Tiny Production, Incredible Quality: Grand Cru Alvarinho with Chablis-challenging Intensity of Mineral
Posted on: 10/12/18 12:00 PM
This is another extraordinary find from my Iberian trip in August, this one made in small enough production that it is released only in three packs. At the time of tasting, forty of these packs were available for the United States, so we bought all of them. That equates to about 25% of total production but is still a tiny amount to go around. This is breathtakingly good, do not miss it.
It’s one where I think it’s worth referring to my scribbled shorthand notes made in the winery. Sometimes I think these say more about a wine than a polished note from a critic that describes how a wine starts with flavors of this, then turns into this and finishes with this. We all taste things in different ways and I like showing what I was feeling in the moment for a wine like this.
2016 Luis Seabra, Granito Cru Alvarinho
Amazing nose- lots of depth but so clean, focused. Opens up in the mouth and is quite full bodied but incredibly mineral too. Packed full of stones, salt and stone fruit. Massive long finish. Awesome. Buy buy buy!
More about the Wine:
While Luis Seabra may be a new name to many of you, like me you may be more familiar with his work prior to starting his own winery in 2012. Up until this point, he was the head winemaker for the legendary Dirk Niepoort at Niepoort, one of Portugal’s greatest producers of any kind.
Seabra’s own vineyards are located in the Douro’s coolest zone of Vinho Verde, best known for the light, pale, gently fizzy and usually fairly uninteresting but pleasant wines of the same name. His ambitious mission is to redefine what the Douro is capable of, while the Ports and big heavy reds are justly well regarded and loved by Seabra, it is also one of the most remarkable and complex wine regions on Earth, and he is determined to show the world some of the ‘other’ faces of the Douro.
The granite soil of this particular part of the valley is the birthplace of Alvarinho, and as far as I’m concerned Luis Seabra seems to be a man capable of taking the variety to new heights. Like all the best winemakers I know, from talking to him it’s obvious that his passion is not in fact for wine ‘making’ but for exploring different terroirs and grape varieties, and finding ways to let them express themselves without too much intervention from anyone. Spontaneous fermentation with no added sulfur or maceration, wild natural yeasts, and both fermentation and aging taking place in very large (1000 and 2000 liters) oval oak vats. This gives no direct oak influence on the wine, but allows it space and air to soften and gain complexity.
All of this ‘low intervention’ winemaking sounds easy, like you can just step make and let the wine make itself. The funny and fascinating thing though is that in the wrong hands it can be absolutely disastrous. I could fill a book with all the ‘natural’ wines I’ve tasted that I would instead describe as ‘faulty’. However, somehow a genius like Luis Seabra managed to oversee this process in a way that means the end result is packed full of character, but 100% crystal clean, pure, pristine. This is where Art and Science combine to come together in wine to create something that is beyond explanation, and as far as I am concerned, pure perfection.
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