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Antoine Graillot & Raul Pérez, Bierzo “Encinas”Castilla y León, Spain 2018 (750mL)

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Antoine Graillot & Raul Pérez, Bierzo “Encinas” Castilla y León, Spain 2018 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
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Alcohol

Most of the best Galician red wines I taste remind me in many ways of top-tier Northern Rhône Syrah. It’s gratifying to have that opinion validated by none other than the Graillot family, which produces top-tier Northern Rhône Syrah and has done so for generations. 


Antoine Graillot and his famous father, Alain, are wanderlusting vignerons who’ve regularly looked beyond their native Rhône Valley for inspiration, and they found it in northwest Spain’s Bierzo region—land of dark, mineral reds from the Mencía grape. Antoine Graillot couldn’t have chosen a better guide and partner in Bierzo than the bushy-bearded impresario Raúl Pérez, a native of Bierzo and a bona-fide superstar in his own right. Recognizing a kinship between their respective native varieties, Antoine and Raúl sourced from Pérez’s vast network of growers; then, they employed some of Graillot’s techniques in the winery to create today’s dark-fruited, deeply mineral 2018 (at one point, they had to remove a section of roof from Pérez’s winery to drop in a large concrete fermentation vat). This is the second time we’ve featured this sumptuous label on SommSelect, but because this is Bierzo, the wine remains shockingly affordable despite the high-wattage names on the label. The refinement, mineral depth, and layered complexity of this wine is something to behold—well worth the trip all the way from the Rhône, and well worth the modest price tag attached to it.



Those who are familiar with the Graillots—dad Alain, who founded his estate in the mid-1980s, and sons Maxime and Antoine—know that this is a winemaking clan that is not content to stay in one lane. In addition to crafting benchmark wines in Crozes-Hermitage, Alain worked on collaborative Syrah projects in Morocco (with the Ouled Thaleb Winery) and in the Heathcote region of Victoria, Australia. Maxime created his own acclaimed label, Domaine des Lises, in Crozes-Hermitage, and with Antoine purchased land in Beaujolais to create Domaine de Fa, whose first vintage release was 2014. These guys get around!


The same could be said of Pérez, who has become a wine-world celebrity and an ambassador for the wines of northwest Spain. He originally gained international recognition working with his mentor, Alvaro Palacios, on assorted projects throughout Spain (and beyond), but his home base is Bierzo, which is situated right where the Galicia region gives way to Castilla y Léon. From 1993-2004 he was the winemaker at Castro Ventosa, his family’s historic Bierzo winery, after which he founded his own label in the same village—Valtuille de Abajo. His family owns about 15 hectares of vineyards in and around Valtuille, which are broken up into incredibly tiny parcels farmed by many individual growers. We’ve offered several different Pérez-authored Bierzos on SommSelect, and among their many distinguishing features is Pérez’s penchant for leaving fermenting wines on their skins for extended periods—several months in some cases. This was one of his contributions to the “Encinas” project, and as with his own wines, today’s wine has very fine-grained tannins and a silken mouthfeel. Despite the extended time macerating on skins, there’s not even a hint of bitterness from over-extracted tannins; the wine has a focused, well-concentrated feel while also being supple and full of freshness. Driven almost entirely by Mencía blended with trace percentages of other local varieties, “Encinas” delivers a level of refinement not always seen in Bierzo, and yes, there are some strong parallels to be drawn with northern Rhône Syrah.


As with the Galician wine zones, Bierzo experiences a cool, wet Atlantic Ocean influence, but as you move eastward, to lower altitudes closer to the Sil River, the influence of the warmer, drier plains to the east can be felt. At higher elevations (often 1,000+ meters) the Bierzo soils are a mix of slate and granite, transitioning to more “alluvial” material—sand, silt, and clay—in the lower-lying areas. Valtuille is indeed part of the latter “Bierzo Bajo,” although, at around 600 meters’ elevation in its own right, there’s nothing especially bajo about it. Encinas was sourced from three vineyards in the Valtuille area—including Pérez’s “El Rapolao,” from which he crafts a celebrated single-vineyard wine under his own label—and fermented using whole grape clusters in concrete (the Graillot influence). After spending several months on its skins, the wine was aged 10 months in large, used French oak foudre before bottling.


“Encinas” is, as I’ve said before, Bierzo on another level: Mencía that is concentrated and meaty, but also sublimely elegant, with none of the ‘green-ness’ or astringency found in many of the region’s reds. In the glass, it’s a deep ruby-black with magenta highlights, with aromas of ripe blackberry, blackcurrant, Morello cherry, cacao, crushed black rocks, licorice, violets, and cracked black pepper. It is medium to medium-plus in body, with great freshness and moderate alcohol, perfectly balanced and lifted on the palate. The tannins have a firm but fine grip, lending a graphite note to the well-balanced mix of sweet and savory sensations. It is an extremely impressive red that is delicious right now and poised to improve steadily over the next 5-7 years. Not that there’s need to wait: With about 30 minutes in a decanter, this is going to be a summer go-too with beef and lamb off the grill, served in Burgundy stems as a cool-ish 60 degrees. You will not want to stop at one bottle—and we’ve got a good supply if you want to stock up. It will be worth it, believe me. Cheers!




Antoine Graillot & Raul Pérez, Bierzo “Encinas” Castilla y León, Spain 2018 - SommSelect

  • CountrySpain
  • RegionCastilla y León
  • Sub-RegionBierzo
  • SoilClay, Gravel, Schist
  • FarmingPracticing Organic
  • BlendMencía
  • Alcohol13%
  • OakFoudres

  • CountrySpain
  • RegionCastilla y León
  • Sub-RegionBierzo
  • SoilClay, Gravel, Schist
  • FarmingPracticing Organic
  • BlendMencía
  • Alcohol13%
  • OakFoudres
  • Temp.Serve at 60° F
  • GlasswareBurgundy Stems
  • DrinkingNow-2025
  • Decanting30 Minutes
  • PairingGrilled Rosemary Lamb Chops