The Wizard of Bierzo: Raul Perez
Raúl Pérez is one of the world's most visionary winemakers. Perhaps no one is as responsible for the explosion of unique and delicious terroir-driven wines that are coming out of Spain.
While Raúl has projects all over the country, perhaps his most intriguing wines come from what is one of the world's most exciting wine appellations, his native Bierzo. Born in the small village of Valtuille de Abajo into a winemaking family, Raul has brought fame and recognition to this once overlooked region.
That fame and influence has a lot to do with his open door policy towards new arrivals in Bierzo. Prominent names like Álvaro Palacios and his nephew Ricardo Pérez or Cádiz-born Verónica Ortega did their first fermentations there.
He also helped many established names in Galicia like Forjas del Salnés in Rías Baixas and Algueira and Guímaro in Ribeira Sacra and he’s even found time to collaborate with other wine world stars such as Portugal's Dirk Niepoort and France's Antoine Graillot.
When it came time to start his project in Bierzo, Raúl chose the name Ultreia, “proceed” in Latin, the spirited salute exchanged among pilgrims in the Camino de Santiago. Focusing on native varieties with the reds hailing from Mencia (often field blends since some of these vineyards were planted well before monovarietal plantings were all the rage) and whites from what has recently become Spain's most talked about white grape, Godello.
The Ultreia wines all come from vineyards in and around Valtuille de Abajo that the Perez family has owned for generations. Farmed biodynamically with many vines over 100 years old each plot is a tiny little piece of the region's winegrowing history. Being as established as they are, the vines are naturally more resistant to the many maladies the local climate has in store. This is key to Raul's ability to farm sin synthetic chemicals.
We also have some wines from his newest project, La Vizcaina. La Vizcaína works with four exceptional parcels he leases from the hillsides around his home of Vatuille de Abajo are predominantly Menica with a sprinkling of other local varieties. The oldest of these sites was planted in 1890, and the others aren't far behind. Unmissable unadulterated expressions of vineyards and place. Raul and his team do all of the viticulture with the same care, attention and philosophy that they apply to Raul’s family vineyards. These bottlings are a showcase for the region's geological complexity.
Raul is an iconoclast but in challenging the status quo he's managed to bring recognition and acclaim to the wine from his little corner of the world. Wines with balance and grace true to their Galician roots yet completely unique. These wines will continue to evolve; shedding fruit over time to reveal even more nuanced spicy and earthy minerality. While we received a generous allocation, Raul’s vineyards produced miniscule amounts of fruit, some well under a half ton an acre, thus very little exists. So, if you want a chance to drink these amazing wines, be sure to reserve your bottles now.
The descriptions below are all from Luis Guitérrez of The Wine Advocate. Perhaps no one has done more to raise awareness of all the exciting things fermenting in Spain these days.
“La Gundiñas is the wine that shows the most differences between 2017 and 2018. The 2017 La Vizcaína Las Gundiñas is dark and concentrated, a wine of sun, while the 2018 is delicate and feels like a mini Bonnes Mares! This is quite like a Cornas—meaty, juicy, a little reticent and powerful, with abundant tannins. This is one wine that behaves better in 2017 than in 2016. This is a plot that has ups and down; it might be more regular in the future, as they finally bought it in 2018”. 93 points Luis Gutiérrez (Wine Advocate)
“I tasted the 2017 and 2018 vintages of the La Vizcaína range, and the style of the years is radically different: 2017 is more Mediterranean (more Rhône-ish) with some sensations that make you think of slate, wines of more sun, and 2018 is truly continental, fragrant, more Burgundian. La Poulosa is always the rounder and riper of the four reds from La Vizcaína. The 2017 La Vizcaína La Poulosa is gentler, riper and a little more generous, and it's the one where the two vintages are less different. In this 2017, the sun of the year shows more—the palate is soft, ripe and tender, with moderate acidity. This is very approachable. Each plot now has barrels from a specific tonnelier, but they are moving toward larger barrels; in 2017, there was a significant percentage of 225-liter barrels that were replaced in 2018 and basically disappeared in 2019. 5,500 bottles produced”. 93 points Luis Gutiérrez (Wine Advocate)