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WBW #70: 2009 D. Ventura’s Viña do Burato from Ribeira Sacra

February 16, 2011

Vineyards along the Rio Sil

Spain is a land of extremes, as anyone who’s walked one of the more arduous of the Camino’s de Santiago can attest to. At the journey’s end one thankfully arrives in Galicia, España verde, a more temperate and verdant (and rainy) corner of the Iberian peninsula. Like any good coastal region, Galician cuisine is dominated by seafood. I’ve read there are over eighty fish species caught regularly off its coast. Needing something to wash down more species of edible fish than I knew existed, the Galicians produce a lot of lovely aromatic white wines with racy acidity, such as Albariño, and these are often the first wines that come to mind when people think of Galicia. But that’s not all you’ll find there.

Gorge carved by the Rio Sil

Travel inland a little bit and follow the Rio Sil upstream into the Ribeira Sacra. Here, along the deeply carved banks of the Sil, ancient terraces which date back to Roman times provide narrow slivers of level ground on which farmers have organized their vineyards for nearly two thousand years. Here the grapes’ skins are red, not white, and the dominant varietal is mencia (go ahead, lisp that ‘c’ in your head like a proper Spaniard – men-THEE-ah). These river banks of slate and granite are Mosel-steep, making tending the vines and harvesting the grapes a difficult and purely manpowered effort.

Now let’s back track just a little bit, to the confluence of the Sil and Rio Miña, turning north to follow the Miña a bit upstream. The landscape changes here, this river’s banks are softer and lush from the more fertile alluvial soil. It is here that D. Ventura, a project by Ramón Losada and his family, tend the mencia vines for his Viña do Burato.

The Ribeira Sacra region had been more or less abandoned and is undergoing a bit of a renaissance recently due to some determined pioneering spirits bucking the trend. Losada’s family had been making wine, almost exclusively for their own consumption, for several generations. It was Ramón’s grandfather who had the vision to venture beyond the status quo. He began purchasing additional plots of land, restoring the ancient terraces with the help of his grandson, and planting mencia, setting the stage for a viable commercial operation. It wasn’t until the the last 15 years or so that Ramón took over the operation and, by farming grapes from this plot along the Miña as well as two others along the Sil, produces three distinct 100% mencia wines.

Viña do Burato

The wine was fermented in stainless steel, never even walked past a piece of oak, and bottled unfiltered. Ramón prides himself on being as non-interventionist as possible and allowing the grapes and the land to express themselves. A gorgeous ruby in the glass, the wine shows bright floral aromas along with red cherry and little bit of funky earthiness. The first sip shot me back to Thanksgiving, filling my mouth with an unmistakable cranberry tartness which pleasantly lingers on a surprisingly lengthy finish. Brilliant acidity and gentle tannins, yet with voluptuous body. Not just because of those 800 species of fish being cooked up around the region, but I can completely see enjoying this wine with perhaps some nicely caramelized scallops in a citrus based sauce or a perfectly roasted turkey with a slopping helping of fresh cranberry sauce. At around $20, coupled with the uniqueness factor, I think this is an excellent effort and definitely compels a bit more exploring of the Ribeira Sacra DO.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2011 4:53 am

    Fabulous post Joe! Your descriptions literally placed us among the thick green vegetation with a delicious plate of grilled fish to savor. Very happy you enjoyed the wine, and with any luck, this will be the first of many wines from Spain you savor in the near future. Thanks for participating in WBW70 !


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