Algueira's Mencía Joven comes from the estate's younger Mencía vines and is fermented in stainless steel, seeing no oak.
It's naturally fermented and opens with delightful whole-bunch spice, red fruits and mixed herb aromas leading to a vibrant, tangy palate with the notes of wild strawberry, red jube, cherry pit and white pepper. It almost doesn't touch the sides. It's a wine that parallels the freshness of a young Saumur red with its racy, mouth-watering personality.
This is Algueira in juicy, easy-drinking mode and is a cracking release for this wine. There's a much more seductive, pulpy palate than previous releases at this young age. The texture is really creamy and 'Pinot' with fleshy, open, crushed red fruit notes, and a lovely, spicy, anise and lavender scented finish which is as fresh as a button. A touch of a reduction on the nose just adds a spicy complex dimension to the experience. Wonderfully delicious stuff!
Fernando González Riveiro and Ana Pérez have been tending their 11ha of old vines in the Amandi subzone of Ribeira Sacra for over 30 years, but it was only in 1998 that they decided to take the plunge and make and market their own wines. Small production sits cheek by jowl with a necessarily artisanal approach and while they are neither alone or the first, they are part of a very small handful of grassroots revolutionaries crafting wines that mirror the sensational scenery in this largely unknown yet very exciting Galician D.O.
In an area well noted (by the few who have visited) for its spectacular 'vinescape' the Algeira vineyards are still a sight to behold. Serviced by single track roads that were only recently surfaced, these atmospheric ravine vineyards are planted on the most extreme slopes imaginable. It’s Mosel, eat your heart out kind of stuff. Amandi is essentially a micro-canyon that has been carved out, over millennia, through schist and slate-rich hills by the snake-like river Sil. The vines are planted in what the local term solcacos, the small terraces cut into the hillsides - the only way to plant and grow vines on such precipitous slopes. In common with the Mosel, there is little topsoil to speak of, so the vines, quite literally, grow out of the schisteous bedrock. As well its breathtaking topography (check out the pictures: www.blog.bibendum.com.au) Amandi comes under the cooling influence of air currents coming off the Atlantic ocean and, as such, is a much more marginal climate than nearby Bierzo where the vines bask in the hair-drying Mediterranean winds that sweep across northern Spain.
As with the younger Ribeira upstart Domino do Bebei (based in the drier highlands of Quiroga-Bebei), Fernando and Ana work in the main with the two indigenous grapes - Mencía for the reds and Godello for the whites. As a point of difference however - apart from the cooler, more extreme terroir - they have some old vine plantings of the regions more obscure black grapes including Alvarello, Merenzao, Caiño, and Sousón, some of which are bottled separately. The work in the vineyard and elevage in the small, stone-built winery very much follows the minimalist earth-to-glass blueprint necessary to showcase the natural beauty of their rocky sites. All fruit is hand harvested with the aid of six ‘monorails’ that make transportation of the grapes and tools possible from such elevated sites. Most of the grapes are foot trodden, and, powered by natural yeast, the fermentations are long and slow. The wines are predominantly aged in worn French oak casks although Fernando is experimenting with some Galician coopered local oak. There is no fining or filtration.
Having been 'discovered' by Spain's finest restaurants, Fernando and Ana's wines have been on the lips of the Spanish cognoscenti for some years now and we are delighted to have this first, small, parcel in our warehouse. Having been unable to stop ourselves from raiding the admittedly small allocation, we have been instantly reminded why we got hooked on these wines from the first taste. The whites - which come from the cooler, more sheltered slopes - have that racy, juicy/mineral element character that makes them so immediately engaging and mouth watering. If you have tried the Bibei whites, these are more delicate and perhaps a tad more stone-resonant, yet with similar textural qualities. As for the reds, we put these up with the most pristine and elegant examples of Galicia we have encountered. While each bottling clearly holds its own personality, they share strikingly fragrant aromas and supple fruit with a quasi-Burgundian transparency of site and nuance of flavour. The Atlantic influence is apparent in their sinewy-textured palates, tangy freshness and fine boned tannins. A remarkable and delicious set of wines from one of Spain’s most exciting DO’s.