Raúl Pérez, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla Y León "Rara Avis"
Raúl Pérez, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla Y León "Rara Avis"

Raúl Pérez, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla Y León "Rara Avis"

Castilla y León, Spain 2013 (750mL)
Regular price$65.00

Raúl Pérez, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla Y León "Rara Avis"

Whether it’s a wine from Mencía, Godello, or, in this case, a rare native variety called Prieto Picudo, Raúl Pérez turns it into a must-have bottle. In relatively short order, Pérez has not only become one of the most influential winemakers in Spain, but the world, racking up accolades and launching new projects with impressive frequency. So, it was with great anticipation that we pulled the cork on this “rare bird”—a decade-old red from Prieto Picudo whose soaring aromatics and silken texture had us all swooning. One moment, it was like a beautiful aged Rioja without the heavy oak influence; the next, it was giving off more of a Grenache vibe, reminding us of benchmark bottlings from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Priorat. Pérez’s approach, across a dizzying array of bottlings, is very “Burgundian”—he lets the vineyard site determine the style of the wine—and this 2013, while dark-hued and substantial, is a master class in elegance and balance. It’s a rare bird, indeed, from a visionary winemaker at the top of his game. Finding bottles like this is what makes our jobs fun and meaningful, and, if you love wine like we do, you can’t afford to miss it! 

By now, Pérez should be at least somewhat familiar to SommSelect subscribers: He originally gained international recognition working with his mentor, Alvaro Palacios, on assorted projects throughout Northwest 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 eponymous operation 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.

As with the Galician wine zones, Bierzo experiences a cool, wet Atlantic Ocean influence, but as you move eastward, to lower altitudes, the influence of the warmer, drier plains to the east can be felt. The vineyard parcel that supplies the Prieto Picudo for “Rara Avis” is indeed well east of Valtuille, in a village called Pajares de los Oteros, although, at 890 meters of elevation, it’s hardly a low-lying site. Vines here are said to be more than 100 years old, in soils of sandy clay mixed with river stones, so it’s perhaps more appropriate to compare the physical setting to that of Rioja, further east still, rather than the lushly green, cavernous river valleys of Galicia.

“Prieto” means “dark” or “black,” and the variety, often compared to (but not related to) Tempranillo, is indeed known for its deep hue. It’s known for its drought resistance and, like Grenache, its hardiness in hot climates, and for our money, the Grenache comparison was most apt (aside from the color). Pérez gets the grapes from a two-hectare plot planted way back in 1900, fermenting the exceptionally concentrated fruit in open-topped chestnut vats and employing a lengthy skin maceration (60 days) during that time. The wine was then aged more than four years (!) in French oak barrels, then in bottle, before its initial release.

When that initial release was, we don’t know: All we can say is that this 2013 is in fantastic shape now, still displaying a youthful ruby-hue moving to garnet and a hint of orange at the rim. What stands out more than anything is the balance and aromatic lift of this wine—it is richly textured but full of lively energy, as time in the bottle has muted what was likely very saturated purple-black fruit and allowed all sorts of complementary spices and florals to emerge. Aromas and flavors of black raspberry, cherry kirsch, toffee, licorice, violets, juniper, wild herbs, and leather jump from the glass and dance across the medium-plus-bodied palate, with a balance between sweet and savory that feels pitch-perfect right now—there’s more evolution still ahead of it, but the move here is to pull the cork, decant briefly and gently, and let the fun begin in Burgundy stems at 55-60 degrees. It is a velvety, delicious glass of wine with a Mediterranean feel but a Burgundian soul: Pair this with some garlicky, herb-slathered lamb chops or some barbecued ribs (yes, you read that right). It’s a new year, so a new discovery is highly appropriate. Cheers!

Raúl Pérez, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla Y León "Rara Avis"

Daily Discovery

Build a Case is a one-of-a-kind subscription service that allows you the freedom to explore our expansive wine selection and consolidate your orders into a custom case over time — without the cost of shipping.
View all