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.
La Vizcaína is a newer line of wines based on old family vineyards, and the small 'La Vitoriana' vineyard is the oldest of those at 130 years! A step up in richness and complexity, with more mineral, spice and roasted notes from barrel aging.
WINE ADVOCATE 97 POINTS - "This 2018 La Vizcaína La Vitoriana includes vines that were replanted in 2014/2015 with Bastardo (Merenzao or Trousseau), so the wine is more aromatic, more ethereal, perfumed and elegant, really impressive. This is the most aromatic and impressive; there is a conjunction of everything, the north-facing vineyards. It has impressive depth and expressiveness; it's wild but refined, explosive and more Burgundian than any of the la Vizcaína wines. This has character and attitude, light, power, energy, freshness and symmetry; it has a fine thread, lace-like, really impressive. In my head, Tom Jones started singing his famous song "Sex bomb, sex bomb..." This is an incredible wine at an incredible price point. 5,800 bottles produced. It was bottled in May 2020, only five weeks before I tasted it, and the wine felt relaxed and expressive. Things can only get better with a little more time in bottle. This could very well be the finest vineyard from the project. It's a small paraje, and there are only six owners (Castro Ventosa, Vinos Valtuille and two or three small grape growers); there is a part that is abandoned, and part of it is also south facing. The whole cru could be between three and four hectares."