Atlantida Blanco: My #1 Discovery of the Year

Posted on: 08/30/18 12:01 PM


There are so many ways that I could wax lyrical about this wine that I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve written about exactly what it is and where it comes from below, but I first want to talk about how it made me feel.

The simplest way to start is by saying I must have tried hundreds of new white wines in the last year. If I was to rank them in terms of which have impressed me most, this would be number one. No question at all.

A little over a thousand bottles of this were produced – as soon as I tasted it I ordered as many bottles as we were allowed to buy. That turned out to be just 72 bottles, a tiny quantity by our standards, but still around 7% of total production! Please act very quickly indeed!

2016 Atlantida Blanco Vino de la Tierra de Cadiz

More about this Wine

I am not one to write lengthy tasting notes filled with flowery descriptions. I tend to think of structure before I do flavours, and I’m often slightly bemused by the modern cult of the celebrity sommelier reeling off 15 different things that they’re smelling in a wine. However, looking back at my free form scribbled notes from when I first tasted this, here are some things I wrote …

“Smells just awesome”
“Intense mineral”
“Pineapple and saffron”
“Oyster Shells”
“Lime zest”
“Honey and salt”
“Lots of texture but mega fresh”
“Mouthwatering and so, so good”

I then wrote one thing that makes sense to me and possibly me only. “Chalk, but nice. Like an oyster in seawater”. To translate that, what I meant was that when I taste an oyster, I feel like I’m somehow tasting the essence of the ocean and seawater. Of course, seawater is unpleasant and not a sensible thing to consume, but somehow with an oyster it has been converted into something outrageously and intensely delicious.

This wine did the same thing to me with ‘chalkiness’. I don’t want to eat chalk, but I could drink buckets of this stuff and it manages to distill everything that I associate with chalk into something ridiculously tasty. I think it’s the combination of minerality and texture that does it. Usually wines described as mineral are light and fresh. This is soft, round, full and smooth (but is still only 12% alcohol), and oozes stoniness and a sense of the sea that for someone like me who grew up almost in the shadow of the famous ‘White Cliffs’ of the south east of England, is an absolutely essential element of what combines to make up my sense of chalk, and the fantasy of what it would taste like if it was delicious.

It’s a rare wine that can do this. Some of the best Chablis that money can buy does it. Top top end vintage Champagne can do it. This does it as well as anything I have ever tasted.

After a few paragraphs of raving about this wine, I should probably do you the courtesy of telling you what it actually is. It’s made by the quite extraordinary winemaker Alberto Orte in the Cadiz region – Sherry country. Here on the famous white Albariza soils, Orte has a project focused on rescuing almost extinct regional grape varieties. For this wine he’s using 100% Vijeriega Blanco, a variety that has apparently not been used in a century or more.

He’s growing it on a single vineyard known as ‘Pago Añina’. Before Alberto got his hands on it, its tendency to produce lower alcohol and higher acidity grapes was being taken advantage of to produce Palomino grapes for Manzanilla and Fino sherry. I was shown this wine when I was in Cadiz by the excellent Spanish importers ‘Olé’, and they’ve given some extra information on the precise terroir …

“The unique albariza soil of this vineyard consists predominantly of chalk and clay, one of the richest raw materials within the vast vineyard of Spain, and suited perfectly for the climatic conditions of Cádiz. This dense soil retains an enormous amount of moisture from the heavy rainfalls (650 liters on average) in autumn and winter and later keeps the vines hydrated during the hot, arid summer months. The southern climate of Jerez is heavily influenced by the wind and by the sea. There are two dominant winds: the Levante and the Poniente, which are fundamental in the final period of grape maturation during the months of August and September when the fresh breeze off the water keeps the grapes cool and hydrated. This is also called the Rocío or Blandura, which is the rotation of the late summer, humid winds coming off the Atlantic that gives the grapes the necessary moisture to finish the maturation process.”

So, it begins to make sense exactly why this wine tastes quite precisely of where it comes from. Bright white chalk soils with winds from the sea and from the inland north are all so very present in the glass. A wine of terroir, of quality, of academic interest, and of brilliance. The best white wine I have discovered this year.

Posted in Daily Flash By Guy Davies