We love the wines of Raul Perez, not only because they walk the appetizing line between fruity and savory, but because they are like impressionist landscapes of their home. Over the last 15 years Raul Perez has gained a strong following because of his prolific 'vinography', including wines that explore the growing areas near his hometown of Valtuille de Abajo in the region of Bierzo. Bierzo is a departure from the inland valleys and Mediterranean coast as it's distinctly cooler and wetter due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, though well protected from storms, nestled in a mountainous amphitheater. Naturally, distinct varieties of grapes thrive here, dominated by Mencia for red wines, whose style roams the spaces between Cote de Nuits Pinot Noir, Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, and Northern Rhone Syrah depending on the character of the vintage and site.
Mr. Perez's winemaking philosophy is very classical, involving harvesting from old, mixed variety vineyards in which he practices organic farming, with native yeast fermentations that proceed leisurely as the whole grape clusters slowly break down; he then leaves the juice in contact with skins for long periods (a total of 1-3 months!) to gently extract the right amount of flavor and texture for the desired style. Aging takes place in older, used barrels that provide slow oxygenation without covering those carefully developed flavors with oak. Raul also avoids adding sulfites, a risky choice in winemaking, but for him it's a requirement.
This flagship wine is made from a single vineyard, 'Las Villegas', planted at the end of the 1800s. This is the darkest and richest of the wines, with black fruits and tobacco, showing oak influence through its woody & cocoa aromas, and herbal-balsam notes that he describes as reminiscent of an apothecary. With the 2016 vintage the Wine Advocate points out that "the grapes are a lot more concentrated, with more tannin and structure," but that the wine still “has great freshness and perfume...It's really outstanding." This is the wine to age if you're so inclined!"
WINE ADVOCATE 96+ POINTS - "There are only 1,000 bottles of the 2016 Ultreia Valtuille (the new name, as all labels have been simplified and cleaned up, and some of the names have even been shortened). The crop was greatly reduced because of mildew, and the grapes are a lot more concentrated, with more tannin and structure, and they had to do a much longer élevage, up to 24 months in barrique. Despite its concentration and power, it has great freshness and perfume. You don't find excess tannin, and it seems like the time in barrel has really polished the edges. It's really outstanding."
Ultreia de Valtuilleis a red wine of very limited production, its first vintage held great international acclaim. "Ultreia" was the greeting that formerly used by pilgrims who were on the road to Santiago. It is a Latin word which today would translate as "forward" or "continue". Ultreia de Valtuille is a single variety of Mencia old variety made with grapes from a single farm, "The Villegas" located in the small town of Valtuille. It is an estate of just over 1 hectare of old vines, planted in 1908, on a calcareous clay soil with lots of sand on the surface. It is located at 530 metres above sea level and has an Atlantic-continental climate, which is cold yet with a relatively moderate climate as it is an area located halfway between the land and the coast. The wine production is done without much intervention. Fermentation takes place in vats. After the fermentation, there is a long maceration and extraction. Ultreia de Valtuille spends 14-15 months aging in French oak barrels used for wine. Once matured, it is bottled without filtering or clarification. Raúl Pérez is a connoisseur of the Mencia variety, with Ultreia de Valtuille one of his masterpieces.