The fertile French terrain situated at the confluence of the Loire and the Vienne has been producing wine for hundreds of years. Established in 1937, the Chinon AOC lies on the south bank of the Loire, bisected by the Vienne in the westernmost reaches of Touraine. Chinon is almost exclusively the province of cabernet franc, a grape that seems to thrive in the region’s terroir.

Two offerings from Domaine Olga Raffault

Domaine Olga Raffault is perched on the bucolic triangle of land known as the Véron, between the two rivers just east of where they converge. The Raffault family has been making wine in Chinon for five generations. Tragedy struck in 1947 when Olga’s husband and partner, Pierre, died suddenly, leaving Olga and her two children to fend for themselves.

According to family legend, it was one of the estate’s employees, Ernest Zenninger, who vowed to the dying Pierre he’d look after his family. A repentant former German soldier, Zenninger was grateful for the kindness the Raffaults had shown him and would from that point on dedicate his life to the family business. Zenninger became the estate’s winemaker, mentoring Olga’s son Jean along the way, and together Jean and Ernest would help solidify Olga Raffault’s status as a Loire Valley legend.

Image sourced from olga-raffault.com

Today, the venerable house is operated by Olga’s granddaughter Sylvie and her husband, Eric de la Vigerie, with able assistance from their son, Arnaud. They have recently converted to organic farming in their vineyards, where they pick all the grapes by hand, using native yeasts for fermentation. Working with vines in some of Chinon’s most desirable terrain, Domaine Olga Raffault remains one of the appellation’s benchmark producers.

Raffault’s flagship bottling is the Les Picasses cuvee, 100 percent cabernet franc from a south-facing slope on the north bank of the Vienne. The vines are more than 50 years old and feed off a mixture of alluvial clay and chalky limestone. After fermentation in stainless steel, it’s aged for roughly 18 months in relatively large barrels and then aged in tank and bottle for a few more years before release.

The resulting wine is incredibly balanced and complex–ample-bodied, rich with dark fruit and plush tannins, earthy but with plenty of acidity and a mineral edge. Think cassoulet, braised oxtails, roasted lamb, or similarly robust fare. Next time you’re considering a Bordeaux, reach for this instead. At less than $40 a bottle, Raffault’s Les Picasses is still one of the Loire’s great value plays.

I wrote earlier that Chinon is almost exclusively the province of cabernet franc, and while that’s true, there is a negligible amount of chenin blanc planted there. Thankfully, one of Raffault’s 24 hectares of vineyards is dedicated to chenin, the plot of land that produces the wonderful Champ-Chenin cuvee.

In its youth, this wine definitely plays hard to get; there’s just a tantalizing hint of the pome-fruit fleshiness that has yet to fully emerge. But you can tell it’s coming. Even with the fruit still somewhat subdued, there’s enough depth, vitality, and sophistication to satisfy even the most impatient among us. No malo or wood here, just some lees-aging to give it a bit of texture. Cellar-worthy, indeed.

Both the 2014 Les Picasses and the 2018 Champ-Chenin are currently available at Paul Marcus Wines. They are drinking beautifully now, but their best years are still ahead of them. If you’re interested in Chinon wines, you should probably get to know Domaine Olga Raffault.

In terms of stylistic variety, aging potential, and the ability to reflect terroir, nothing can touch riesling. The riesling grape does best in marginal climates, needing a cool, long growing season in order to achieve phenolic ripeness. Put another way, the best wines made from riesling, like the most interesting people, are usually a product of struggle.

Hillside vineyards in a small German town

Making riesling in its country of origin (Germany) can be a bit of a quixotic endeavor–you are at the northern limit of where grapes can even achieve ripeness. You are farming slate slopes that are so steep that everything has to be done painstakingly by hand. Add factors like climate change, and it’s a wonder that any wine can be made at all. In fact, 2019 marked the first German vintage that was too warm to produce eiswein, a style of dessert wine that relies on the grapes freezing on the vine.

One of the most remarkable things about riesling is the diverse array of styles that it can produce. German rieslings, especially those from the Mosel, tend to have a delicate, filigreed character to them. Typically off-dry and low in alcohol, these wines achieve an ethereal balance between sweetness and acid.

If a Mosel riesling is a ballet dancer, Austrian rieslings are rock climbers–muscular, but lean and chiseled. They are dry and mineral, and while typically fuller-bodied than their German counterparts, still offer a degree of precision that many wines lack. Alsatian rieslings are typically dry, but full-bodied and rich with extract. For Australian rieslings, think bitter pith and zest instead of fleshy fruit, along with, typically, a preponderance of petrol.

Below are a few rieslings worth exploring:

2014 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese

Featuring steep, southwest-facing Devonian slate soils, the Graacher Himmelreich site in the Mosel is known for the distinctive smoky aroma it imparts.

2013 Dönnhoff Nahe Spätlese Oberhäuser Brücke

Nahe’s smallest single vineyard (1.1 ha) is a monopole located near the Nahe River, which mitigates the temperature and leads to the longest ripening of any of the Dönnhoff wines. Grey slate bedrock with loam and volcanic elements lend a persistent minerality to the wine.

2017 Tessier Winery – Zabala Vineyard

Stylistically in line with Australian riesling, this wine, from the Arroyo Seco AVA in Monterey County, shows lime zest and pith as well as a stony minerality on the palate.

Please stop by Paul Marcus Wines to learn more about this wonderfully expressive grape.

– Layla Khabiri

Several times a day, a customer will come in and ask, “Where do I find Barolo?” And with good reason–Barolo produces some of the world’s greatest wines. These customers have certainly come to the right place, because we do have a large selection of exceptional Baroli.

Rarely, though, does anyone ask to be directed toward our fabulous Barbaresco section. Why is this? For starters, Barbaresco is smaller than Barolo, and far less of it is imported to the U.S. Plus, it hasn’t received as much attention from the public or from wine journalists. This is unfortunate, because Barbaresco can be every bit as marvelous as Barolo, with the added advantages of earlier drinkability and much lower price points.

The Estate of Produttori del Barbaresco, a favorite within the shop.

Barolo and Barbaresco come from the hills of southern Piedmont in a region called the Langhe. Both must be produced using 100 percent nebbiolo. Much like pinot noir, nebbiolo produces elegantly textured, lighter-colored wines that nevertheless have tremendous depth and intensity. Its aromatics are as beautiful and complex as they come, and with incredible contrast. (Famously, descriptions such as “tar and violets” or “rose petals and truffles“ are used in attempts to depict these wines.) They also deliver gorgeous cherry fruit, with notes of licorice and leather.

Just like pinot and sangiovese, nebbiolo can thrive in a number of different zones, each with its own distinct vibe. But, as with those other two grapes, its most noteworthy achievements usually come from just a couple of modestly sized areas. In this case, that means Barbaresco and Barolo. If you have not experienced much in the way of Barbaresco, by all means treat yourself to a few examples.

Without over-generalizing, Barbaresco tends to have a little more finesse and a little less power and tannin than Barolo. It is more closely aligned to the softer wines of La Morra in Barolo than those of, say, Serralunga. At Paul Marcus Wines, we offer wines from some of the top Barbaresco producers. There are the great traditionalists like Produttori del Barbaresco, which is finally getting the acclaim it’s long deserved, and La Ca’ Nova, whose wines represent insane values, with offerings from the grand-cru-level vineyards Montestefano and Montefico for prices below those of even entry-level Barolo. There are the beautifully elegant, polished wines of Sottimano and Musso, as well as gems like Poderi Colla, Serafino Rivella, and Cascina delle Rose. For well under $50 a bottle, you can experience some magnificent wines from this amazing enclave.

Lest I shortchange the “king” Barolo, I should mention that we currently have very small amounts of some of the most impressive and hardest-to-find Baroli, from esteemed producers such as Bartolo Mascarello, Giacomo Conterno, and Giuseppe Mascarello. Please visit us at the shop if you are interested in any of these prized bottlings.

– Joel Mullennix

If you need recommendations and suggestions, we’ll be happy to walk you through the process and help you build a custom order to fit your tastes and your budget. On the other hand, if you don’t feel like making any decisions, we’re pleased to offer a special selection of six-pack options. Each six-pack includes a sparkling, a rosé, two whites, and two reds, with a 10 percent discount on the set. This easy, no-fuss approach is perfect for Easter–and beyond.

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The Sweet Spot Six-Pack ($20-$25)

2016 Rimarts Cava Brut Reserva $21.00
2018 Richard Walzer Grüner Veltliner Alte Reben $21.00
2017 Maurer Serbia Furmint $21.00
2018 Jamain Reuilly Pinot Gris Rosé $22.00
2018 Guímaro Ribeira Sacra Tinto – Amandi $21.00
2018 Castellinuzza e Piuca Chianti Classico $24.00

$117.00 with 10 percent discount (Normally $130.00)

Value Six-Pack ($15 and under)

NV Bohigas Cava Brut Reserva $13.99
2018 Gassac Picpoul de Pinet $13.99
2018 Centopassi Sicilia – Giato Grillo-Catarratto $15.00
2018 Bojador Alentejano Portuguese Rosé $13.99
2015 Château des Gravières Bordeaux Rouge $15.00
2018 Valle dell’Acate Nero d’Avola – Tenuta Ibidini $15.00

$78.27 with 10 percent discount (Normally $86.97)

Giro d’Italia Six-Pack

2018 Vigne di Alice Prosecco Valdobbiadene – Doro Brut Nature $22.00
2018 I Favati Fiano di Avellino – Pietramara $22.00
2018 Cavalchina Bardolino Rosato $15.00
2018 Gojer St Magdalener Classico $21.00
2016 Benanti Etna Rosso $24.00
2016 Castello di Verduno Barberesco $44.00

$133.20 with 10 percent discount (Normally $148.00)

French Classics Six-Pack

NV Tassin Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs $45.00
2018 Château Val d’Arenc Bandol Rosé $32.00
2014 Gitton Sancerre – Les Herses $33.00
2017 Domaine de Montille Bourgogne Blanc – Le Clos du Chateau $44.00
2016 Maurice Charleux Maranges – Fussière 1er Cru $30.00
2015 Chateau Larruau – Margaux $47.00

$207.90 with 10 percent discount (Normally $231.00)

Domestic Six-Pack

2018 Beaver Creek Pet-Nat Sauvignon Blanc $23.00
2019 Loella – Pinot Gris $15.00
2016 Handley Anderson Valley Chardonnay $25.00
2019 Bedrock Rosé – Ode to Lulu $24.00
2018 Minus Tide Syrah – Valenti Vineyard $27.00
2016 Lioco Anderson Valley Pinot Noir – La Selva $40.00

$138.60 with 10 percent discount (Normally $154.00)

 

Order now through our Order Form. We will get back to you and take payment over the phone and you can drive up and we will bring it out to you. If you have shopping to do in Market Hall, we can also place one of our six-packs aside for you to pay in-store.

The hilltop enclave of Montepulciano, located in the Southern Tuscan province of Siena, has a long and storied winemaking history. As with much of Tuscany, sangiovese reigns supreme here (known locally as prugnolo gentile). The historic town, surrounded by vineyards and benefiting from mild Mediterranean weather, produces wines that are capable of reaching the heights of its more recognizable (and, often, more expensive) neighbors, Chianti and Montalcino.

The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano moniker dates back about a century, and in 1980, the appellation became one of the first to receive Italy’s DOCG designation. To qualify for the DOCG, wines must be made of at least 70 percent prugnolo gentile and undergo at least two years of aging (three years for riserva). In the past, Vino Nobile was often considered a midpoint between the brighter, red-fruited Chianti and the darker, more tannic Montalcino offerings, although those generalizations don’t necessarily apply today.

Usually, Vino Nobile wines deliver ample medium-plus structure and bracing acidity, with tannins that are both present and quite polished. (It should be pointed out that wines from this Tuscan region are completely unrelated to wines made in Abruzzo using the montepulciano grape.) Earthy, spicy, and balanced, Vino Nobile can handle everything from hearty roasts and braises to classic tomato-based pastas.

At Paul Marcus Wines, we are currently featuring a number of worthy examples. The stunning 2013 Palazzo Vecchio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano “Maestro” shows a dark ruby color and an enticing floral bouquet typical of high-level sangiovese. Made with 85 percent prugnolo gentile and rounded out with a little canaiolo and mammolo, the Palazzo Vecchio spends at least two years in French oak and six months in bottle before release. The result is an exquisite blend of power and elegance that is entering its prime.

The 2014 Il Macchione Vino Nobile di Montepulciano comes from an estate that dates back to the 18th century; today it’s run by brothers Simone and Leonardo Abram, who took over in 2007. The 2014 Vino Nobile, made from 100 percent prugnolo gentile, is a very pure, stylish expression of sangiovese–tense, mineral-driven, and with just enough dusty grit.

For special occasions, we are pleased to offer two of Il Macchione’s big brothers as well. The 2010 Il Macchione Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva, which sees 40 months in wood of ascending sizes and an added three years of bottle aging, comes from their oldest (and highest-elevation) block. The 2009 Il Macchione Vino Nobile di Montepulciano “SiLeo” cuvee, in its first vintage, is named for the two proprietors and spent 50 months in large 2,500-liter barrels.

Finally, if you’re looking for an introduction to the wines of Montepulciano, the shop also offers the 2018 Gracciano della Seta Rosso di Montepulciano. This young bottling adds a bit of merlot to the mix and is done in a fresher, more accessible style, eschewing oak influence for a sleeker result.

To learn more about the sangiovese-based wines of Montepulciano, please stop by and visit us at Paul Marcus Wines.

What is Orange Wine?

The term “orange wine” is a bit of a misnomer; a better term is “skin-contact wine.” Simply put, orange wines are white wines that have been produced in a rosé or red-wine style. By allowing the fresh-pressed juice to sit in contact with the grape skins, the wine color deepens and tannic structure increases. Without skin contact, all of the juice that comes out of grapes, regardless of red or white varieties, would be clear.

Most orange wines see anywhere from a few days to a few months of skin contact. (A traditional white wine sees zero skin contact.) The longer the wine is in contact with the skin, the more intense and complex the taste profile becomes. The production of orange wine is usually “natural” in essence, with minimal intervention and little-to-no preservatives or additives used during production or bottling.

The History of Orange Wine

Skin-contact wine has a rich and unique history dating back a few thousand years. Its origin derives from a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia: Georgia. Here the grapes were crushed into large clay pots called qvevris. These clay pots would then be buried in the ground where the wine would slowly ferment over the course of several weeks or months, with very minimal intervention. Eventually, this winemaking process started to pop up in areas of northeastern Italy and throughout Slovenia. Today, this production style is practiced throughout the world, including the U.S. and Australia.

A wine label featuring a Qvevri

While skin-contact wines were originally overly oxidized, very harsh wines, today you can find great variance in orange wines. Some winemakers only allow a few days of skin contact and then finish fermentation in oak barrels or stainless steel, producing slightly richer white wines; others continue to use qvevris or other clay pots with longer periods of skin contact to produce bolder, full-flavored wines.

Taste Profile of Orange Wine

It seems that people either love or hate orange wine–the taste profile can be a bit jarring for someone unfamiliar with the style or accustomed to drinking only very crisp, light white wines. As Wine Folly so eloquently puts it, “Often they’re so intense that you might want to make sure you’re sitting down when you taste your first orange wine.”

While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, orange wines are known for their ample structure–an increase in tannins and phenolic compounds–giving the wines their characteristic robustness. The aromatics of the wines tend to lean toward more bready, honeyed, and nutty expressions. Notes of yellow stone fruits, spices, and herbs dominate these wines. The wines also tend to lean toward the dry side, with a very vigorous mouth feel, in part because these wines are often unfiltered.

How to Pair Orange Wine

Since orange wines are bigger and bolder versions of white wines, you can typically pair them well with foods that call for a dry white wine or a lighter red wine. Think of orange wines as the middleman between a white and red wine. Any meal with a lot of spice will be complemented by the dry, robust profile of an orange wine. Try them with curry dishes, Ethiopian cuisine, Japanese and Korean meals, or hearty dishes like chili.

Other appropriate dishes include fish, chicken, strong cheeses, and preparations containing nuts, yellow stone fruits, root vegetables, or fermented ingredients such as kimchi. Orange wines can even stand up to beef, although a red wine will usually be more suitable.

Next time you visit Paul Marcus Wines, please make sure to ask us about our current selection of orange wines. Whether you’re an orange-wine aficionado or a newcomer to the style, we’ll be happy to help you select the right one for your needs.

Image from Madson Wines

It’s not impossible to find California wine made with grapes grown entirely by meticulous, labor-intensive organic farming. But, being California, the additional labor of eliminating weeds and pests without recourse to the toxic stuff–of hand harvesting and all the rest of it–doesn’t come cheaply.

To have that organic fruit come in so clean that no additions (of yeasts, enzymes to boost the yeast, or acid corrections) are necessary, is certainly the ideal, yet isn’t common. Then to have the winemaking restraint not to over-extract and over-oak, but to simply trust your fruit to show beautifully–that’s less common still. (Why is restraint uncommon? Because nothing guarantees your wine will sell like a high score in certain magazines, and high scores still accrue to pumped-up wines.)

So, when we find organic, natural wines that are handmade with great care, that are clean and delicious and expressive, and (drum roll, please) do not break the bank, we get excited. Madson Wines is all that. They’re a newly established micro-sized winery from nearby Santa Cruz making single-vineyard pinot noir, syrah, and chardonnay. We’ve got both their reds, and they’re well worth your attention.

Their unfined and unfiltered pinot noir comes from Toyon Vineyard on the southwestern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains–a cool, cloudy site just three miles from the Pacific. Their syrah comes from the Ascona Vineyard, at the top of the Santa Cruz range, and undergoes whole-cluster fermentation before aging on the fine lees in neutral French oak for a year.

Both show lovely fruit for drinking now but have the structure and fine tannins to suggest they’ll take age very well. Come visit us at Paul Marcus Wines to learn more about this noteworthy up-and-coming producer.

The addition of sulfites is one of the wine world’s most confusing, controversial, and misconstrued subjects. For starters, there is no evidence they cause headaches. What’s more, they have been added to help stabilize wine for centuries. Plus, sulfites are a naturally occurring byproduct of fermentation, meaning that all wine will contain some level of sulfites, whether or not the winemaker chooses to add them during the winemaking process.

Used to stall oxidation and fight off bacteria, sulfites (referring to sulfur dioxide, or SO2) can extend the shelf life of a bottle. However, SO2 also changes (many say diminishes) the flavor profile of the wine, often preventing it from expressing the subtleties and distinctions of its terroir. It can also hinder a wine’s metamorphosis after opening, the proverbial “development in the glass.” In other words, what the final product gains in stability, it loses in vitality; what it gains in polish, it loses in personality.

While it’s true that some people have sulfite allergies, they are much less prevalent than it might seem. Though some of our customers complain of “red wine headaches,” these are likely caused by other, not-yet-determined factors–perhaps tannins or histamines. In fact, red wines have significantly fewer sulfites than white wines; that’s because the tannins in red wine help serve the role of antioxidant and protect the wine from harm, making the addition of sulfites somewhat superfluous. (For more about sulfites and natural wines, please visit our Guide to Natural Wines.)

Nonetheless, be it for health concerns or taste preferences, Paul Marcus Wines offers a wide range of low-sulfite wines for your enjoyment. Below are five noteworthy selections.

2018 Herrera Alvarado “La Zaranda” Sauvignon Blanc ($30)

Arturo Herrera and Carolina Alvarado have been making wines in Chile’s Marga Marga Valley since 2003, considered among the pioneers of Chile’s natural wine scene. Their sauvignon blanc sees no additional SO2, allowing more savory, oxidative flavors to shine through while still retaining the zip and energy expected from this varietal.

 

 

 

 

2017 Alex Foillard Brouilly ($48)

Foillard’s father, Jean, was part of Beaujolais’ “Gang of Four” along with Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton, and Jean-Paul Thévenet–each considered trailblazers in low-intervention, sustainable, natural-leaning winemaking techniques. Although 2017 was only Alex Foillard’s second harvest, he is already making a name for himself. His Brouilly is an absolute stunner, boasting gorgeous aromatics, vibrant minerality, bright red and blue fruit, and a texture of velvet. Foillard’s wines, as befitting the family name, are unfiltered, unfined, and undergo whole-cluster fermentation, and he only uses a tiny amount of sulfur (if that) for bottling.

 

2016 COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria ($32)

This certified-organic Sicilian beauty is a blend of 60 percent nero d’avola and 40 percent frappato–the nero providing dark fruit and spice, the frappato offering floral lift. Fermented in concrete with indigenous yeast and aged in large Slovenian oak, this is a balanced, versatile wine that coaxes considerable depth and energy from its medium body. Founded by Giusto Occhipinti and his two buddies around 40 years ago, COS long ago adopted biodynamic principles–they’ve never used chemicals or synthetics in their vineyards–and Occhipinti believes in only a minimal addition of SO2 at the time of bottling.

 

2017 Breton “Nuits d’Ivresse” Bourgueil ($34)

Loire Valley legends Catherine and Pierre Breton have been certified organic for nearly 30 years. Although they make about a dozen cuvées of cabernet franc, the “Nuits d’Ivresse” (“Drunken Nights”) is the only one that is bottled without even a hint of added sulfur. Yes, you get a taste of that “barnyard funk” typical of many unsulfured wines, but it is merely one element of this generous, complex, and fresh cab franc. Made with fruit from 50-year-old vines and aged in barrel for a year, it will certainly help wash down a plate of lamb chops in fine fashion.

 

Alexander Jules Amontillado 3/10 ($33)

Alex Russan has been releasing his Alexander Jules line of barrel-selected sherry since 2012. As he himself points out, “Due to sherry’s unique aging processes, very little is actually necessary to ensure their stability.” Therefore, he never adds sulfur to any of his releases, which undergo only the most minimal filtration. The Amontillado 3/10 has an average age of 18 years, and it delivers a combination of saline tang (from its biological aging under the flor) and richer, though still gentle caramelized notes (from its oxidative aging).

For more information about low-sulfite wines, come visit us at Paul Marcus Wines. We’ll be happy to help you find a bottle to your liking.

Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts grew up in Napa and have been friends since childhood, with a shared passion for bike-riding, food, drink, and travel. While trying flat out to have as much fun as possible, they are at the same time making some of the more amazingly unique, yet broadly encompassing wines–the benchmark of how these guys operate.

Arnot-Roberts, their joint venture founded close to 20 years ago, showcases their dedication to this craft, and it’s one of the more inspiring processes I’ve witnessed. I had the privilege of being their harvest intern and assistant for three harvests (2012-2014), immersing myself in their lives for the most intense but gratifying months of the year.

The winery focuses on cool (if not very cold) microclimates for their fruit sources, as retaining acidity is one of the key elements to the freshness and lift in their wines. They are hyper focused on “nailing the pick,” as Duncan would often say, because of the importance of capturing the balance of sugars, acids, and flavors to set a proper foundation for the fermentation process. They also incorporate a number of old-world techniques, like whole-cluster fermentations for all reds (only about one-third whole cluster for their cabernet sauvignons), very little use of new wood (only some in the cabernets), and natural-yeast fermentations. Chardonnays are fermented in stainless and aged in used oak.

Duncan and Nathan have always had a knack for finding some of the smaller, more interesting vineyard sites, ones that seem to have vast, untapped potential. If you look at their vineyard portfolio, it becomes apparent that they know where to look for killer fruit.

Their true passion lies in syrah; their Clary Ranch syrah just might be my favorite wine they make. Heralding from west of Petaluma and a couple miles from the Pacific Ocean, this vineyard is arguably the coldest syrah site in the country. It could easily be slipped into a blind tasting of Saint Josephs from the Northern Rhone and hold its own.

At Paul Marcus Wines, we are fortunate to have more than a dozen of their low-production, hard-to-find offerings, including the Clary Ranch syrah, three different expressions of chardonnay, and a couple of stellar pinot noirs. We also feature two brilliant versions of their coveted cabernet: Fellom Ranch, from the esteemed Montebello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and Montecillo, from high above the Sonoma Valley.

The casual demeanor of these two friends belies their calculated decision-making and vastly connected community network of likeminded winemaking peers. The importance they place on family and friends is contagious as well. They’ve been known to throw some pretty decent open house parties, and their harvest lunches don’t suck either. (Actually, the “lunch plan” was sometimes the absolute most important task of the harvest day.) They understand the value of eating well, and of taking a break with your hard-toiling co-workers–to reflect and contemplate, to share insights and humor, to uplift the soul!

Tucked into the far northwest corner of Spain, abutting the Atlantic Ocean, Galicia produces some of the country’s most intriguing and memorable wines. Coastal Rias Baixas, where albariño is king, is perhaps the most prominent of the five DOs located in Galicia, but these days, it’s Ribeiro that’s turning heads in the world of wine.

Image from rimontgo.com

Like a lot of recently “rediscovered” winemaking regions, Ribeiro has an impressive historical pedigree that, over the centuries, has been threatened by the usual trials and tribulations–war, invasion, botanical blight, mass production, etc. But winemaking in Ribeiro dates back about 2,000 years, and has also experienced various periods of prosperity and admiration. Several talented winemakers are today attempting to recapture past glory, and wine connoisseurs are taking notice.

Ribeiro benefits from its specific location within Galicia: Roughly 50 km inland, Ribeiro’s vines are both influenced by and somewhat protected from the ocean climate. Therefore, the wines of Ribeiro tend to be a bit riper and fleshier while still boasting the freshness and acidity generated by the proximity to the Atlantic.

Almost 90 percent of Ribeiro’s wine production revolves around white grapes, most notably treixadura. Balanced and bright, treixadura exemplifies Ribeiro’s unique terroir–it’s vibrant and clean, but with ample fruit, a bit of texture, and keen aromatics.

Among the leading lights of Ribeiro is Luis Anxo Rodriguez Vazquez, who has been making wines in the region for more than 30 years. Included in his lineup are two treixadura-based cuvees, both available at Paul Marcus Wines. Viña de Martin Os Pasás blends treixadura with lado, albariño, and torrontes, and it’s aged in steel on the lees for 10 to 12 months. It makes a perfect match for simply prepared fish and chicken dishes, as well as a variety of hard cheeses. A Teixa adds godello and albariño to its treixadura foundation and spends a year on the lees in large wooden vats. This cuvee partners brilliantly with all manner of shellfish (especially scallops) and full-flavored poultry creations.

 

Another producer working wonders with treixadura is Bodegas El Paraguas, whose estate white blend is mostly treixadura with some godello and albariño. With minimal oak influence (only the godello sees wood), the El Paraguas is a bit more focused than Rodriguez’s blends, and equally as satisfying.

Though mencía has a home in Ribeiro, the rising red star of the DO is brancellao; often relegated to blending status in the recent past, brancellao grapes are capable of making complex, commanding wines that belie their relatively modest body and low alcohol content. It is a grape of contradictions to be sure: elegant and lifted, yet with a brooding, smoky side; dark in color, yet almost transparent at the same time; spicy and mineral, but not without a little tannic impact; expressive and restrained all at once.

Rodriguez makes two brancellao-based cuvees (blended with other indigenous Ribeiro grapes including caiño and ferrol) that have been featured at Paul Marcus Wines: the Eidos Ermos bottling, which combines oak and steel aging, and the slightly sturdier A Torna Dos Pasás, which sees 12 months of used oak. These food-friendly blends can accompany anything from spicy pork dishes to tuna steaks.

We were also lucky enough to get our hands on a few bottles of the single-varietal Dos Canotos Brancellao made by Cume do Avia. A study in finesse, this is a lively, lightly extracted red wine that punches way above its weight and shows that brancellao, when handled with proper care, can even give red Burgundy a run for its money.