Alberto Orte, Valdeorras Mencía “A Portela”
Alberto Orte, Valdeorras Mencía “A Portela”

Alberto Orte, Valdeorras Mencía “A Portela”

Galicia, Spain 2019 (750mL)
Regular price$35.00

Alberto Orte, Valdeorras Mencía “A Portela”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these last few years, Galician wines—white and red both—are likely now a part of your regular rotation. If, by some miracle, they’re not, you haven’t seen any of our countless paeans to the greatness of the Mencía variety. Today, we don’t just have a superb example of Mencía to share, but an example that has undergone some very positive evolution, courtesy of Spanish wine impresario Alberto Orte whose travels take him all over the Iberian Peninsula and beyond. Orte’s contemporaries include peripatetic winemakers like Raul Pérez, Telmo Rodriguez, and Rene Barbier, all of whom have ventured beyond their home regions to showcase forgotten Spanish varieties and terroirs. In Orte’s case, he’s producing wines in Jérez, Rioja, and, in this case, Valdeorras, where he works with a few die-hard local growers on the vertiginous banks of the Sil and Bibei Rivers. There’s never a bad time to re-visit Galicia and Mencía, and this one’s a modern benchmark—it must not be missed!

Today’s 2017 has shed some of its youthful rawness and settled into itself, displaying an impeccable balance of dark, wild-berry fruit and profound mineral depth, occupying a stylistic middle ground somewhere between Cru Beaujolais and aged Northern Rhône Syrah, with a few other hat-tips to other soulful reds from around the world (let’s throw Saumur-Champigny into the mix). Known historically for its mining industry, the wine’s appellation of origin, Valdeorras (“valley of gold”), is an incredibly rich patchwork of slate, quartzite, and schist, and only recently have the region’s wine producers begun to exploit its full potential. The appellation is at the eastern edge of the Ourense province, and while it does feel some Atlantic influence (funneled up through the Sil River valley), the impact of this Atlantic air is less pronounced than in more resolutely coastal regions like Rías Baixas.

Orte is a force of nature in the Spanish wine scene. He’s an exporter responsible for bringing some of Spain and Portugal’s most cutting-edge producers to America. He’s a renowned producer of Rioja. But he’s also a vinous anthropologist, responsible for re-establishing dozens of Spanish varieties long thought extinct in little-known places like Valdeorras and Yecla. As noted above, he has partnered with local growers in Valdeorras to source the fruit for this bottling, which comes from a high-elevation (500-700m) single vineyard in the village of A Portela, this 100% Mencía was aged first in stainless steel tanks for 12 months, after which it spent eight months in French oak barrels.

Now with some bottle age, this deep, savory 2017 is blessed with impeccable balance and some encroaching “secondary” aromas, with dark fruit and crushed-slate minerality in harmonious coexistence. In the glass, it has a deep, nearly opaque ruby core moving to a pink rim, with aromas of wild strawberries, huckleberries, and Morello cherries mingling with red and purple wildflowers. The mineral component is pronounced on the finish, with notes of crushed rocks and wet slate. Deep and tangy, with Mencía’s trademark hint of iodine, this is a versatile, food-friendly red. Decant it about 15 minutes before serving in Burgundy bowls at 60 degrees. Pair it with the kinds of dishes you might pair with a Cru Beaujolais or Bourgogne Rouge: coq au vin comes to mind, as does the more Spanish-inspired pernil recipe attached. Just make sure you cook for it to bring out its best. Enjoy!

Alberto Orte, Valdeorras Mencía “A Portela”

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