A Spanish Icon

A Spanish Icon
We are delighted to welcome Raul Perez to the Justerini & Brooks portfolio. To many, he will need no introduction, for Perez is variously lauded as Spain’s most talented, innovative and restless winemaker. His constant reinvention of his own portfolio and quest to restore old vineyards since breaking away from his family estate Castro Ventosa in 2004, has truly revolutionised this corner of north-western Spain. Our offer today focuses on two Bierzo ranges; Ultreia, the original Raul Perez project, and La Vizcaina de Vinos, a later project which explores Valtuille del Abajo’s best single vineyards. Valtuille is the central village in Bierzo, with an enviable spread of old vines and immensely complex terroirs. It comprises just 10% of the total vineyard area but is arguably the most sought after. Viticulture in Bierzo is unique, as vineyards are planted to Mencia dominated field-blends with various co-plantings of Bastardo (also known as Merenzao and Trousseau), Brancellao, Alicante Bouchet (also known as Garnacha Tintorera), Godello, Palomino, Malvasia and Dona Blanca.

It is this complexity (and opportunity) that Raul Perez has always emphasised, believing staunchly in the tradition of co-fermentation and hands-off winemaking. His skill lies first and foremost in an intuitive understanding of the vineyards and secondly, Perez’s ability to produce wines of elegance and freshness from quite rustic grape varieties sets him apart from his peers. Finesse he achieves through careful attention to picking dates; harvesting normally over the period of a month or more. In the cellar, whole bunch fermentation is the name of the game in a bid to retain freshness and character, before extended skin contact, in some cases up to three months, with no punch-downs or pump overs at all. Everything is manual and low tech – fermentations are undertaken without temperature control or the addition of any sulphur. The reds rest for a year in neutral barrels with no sulphur addition during the elevage and no racking whatsoever. There is no battonage in the whites. The wines are simply left undisturbed, before being blended and bottled when the barrels are at their best without fining or filtration.

The Wines

Ultreia St Jacques is the principal wine of the Perez stable and is a delicious regional Bierzo assembled from plots where there is insufficient quantity to bottle alone. It is designed to offer balance and drinkability, albeit with the potential to age. Ultreia de Valtuille is from an early-ripening south facing, sandy pre-phylloxera parcel called Las Villegas and Ultreia El Rapolao comes from the steeper, higher part of the El Rapolao vineyard, yielding a cooler expression of fruit. Quantities are very limited.

From La Vizcaina, the reds represent Raul’s favourite single vineyards in Valtuille. La Vitoriana is from 130 year old vines on a moving north-south exposition, like a halfpipe. La Poulosa is 100% hard clay soils with perfect sunlight exposure and a slightly higher proportion of Garnacha Tintorera in the vineyard, yielding a silky, seductive style of Bierzo. Las Gundinas is an unusually flatter vineyard with deeper soils that performs brilliantly in warmer vintages. This sees the longest skin contact of the range, usually a full three months, and the wine style tends towards spice and earth. El Rapolao is the same vineyard as in the Ultreia range but from a lower part and 100% Mencia, aged entirely in bigger barrels. It offers up cool, wild blue fruit and a fine seam of acidity. Finally La del Vivo, meaning “the live one”, comes from a part of La Poulosa and is 100% Dona Blanca aged in a combination of fuder and 500L barrel.