Visiting the spectacular Ribeira Sacra region with Envinate

Alfonso and Roberto

Envinate began with four friends, who met studying wine at university, near Alicante. They decided to form a wine company together, and are now making some of Spain’s most exciting wines, with a focus on Ribeira Sacra and the Canary Islands.

I met with two of them, Alfonso Torrente and Roberto Santana, to look at their Ribeira Sacra project. They were inspired to start Envinate by some of the old vineyards here, which were too small to interest big companies and which were being abandoned as the older generation retired. They bought a 0.75 hectare plot in 2008, and started making wine, as well as consulting. ‘We are not rich people,’ says Roberto, ‘and we had no land. So we started little by little. At the same time they began working in the Canary Islands, where Roberto comes from. They make the wine, and take decisions together.

A film of the visit:

 

We looked around some vineyard plots, which were spectacular. This is one of the most remarkable wine regions of all, with impossibly steep slopes planted through intricate terracing. You can manage the vineyards by walking along these terraces, but you need a good head for heights, and sure footing. The main grape here is Mencia, but typically a vineyard will be 80% Mencia and something else: perhaps Brancellao, or Muraton, or Garnacha Tintorea (the red fleshed Alicante Bouschet). In the Bebei valley, one of the subregions, there’s often a mixed co-planting of red and white grapes, although the law says you can’t ferment them together. Brancellao in particular is very elegant, and Muraton works very well with Mencia.

Envinate make three wines from Ribeira Sacra, plus also another own-label for their US importer, José Pastor. The blend is Aldea, 30% of which is made in concrete, and the rest in barrels. Then there are two single parcel wines: Camino Novo and Seoane.

They use stems almost all the time, and the wines are never green because of them, even though the stems aren’t brown and lignified. Roberto says that it is only when you work them too hard and break them that you get greenness in the wine. He says it is impossible to get ‘ripe’ stems without overripe grapes. ‘You need to work with hands and feet,’ he says. ‘The stems have potassium and so you lose acidity, but the sensation in the wine is fresher.’ The wines are made quite naturally here with the only addition being some sulfur dioxide at bottling.

But all the plots are fermented and aged separately, and we tried through the 2017s in barrel:

  • Aldea, concrete portion: so fresh, vital and pretty, with a bit of nice reduction.
  • Christosende (close to the cellar, high up, west facing, slate with some gneiss, 100% Mencia): lovely definition here; structured but silky.
  • A Curva: 30% non-Menica, fleshy, lively, crunchy and a bit spicy.
  • Monterosso (east-facing, 80-100 years old vines, 85% Mencia): intense, fresh, vivid and well structured. Nice reduction. Tastes fresh but grippy.
  • Alaish (20 year old vines): very reduced nose, firm and a bit grippy, some tar and chocolate notes, very distinctive.
  • Alaish, but one-third each Garnacha Tintorea, Brancellao and Mencia. Powerful, fresh, elegant, nicely fruity, perfumed.
  • Penso: north facing, very old vines. Powerful, zippy and fresh with vivid fruit.
  • Peuquena (a section of Penso): so fresh and vital. Bright, pure and elegant with nice freshness.
  • Navallos (north facing, in front of Camino Novo): this is doing malolactic and is hard to taste, but it has freshness, structure and intensity.
  • Quiroga (east side of the River Sil, a very warm terroir, with lots of different varieties. Sappy and savoury with nice richness and good intensity. Different mouthfeel, with some richness.
  • Rosende (granitic soil): very fresh and light with bright, fine grained fruit. So fresh.
  • Seoane (on the west side of the river Sil): fleshy, ripe, elegant and generous. Has lots of ripeness but it’s balanced.
  • Puntos: (small vineyard next to Camino Novo, 60% Mencia): fresh and fleshy with nice weight and purity. Fresh and well defined.
  • La Espalada (small south-east-facing plot): supple and elegant with lovely purity. Has nice texture and mouthfeel.
  • Camino Novo: has lovely density and purity with raspberry and cherry fruit. Textural, elegant and fine.
  • Brancellao: this is a single variety from Navin. It’s so pretty and fresh with lovely elegant red fruits. Floral and sappy with great definition.
  • Sousón: this is the same variety as Portugal’s Sousão (Vinhão), and it is smoky and reduced with intense, powerful, structured fruit. Vivid.

Then it was time to look at some bottled wine:

A Chingao Vineyards and Envinate Misturado de Abelada 2016 Ribeira Sacra, Spain
This is a collaboration between Envinate and José Pastor, their US importer. It’s made from 100 year old vineyard, with around 35% white grapes in it, and there are no added sulfites. It’s fresh and supple with bright cherries and raspberries, with some crunch. Bright and perfumed, this is floral and delicious, with incredible purity. 95/100

Envinate Lousas Aldea 2016 Ribeira Sacra, Spain
Really perfumed on the nose with a peppery edge to the sweet floral raspberry and cherry fruit. Fresh, floral and vivid on the palate with bright red fruits, subtle pepper notes and some faint traces of meatiness. Good structure and freshness. 94/100

Envinate Lousas Parcelas Camino Novo 2016 Ribeira Sacra, Spain
This has fantastic definition. Pure, quite silky and with nice freshness to the supple raspberry and cherry fruit. Shows amazing texture and finesse, with a seamless quality but also freshness and good acidity. Combines flesh with elegance. 95/100

Envinate Lousas Parcelas Seoane 2015 Ribeira Sacra, Spain
Sappy, taut, slightly reductive nose with some leafiness. Hints of tea, Juicy and crunchy with vivid bright raspberry and red cherry notes, showing good definition. There’s a nice grip, too. Pleasurable and just a little wild. 94/100

UK agent: Indigo Wines

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

1 comment to Visiting the spectacular Ribeira Sacra region with Envinate

  • If the dice were rolled again surely this region could be world-famous amd really quite unexpected in Spain. Am going back in a few weeks – am hoping for some sappy reds, love Merenzao too.

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