyard last, seeking to get the greatest amount of ripeness and concentration possible from these younger vines. Farming is organic, with some biodynamic treatments, and vinification is very traditional: the grapes are foot trodden, then pressed slowly and gently with a basket press into five old 225L French oak barrels, where native yeast fermentation takes place and the finished wine ages for 10 months. In contrast to Las Avutardas, Señora Vale shows slightly brighter fruit notes: white and yellow flowers, freshly sliced apples, green herbs, and Bosc pear on the nose. The palate has a juicier texture as well, with a bright seam of chalky minerality surrounded by notes of bosc pear, butter, and apple. Like Las Avutardas, I think this is a great choice for anyone who enjoys the white wines of the Rhone, or even Chardonnays from warmer sites.
100% Albillo Real from vines around Castronuño. This is Esteban’s expression of the traditional, slightly oxidative skin-contact wines of the region, made in the classical clay tinaja or amphora. The Albillo Real grapes’ thin skins macerate gently in the juice for 40 days, lending little in the way of color but plenty of flavor and texture. The nose is bright but very bold, with notes of apricot, orange peel, and citrus, while the palate shows concentrated apricot, peach, and pear alongside savory density. The clay and the skins give this a truly unique texture that I find simultaneously substantial and truly refreshing.
Verdeja is the local name for old, pre-clonal selection Verdejo in Castronuño and Toro, and while this wine shows plenty of Verdejo character this is clearly not a wine trying to be Verdejo from Rueda! Embracing Verdejo’s tendency towards oxidation, Esteban Celemín makes this wine in the traditional method of this region, with 1-2 days of skin contact and the inclusion of some raisinated grapes. The result is a very highly concentrated, but totally dry, expression of Verdejo. This shows appealing ripe green herb (fennel, coriander, celery) notes intermingled with charred lemon notes on the nose, and the palate is dense with plenty of mineral acidity and citrus and stone-fruit notes.
"Conas brancas?" means "what to do about the whites?," referring to old vines of white grapes that were planted among the Mencia and Merenzao vines in the vineyards worked by Fedellos do Couto. For many years these grapes were too abundant to blend into the red wines, but not vigorous enough to bottle on their own. Eventually, this bottling became the answer: a field blend of Godello, Dona Blanca, Albariño, Treixadura, Lado, and Torrontes that reflects the terroir and the local white varieties of Ribeira Sacra. About 75% of the grapes are fermented whole cluster, then macerated on their skins for 40 days, while the Godello is pressed into old barrels. Finally, these are blended to produce a vibrant medium-bodied wine with notes of beeswax and pear but also salinity and bright acidity. 2016 was a cooler vintage, which shows in the stony, mineral concentration of this vintage of Conasabrancas. This would be well-suited to the table at Thanksgiving, a friendly, medium-bodied white wine to pair with roast potatoes, stuffing, or mushrooms. Ben Fletcher
Mosset is a new Brut Nature Corpinnat from Marcel. I like to think of it as the next step up from the Brut Reserva: clearly more serious and more interesting than the entry-level bottling, but approachable enough in price and character to enjoy with abandon. As a non-dosage sparkling, you can expect a generally more intense character, but the long lees aging lends this wine a creamy, almost plush mouthfeel with very well integrated bubbles. What is most exciting for me about this wine is the herbal character that reflects the terroir of the vineyards with lots of fennel, anise, and rosemary on the nose. These herbal notes would complement all of the flavors of the Thanksgiving for other holiday table, and this very dry sparkler would be great to drink with dinner. Ben Fletcher
This 100% Tempranillo wine from Ribera del Duero is a fantastic value from biodynamically certified vineyards. Coming from vines aged between 10- and 20-year-old, the wine is fermented for 9 days and then aged 80% in stainless steel and 20% in oak. This is a classic, fuller-bodied expression of warm climate Tempranillo: dark fruit, earth, a bit of leather and medium tannins are in balanced with freshness and some herbal character. A great wine for hearty weeknight fare, it can also stand up to steak or lamb. Ben Fletcher
Goyo Garcia Viadero produces small amounts of elegant, minimal intervention Ribera del Duero from high elevation plots planted with old vines of Tinto Fino (Tempranillo). The Joven is a great introduction to Goyo Garcia's unique style. From a single vineyard of 35 year-old vines at about 860 meters of elevation, the grapes for the Joven are hand-harvested, destemmed, and then fermented with indigenous yeasts in steel tank. There is no fining or filtration before bottling, and no added SO2. For a Joven wine, this is strikingly serious and thoughtful without being heavy or extracted. Red and black fruits, with spice and violet show expressively on the nose after 30 minutes open, while the palate is a bit darker and more savory, with taut acidity, pretty tannins and a long finish that would pair nicely with sausages, lamb, or beef. (Wine arrives 3/12/20) Ben Fletcher
I adore the wines of Goyo Garcia Viadero, who is making natural wines in Ribera del Duero with his wife Diana Semova Geogieva. They farm high altitude plots of old vines, vinify in a traditional and low-intervention fashion with indigenous yeasts and without sulfur additions, and produce wines of great complexity and elegant beauty. This bottling, 100% Malvasia from old vines macerated on the skins, is a new addition to their line-up. Tasting it in Mid-July, it impressed me immensely. The nose is redolent of exotic spice (white tea, allspice, star anise) , roasted almond, and stone fruit, while the palate shows apricot, peach and jasmine, with bright notes of ginger. The skin-contact grants delicate, refined tannins and rich, waxy body to the wine. Truly, one of my favorite "orange wines" that I've ever encountered: intense, elegant, and memorable. Ben Fletcher
Guímaro (which means "rebel" in Gallego) was founded by Pedro Rodriguez in 1991, in Amandi, the most celebrated subzone of Ribeira Sacra. Here Mencía and other indigenous varieties (Merenzao, Mouratón, Brancellao, Caiño, Sousón...) are planted on very steep terraced slopes of slate on the northern bank of the river Sil. The vines on these south-facing slopes (almost cliffs, really - I definitely recommend checking out a photograph of these precariously steep vineyards) produce wines of great mineral intensity and character. Camiño Real comes from six terraced vineyards around Amandi, with about 85% of the blend Mencía and 15% other indigenous red varieties. Pedro harvests the grapes by hand and ferments them together in open-top oak vats with 40 days of maceration on the skins before raising in an foudre and 225L and 500L barrels. Right now, this shows a bit tight, but it will blossom with air or further bottle age into a great expression of Ribeira Sacra: structured, medium-bodied, spicy and very gastronomic. Ben Fletcher
Isaac Cantalapiedra and his son Manuel work their organically farmed family plots of Verdejo in their homeland of Rueda to produce wines that show the terroir, density, and authentic character of Verdejo that is so hard to find. Cantayano, their “village” wine is from 3 plots around La Seca, all hand harvested, macerated briefly on the skins, and fermented in mainly steel vats with some used barrels. The wine is raised on the lees for 8 months before bottling. On the nose, Cantayano shows stone fruit, apple, and herbaceous notes, while the palate is surprising dense, with a beautiful seam of acidity. A lovely and affordable Spanish white wine that shows the potential of Verdejo when the grape variety is treated with respect. Ben Fletcher
All Listan Negro from Dolores Cabrera, a farmer/winemaker from Tenerife. Vines average around 100 years old, and unlike many of the Canary Island offerings, are from lower altitude sites, mostly on iron-rich red clay terroir. The new vintage from Dolores is a beautiful expression of Listán Negro, with less intense acidity or tartness than we typically find from high altitude vineyards. Light-to-medium bodied, with ripe red and purple fruit on the mid-palate and a elegant, finessed finish. An all-around delicious wine that should be explored by any Canary Island wine enthusiast. Eben Lillie With a year in bottle this wine is, I think, finally ready to show its true character. Truly volcanic and savory, with exuberant aromas of toasted black pepper, earth, smoke and cherry, the delicate but long and flavorful palate shows charred red and black raspberries and a meat-y quality. The finish is long and savory, with lots of volcanic spice. A great wien that has really come into its own in bottle! Ben Fletcher
All Listan Negro from Dolores Cabrera, a farmer/winemaker from Tenerife. Vines average around 100 years old, and unlike many of the Canary Island offerings, are from lower altitude sites, mostly on iron-rich red clay terroir. The new vintage from Dolores is a beautiful expression of Listán Negro, with less intense acidity or tartness than we typically find from high altitude vineyards. Light-to-medium bodied, with ripe red and purple fruit on the mid-palate and a elegant, finessed finish. An all-around delicious wine that should be explored by any Canary Island wine enthusiast. Eben Lillie
With a year in bottle this wine is, I think, finally ready to show its true character. Truly volcanic and savory, with exuberant aromas of toasted black pepper, earth, smoke and cherry, the delicate but long and flavorful palate shows charred red and black raspberries and a meat-y quality. The finish is long and savory, with lots of volcanic spice. A great wien that has really come into its own in bottle! Ben Fletcher
I love wine from the Canary Islands, and I've had some beautiful rosados made from Listan Negro. This is definitely my favorite, and the fullest and clearest expression that I've encountered of what a rosé made from that grape in volcanic soils can be. Totally alive and completely refreshing from the moment it leaves the bottle, this pours a translucent ruby that is simultaneously bright and fully of depth. The nose is macerated raspberries, a hint of violet, smoke and the faintest hint of sea salt, while the medium-bodied palate offers ripe raspberry, smoke, toasted black pepper and hints of black cardamom that lead towards a exceptionally long finish characterized by raspberry liqeuer, clay-y minerality, and delicate black pepper notes. Thank you, Dolores Cabrera, for this transportive rosado of terroir that sings of sun, sea, and volcanic soil! Ben Fletcher
Cubillo, the Lopez de Heredia Crianza wine, could easily be classifed as a Reserva were it from another estate. It comes from the Viña Cubillas vineyard , which issituated on 40 hectares along the Ebro roughly four kilometers from Haro, at a slightly lower elevation than the El Bosque vineyard. The vineyard consists of two plots: "La Encina" and "La Monja." Both vineyards are planted exclusively with red grapes, and are used solely in the production of the Vina Cubillo bottling. (Information comes from the Lopez de Heredia website.)
1984 is a faithful expression of Bierzo Mencía from 3 organically farmed plots of old vines (around 60 years old) at around 650m in elevation in the appellation’s southwest. These are some of the highest elevation vines in the Bierzo appellation: the climate here is somewhat humid, and the soils are dominated by quartz, iron and slate rather than the clays of the valley floor. The grapes for the 2018 were harvested by hand in the second week of September, partially destemmed, and allowed to ferment and macerate on their skins for 3-4 days before being pressed into old French oak barrels for 7 months to rest. The finished wine was bottled without fining or filtering, and there was no sulfur employed in the winemaking. 1984 shows the terrific tension between power and delicacy that Bierzo wines can embody: the nose is enticing and friendly with black and red fruits and earth while the palate is all cherry and black raspberry framed with brisk acidity, gently structuring tannins, and notes of black tea, bergamot, and clove. Really lovely and an incredible bargain. Ben Fletcher
Vindemiatrix is Diego Losada’s most affordable and approachable wine, from 7 plots of mostly Mencia on Bierzo’s valley floor (around 500m above sea level). These sites are drier and somewhat warmer than the other plots that go into Losada’s other wines, but on similar clay-limestone soils. Vinification is the same also, following Diego Losada’s low-intervention approach: hand-harvested in early September, fermentation and brief maceration in concrete tanks, and then 7 months of resting in the same vessels, and finally racking into bottles. 2019 was a bit warm, and the Vindemiatrix is fruit forward, with black cherry, raspberry, and strawberry notes complemented by refreshing mineral acidity. An incredible value from one of the most exciting winemakers in Bierzo! Ben Fletcher
Amanda comes from Alfredo Maestro's old vines of Garnacha Tintorera, planted on clay-limestone soils at about 850m of elevation. While this is certainly a rose wine, it's color and red fruit flavors come from the red-hued flesh of the grapes, rather than from the skins: the grapes are pressed directly, without contact with the skins. This yields a deeply colored but translucent wine, with notes of cherry and raspberry on the nose and an electric red fruit palate with delicate tannins and a vibrant seam of limestone minerality. An outstanding rose wine with lots of character.
Alberto Nanclares and Silvia Prieto make some of our favorite Albarinos. Recently, they've also been making some very interesting red wines from Rias Baixas (and also a small project in Ribeiro). A Senda Vermella hails from organically farmed plots of Caino and Mencia in Rias Baixas, around the villages of Cambados, Vilanova and Barro. 80% of the juice is from the 2018 harvest, picked in September, fermented whole-cluster, and aged in a blend of very old French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. The other 20% comes from the 2017 vintage (far cooler than the 2018 vintage), which saw the same treatment and had aged on its lees in used barrels since the previous winter. Once united, the wine aged a further 9 months on its lees before being bottled without fining or filtering and with just a touch of SO2. The bottled wine rested for a further 10 months before release. This is outstanding: delicate, defined, and elegant. On the nose, plenty of crushed black pepper, delicate herbaceous notes, and crushed raspberry and blackberry. The palate is light and fresh, showing more Caino than Mencia: red berries, thyme, black pepper, around a mineral core. Complex, but so appealing that it disappears fast - qualities that this wine shares with the Nanclares y Prieto Albarinos. Ben Fletcher
La Tinaja de Aranzazu is Alberto and Silvia's wine made in Tinaja, the traditional amphorae used for hundreds of years in Spanish winemaking. The grapes come from the Paraje Mina vineyard (Alberto's home vineyard) and another old plot of vines on sandy granitic soils. The grapes were hand harvested and pressed whole cluster to ferment with their native yeasts in two tinajas, where the wine then rested for nine months on its lees, with weekly bâtonnage at the start. The tinajas impart a denser, richer texture to this wine, but the core is pure Albariño acidity, with salty, stone-fruit aromas and a long, dense palate. Like the other single-vineyard releases from Nanclares, this could probably use either a long decant or some time in bottle. Ben Fletcher
Alberto Nanclares and Sylvia Prieto are making expressive, exciting wines from Albarino and other local grapes in Rias Baixas. This wine is from multiple sites in Cambados on granitic and sandy soils. The vines range in age from 30 to 60 years, the wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts and raised in small tanks for close to a year. The 2019 is a stunning expression of focused, acid-driven Albarino, with notes of lime, sea shell, and the slightest tinge of tropicality. An absolute favorite of the whole staff here. Ben Fletcher
Ariana Rolich and Michelle Negrón are importers and champions of Spain's lesser-known regions. They created this in collaboration with an organic grower in Terra Alta, where the local specialty is garnatxa in all of its colors. Clarete is a traditional Spanish style, a co-fermentation of red and white grapes that sits somewhere between rosé and a light red. Garnatxa negra is macerated overnight, then aged in steel with 50/50 garnatxa blanca and macabeo. An initially acid-driven, palate with bright raspberry fruit and a little herbal streak gives way, after a quick decant or a day open, to a bit more dimension and flesh: wild strawberries, Mediterranean herbs, sea salt. The result is a wine of freshness and texture that is a perfect example of the flexibility these in-between wines can offer at the table. I'm picturing a Thanksgiving meal with stuffing and roasted squash, braised greens and carrots... this wine is the cranberry sauce. James Sligh
As a bonus, this is also clarete for a cause! A portion of the proceeds from each bottle go to ConPRmetidos, a Puerto Rico-based nonprofit supporting sustainable economic development and self-sufficiency on an island wracked by Hurricane Maria in 2017, the January 2020 earthquake, and now, the pandemic. Michelle is from Puerto Rico, and she and Ariana wanted to make a wine that would connect drinkers to change, and the rest of the world.
La Canya is a blend of grapes from two sites: Garnatxa Blanca (80%) from a vineyard near the Mediterranean and Godello (20%) from the Mas Pelliser vineyard which surrounds Oriol's winery. The grapes are harvested at the same time, pressed together to macerate with skins for about two days, then co-fermented before raising in stainless steel tanks. Compared to the Pansa Blanca wines from Oriol, this wine shows more fruit character. The nose shows aromas of ripe apple, pear, and yellow flowers, while the palate has bright citrus and orchard fruit notes, like lemon juice squeezed on freshly-cut yellow apples. There's a salty, mineral core to the wine, which lends structure and a long finish. Ben Fletcher
Oriol Artigas organically farms 7.5 hectares of very old vines in Alella, just north of Barcelona. His approach in the vineyard is low-impact, influenced by biodynamics: he does not do much pruning, encourages the growth of supportive plants among the vines, and follows the lunar calendar. El Rall is a new bottling from Oriol, from old vines of Merlot, Syrah, Garnatxa and Sumoll, vinified in stainless steel, some macerated whole cluster and some pressed directly, bottled without fining, filtering, or any additions. El Rall shows pretty green notes from the Merlot alongside bright and refreshing red and purple fruit and a bit of Syrah spice. At 12.5%, this bottling is more substantial and dense than Oriol's other red wines, but still refreshing and cooling, with delicate tannins. Serve with a bit of a chill. Ben Fletcher
Pepe Raventós stepped outside of the Cava appellation in 2012 to create the Conca del Riu Anoia designation. The de Nit rosé was the first Conca wine and continues to sate and impress us with its lively expression of calcareous soils, rich with marine fossils. This is an incredibly versatile sparkler that has crisp, pretty stone fruit and light raspberry fruit with a gorgeous minerality.
Pepe Raventós stepped outside of the Cava appellation in 2012 to create the Conca del Riu Anoia designation. The de Nit rosé was the first Conca wine and continues to sate and impress us with its lively expression of calcareous soils, rich with marine fossils. This is an incredibly versatile sparkler that has crisp, pretty stone fruit and light raspberry fruit with a gorgeous minerality. AR
Pepe Raventós stepped outside of the Cava appellation in 2012 to create the Conca del Riu Anoia designation. The de Nit rosé was the first Conca wine and continues to sate and impress us with its lively expression of calcareous soils, rich with marine fossils. This is an incredibly versatile sparkler that has crisp, pretty stone fruit and light raspberry fruit with a gorgeous minerality. AR
This 100% Garnacha wine from the Gredos is one of my favorite summer bargains: great for barbecues, grilling and steak all summer long. Paso de Cebra is a blend from 7 vineyards of old Garnacha vines planted on high altitude (~1100 meters) granitic sandy soils in the mountains west of Madrid. This well-balanced wine shows the trademark bright acidity of the Gredos terroir against full and dense dark fruits over a cooling granitic minerality. Drink this wine slightly cool with anything off the grill this summer! Ben Fletcher
Ruben Diaz makes this delicate orange wine from old Chasselas vines in the Gredos Mountains. The maceration of the juice on the skins is gentle and relatively brief (about a week), and the resulting wine is salty, with notes of citrus and stone fruit. A beautiful introduction to orange wines, and a really food friendly expression of Chasselas.
Valdeorras is better known for white wines from Godello than red wines, and the Somoza Godello has become something of a staple at Chambers Street the past few years, but this blend of red grapes from a large number of small parcels from Vina Somoza is a lifted, dense, and hedonistic red wine from the region. Winemaker Javier García Alonso macerated Mencía, Garnacha Tintorera, Mouratón, Merenzao, Gran Negro, and Brancellao grapes together for a little more than a month in open-topped neutral fermenters before pressing the juice into 400L and 500L barrels to rest on its lees over winter. The result is a spicy, dark fruited wine with notes of plum, blackberry and exotic spices on the nose, and a structured but delicate palate of mixed small berries (raspberry, blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry) and bright minerality that finishes with long dense spiciness. The character of the Mencía certianly shines through, but the bright acid of Garnacha Tintorera and the delicate red fruit of Merenzao (Jura's Trousseau) are equally apparent. A beautiful wine that opens splendidly with air to reveal more and more length and surprising power. Ben Fletcher
Moristel, the grape that this wine is made from, is almost completely new to me: this is the first varietal Moristel wine that I've been able to taste. Jancis Robinson describes the grape variety as frail, and I suspect that it is low-yielding and difficult to grow - which has led to its replacement in its native Aragon by internation varieties in the past 20 years. This expression, from natural winemaker Toni Osorio, is somewhere between a rose and a red wine, mostly transparent and very vibrant. The nose is somewhat floral, with notes of violent and purple flowers, while the palate shows cranberry, pomegranate, and citrus notes. A truly interesting and very fun and refreshing light red!
Sara Pérez and René Barbier of Venus La Universal are making elegant wines in the Montsant appellation, which surrounds Priorat, where their parents (the founders of Mas Martinet and Clos Mogador) revitalized and popularized the local wines. They source their grapes for Venus La Universal from 4 hectares of organically farmed grapes belonging to other families, and a small parcel of their own. For Dido, the grapes come from plantings on decomposed granite near Falset; these special soils, called sauló contributes to the minerality and the density of the wines. Indeed, Dido is ripe and rich, a full bodied Montsant red that shows the intensity of the local Garnacha and Carignan, with just a touch of spice from a small amount of Syrah. Ben Fletcher
Montsant is better known for its red wines, but this fresh and interesting white from Sara and René of Venus La Universal makes a strong case for the region's whites. Made from 50% Macabeu, 40% Garnatxa Blanca and 10% Cartoixa aka Xarel-lo from organic vineyards, roughly 20% of the grapes are macerated on the skin for 24 hours (providing a soft, complex textural structure to the finished wine) while the remainder are directly pressed into clay amphorae and large old barrels. Dido Blanc shows the influence of the poor decomposed granitic soils of Falset. These soils and the warm climate help promote full ripening and exuberant fruitiness, while the granite simultaneously expresses itself in the wine with balancing minerality and acidity. This was outstanding with buttery, garlicky shrimp over rice with lime and cilantro and would be similarly well-suited to other flavorful seafood dishes, I think. Ben Fletcher
Sara and René of Venus La Universal make one of my favorite rosados every year, and the 2018 continues this trend. Made from a blend of Garnacha, Carignan, and Syrah, plus the white grapes Macabeu, Garnacha Blanca, and Garnacha Gris, all pressed and fermented together and aged for 10 months in barrels before bottling, the Dido Rosa expresses the minerality of the granitic Falset soils in this part of Montsant. While this shows a pale, peach-y pink, this is a dense, deeply mineral rose with gentle tannic structure and notes of raspberry, blood orange, and apricot. If you're opening this right now, I'd encourage you to give it a few hours of air or to decant; if you can, hold on to this so it can reveal more of its seductive character in the next few years. Ben Fletcher
Las Rosas is on the east coast of La Palma: the plot is buffeted with intense winds. 100% Listan Negro, fermented in concrete.
The Mein vineyard surrounds the old San Clodio monastery in Ribeiro's Avia valley, on the region's classic sandy granitic soils. Winemaking has a long history here as a project first of the Romans, and then the region's monastic orders. In 1988, the vineyard was replanted to local varieties, first white then red, by Javier Alén and his associates. Since then, the Vina Mein wines have been models for the revitalization of traditional winemaking in Ribeiro, and have evolved towards a bright, dense, style emphasizing purity of fruit: fermented and aged in stainless steel, the wines spend an extended period on the lees to contribute structure and body. The 2017 shows ripe apple, peach and tropical notes on the nose, while the palate is generously peachy and very mineral. The finish is broad and granitic, and this is a great late summer and fall white wine, suited to a range of foods or sipping on its own. Ben Fletcher
As I understand it, 2017 was not an easy or fun vintage in the Gredos Mountains of central Spain: rain at the wrong time, drought and excessive heat following, and two brutal summer hails ripped through the region, massively reducing yields. But the Garnacha wines that I have tasted from the vintage are all absolutely fantastic. The 2017 Pegaso 'Zeta,' from 60+ year-old organically-farmed vines near Cebreros, is an elegant, fresh style of Garnacha from slate soils. The nose is exuberant, with raspberry and blackberry notes alongside slate-y earth and spice, which continue on the long, delicately structured palate.