Red wine Barrel. 20 months in French oak barrels. Winery: Raúl Pérez. D.O. Bierzo. (Castilla y León) Variety: Garnacha Tintorera, Bastardo and Mencía.
The term "flying winemaker" was first used in the 80s by certain Australian and New Zealand winemakers who came to some emerging areas of Europe where there was potential and raw material, as the harvest season in Spain coincided with a time of little oenological activity in their countries of origin. The idea of these flying winemakers was to produce technologically correct wines, at competitive prices and, generally, to also dominated some international markets or large chains where they could place their wines. The term was quickly adopted to name any winemaker who provides their services in one or several wineries, whether they have, or not, their own winery.
However, when they do not take a plane to move between continents, the most accurate term is "driving winemaker".
In the case of Raúl Pérez, both terms are suitable.
In the viticulture areas, his name represents a way of acting and making different wines, a fact that quickly resulted in a series of awards.
'The Wine Advocate', Robert Parker's magazine, granted 98 points out of 100 to one of his wines, Ultreia de Valtuille 2005.
He was also recognised as the best winemaker of the year in the Wine Awards 2014 gala, an event organised by the prestigious German magazine Der Feinschmecker. He received this recognition once again in 2015, in "Le Gran Tasting", which is held in Shanghai.
Raúl Pérez was born in 1972 in Valtuille de Abajo, a village of El Bierzo located between Cacabelos and Villafranca del Bierzo. Despite being born into a family with a long winemaking tradition, he had no intention to dedicate himself to the wine industry, his intention was to become a doctor. However, one day the wine crossed his path, in 1992, when he had to join his family-run winery, Castro Ventosa, long before the wine revolution in El Bierzo began.
In 1999, in Castro Ventosa, he helped Ricardo Pérez Palacios and his uncle, Álvaro Palacios, to ferment 30,000 kilos of grapes, which became the first wines of Descendientes de J. Palacios. He also helped the Peique family in their first vintages. Here, he also made some magnificent wines, like Ardai Cepas Centenarias, from that same vintage. In 2004, he decided to leave Castro Ventosa for different reasons, and he created the Ultreia project with the idea of doing riskier and more specific things. Things that could not be done in a big winery. However, in 2009 he closed the Ultreia project and returns to Castro Ventosa, at the head of the technical matters.
Raúl Pérez is a restless character, and he has not taken a break from one year to another, to the point that it is difficult to establish an exact chronology of his activities and projects. Surely we will forget some, because apart from being the technical director of Bodegas Estefanía, also in El Bierzo, where he produces several labels under the Tilenus brand, he also started to make his own wines here and there, to give advice to other wineries, to explore forgotten grape varieties, to recover vineyards that were on the verge of extinction, and more recently, he created his own company, Raúl Pérez Bodegas y Viñedos. He also has a micro-winery in Salas de los Barrios, 7 km from Ponferrada, where the Ultreia del Bierzo range is born, and another winery in Valdevimbre, province of León, the land of the Prieto Picudo variety, where he has bought an underground cellar of the 1920s, keeping its structure but completely renovating the interior. And maybe we can soon talk about a new winery in Valtuille: El Atalier. A small project where he is contemplating the idea of producing 8 wines, with a maximum production of 700 bottles.
Raúl Pérez has a unique way of understanding wine. For him, the priority is not the winery, but the vineyard. In fact, Raúl Pérez Bodegas y Viñedos is not an average winery with a defined place, a defined vineyard size, etc., because Raul uses it to invent, either with grapes of their own vineyards, or bought or borrowed grapes, in their winery or in the winery of others.
Currently, a hundred labels have their seal. Some of them are repeated and will come out again, without any doubt, and others may never appear again. This makes it impossible to keep an updated portfolio of their wines.
Projects and wines
To get to know him better, we definitely have to create a chronology of his concentrated but long professional career. When he closed Ultreia, in 2010 he decided to create a project called La Vizcaína, with his nephews César Márquez, and Nerea Pérez, who sadly passed away during its production. It is a project of 10 hectares. In 2013 they managed to finish it with the production of 5 wines made from grapes that come from two hectares of vineyard, in each case, and that do not exceed, in average, 5,000 bottles by reference. These are four Mencía reds aged for twelve months: La Vitoriana, La Poulosa, El Rapolao and Las Guindiñas, and an aged white, La del Vivo, made from Doña Blanca, a local variety, aged on its lees, which was personally made by Nerea.
In 1998, he used the grape Mencía from Quinta da Muradella, with José Luis Mateo in the area of Monterrei, near Verín, and they made the red wine "A Trabe". Then, in 2000, he jumped to Ribera Sacra to give advice to the winery Algueira , with Mencía grapes cultivated on soils with abundant slate substratum, and also in Ribera Sacra in 2001, where he decided to make a wine for his friends, without colour, without extraction: El Pecado, made from Bastardo grapes.
In 2003 he went to Rías Baixas and began to make a garage wine, the Sketch, which ages under the sea in bottles, alongside Rodrigo Méndez, who gave him the grapes, with direct exposure to the sea and planted on granite soils. This wine was followed by "Leirana" and "Goliardo".
Also, in 2004-2005 he began some projects in León. Since 1999 he advised the winery Estefanía, producing the line Tilenus. Then they decided to start a project with Prieto Picudo, where the wines Clan were born, with D.O. Bierzo.
In 2006 he came to Bernabeleva in Madrid, in San Martín de Valdeiglesias, on the borders of the mountain range Sierra de Gredos, where they worked mainly with Grenache from different plots. In that same year, he started to produce with small yields of Prieto Picudo, creating the red wine Rara Avis. He also moved to Asturias to develop another project with the varieties Carrasquín and Verdejo Tinto, and with other varieties of the area, such as Albarín. He was there for two years, but due to disagreements with the owner of the winery, he had to end this project.
In 2007 he had already launched a project in the Douro area with the Niepoort family. At first it was supposed to be a collaboration, but in the end, he selected some plots and used their facilities to produce his own red and multivarietal wine, the Ultreia Douro, since 2008.
In South Africa, since 2003 he was already in the making of things with Eben Sadie, one of the creators of Terroir al Límit in Priorat and owner of Columella in the African continent. However, it was not until 2009-2010 when he made his first personal wine there, the Ultreia Cabo Tormentas, with the Monastrell variety.
But previously, in 2008, after this project, he managed to get hold of some vines of Tinta Amarela (Trincadeira Preta) and Bastardo Portugués (Merençao or María Ardoña) in the northern area Terra Quente, apart from experimenting with the variety Bastardo Ruso.
More recently he started two projects, one in the drabbest area of Bordeaux, in the spur of the moment with some friends, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and the other in Cantabria, which he has started with Mencía and Carrasquín grapes. He is also focused on other two projects: one in Chile and one in Argentina.
Wines of Raúl Pérez Bodegas y Viñedos
Here are some of the wines produced under the umbrella of Raúl Pérez Bodegas y Viñedos, La Vizcaína de Vinos, as well as some other wines produced in collaboration and/or in his wineries in Salas de los Barrios and Valdevimbre, leaving to a side other wines that he makes in collaboration with other wineries.
La del Vivo. A white varietal made from Doña Blanca, from the hills of Valtuille, produced on its lees in barrels, which makes it a rare white. It has quite an original aromatic profile and an extraordinary mid palate. The name of Nérea Pérez appears next to her uncle's, Raúl, on the bottle's label.
La Vitoriana. It is a Mencía with a small percentage of Alicante Bouschet, Estaladina and Souson, from a 1.7-hectare vineyard planted with vines that are over 80 years old. Fermentation is carried out with whole grapes, with their stems. This wine is aged for 12 months in used French oak barrels and it is bottled without clarifying or filtering. It has an aroma with good intensity, where the presence of red fruit stands out; round, tasty, intense and serious.
Las Gundiñas. It is made from Mencía, with a touch of Alicante Bouschet, Estaladina and Souson, from the area of Las Gundiñas, of 2 hectares. It is located at the bottom of a hill at 250 metres of altitude, planted with vines that are between 60 and 80 years old. It is aged for 12 months in 7-year-old French oak barrels. It has an extraordinary freshness on the nose, with soft tannins, and very balanced in regards to alcohol and acidity.
La Poulosa. It is born from a 2-hectare vineyard oriented to the south-east, with rich soils and a warm plot, with sweet and round tannins. It is made from Mencía, and small amounts of Alicante Bouschet, Estaladina and Souson, from vineyards that are between 60 and 80 years old, also with a 12-month ageing process in 7-year-old French oak barrels. It is probably the most round wine within the reds. It has more mature notes and is easier to drink, with a more velvety sensation.
El Rapolao. It is from a plot located on a steep hillside oriented to the north, also with 2 hectares. The clay soils slowly merge into soils that are rich in organic matter. It is also aged for 12 months in 7-year-old French oak barrels and bottled without filtering or clarifying. According to Raúl Pérez, this wine is made from his favourite vineyard. This wine is flowery, fine on the mouth and with an acidity that is more present acidity than in the rest of the wines.
Ultreia Mencía. It is made from Mencía grapes, from old vineyards located in different plots in Valtuille de Abajo and Salas de los Barrios, planted on clay and slate soils. Aged for 12 months in used French oak barrels.
Ultreia La Claudina. It is their white wine made from Godello. It ferments in 700-litre barrels with an ageing of 11 months in 2700-litre French oak foudres. It is an elegant wine, with aromas of flowers, dried fruit and nuts, and some toastings; very balanced, complex and long.
Ultreia de Valtuille. It is the premium wine of the Ultreia range and the one that achieved the 98 Parker points. It is made from old Mencía from a single plot, Las Villegas, in Valtuille de Abajo. It is formed by vineyards planted in 1908, and it is the wine with the most limited production in the Ultreia range. It is aged for 12 months in used French oak barrels and is bottled without filtering or clarifying.
Ultreia Petra. It comes from a small slate plot with 800 vines of Mencía, located in Valtuille de Abajo. The whole bunches go through a cold maceration. They ferment in 1500-litre open oval French oak barrels on its lees for 12 months. This wine has a limited production of 500 bottles.
La Tentación. It is a wine without denomination produced in Pajares de los Oteros (León) in collaboration with Noelia de Paz. It is made from grapes of the Pinot Noir variety and fermented with the stems in 500-litre foudres. Then, it is aged for around 12 months in French oak barrels.
El Pecado. It is a red wine made from 100% Mencía grapes in D.O. Ribeira Sacra. It comes from one of the most spectacular vineyards, Finca Capeliños, located opposite the farm El Perdón, right on the other side of the river. This wine is made with 30% -40% of the stems and it is aged for 12 months in oak barrels.
La Penitencia. It is a wine produced in Ribeira Sacra and it does not adhered to the D.O. It is made with 85% Mencía grape, and the remaining percentage is shared between Bastardo and Ciano. The grapes come from vineyards that are over a century old. This wine is aged for around 12 months in French oak barrels.
Castro Condaz - El Curvado. It is a wine produced in Ribeira Sacra, in collaboration with Rodrigo Méndez. It is made from Mencía from a single plot in the area of Chantada. The vines are between 70 and 90 years old, planted on granite and decomposing slate soils, at an altitude of 200-450 metres.
Castro Condaz - A Boca do Demo. This wine is a 100% Mencia from old vineyards planted on the banks of the river Miño, in the area of A Cova. Harvest is performed by hand. Fermentation with stems. Long maceration for 75 days. Aged for 12 months in used French oak barrels. Production of 2,000 bottles. Elegant, perfumed, Atlantic. Red fruit (raspberry, plum), violets, lavender, chamomile, moist soil, spicy herbs, smoky notes, fine but firm tannins, very good acidity.
Castro Condaz - La Vertical. It is a white made from 100% Godello of the sub-area of Chantada, in collaboration with Rodrigo Méndez. A fine and elegant Godello, aged in French oak barrels and with a magnificent acidity that makes it very fresh, balanced, and that provide it with a great ageing potential.
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