2017 Laura Lorenzo-Daterra Viticultores, Camino de la Frontera, Vino Tinto, Ribeira Sacra, Spain.
The 2017 Camino de la Frontera, Mouratón based, Vino Tinto by Laura Lorenzo is a bright, lightly perfumed and savory red with a wild array of flavors in a medium bodied wine that has great sweet and umami play and a nice dark hue in the glass that reminds me of Crozes-Hermitage mixed with a Morgon, it’s an exciting vintage that is already drinking exceptionally well. There is a growing mystic around Laura Lorenzo and her wines, and there is an undeniable terroir driven greatness to be found in them, she has without question brought the world’s attention to her little patch of each made up of steep granite and slate hillsides of the Quiroga-Bibei terruño. Laura is a fascinating character in this old and historic region of Spain, standing over 6 feet tall and previously of dreadlocks she towers over most Galicians and making her work even more backbreaking than it is for us shorter people while working these ancient vines, she has become as iconic to Bibei as Raul Perez is to the Briezo! Laura Lorenzo always had an interest and love for wine, she even started enology school at 16, then after graduation, as noted by her importer Jose Pastor, she worked at the nearby Adega Cachín, but the world of wine called out to her and she then went overseas, first with the famed Eben Sadie in South Africa, who’s natural wines are some of the greatest in the world and she went Achaval Ferrer in Argentina, another elite producer that crafts gorgeous Mendoza wines that rival top Bordeaux. After her various apprenticeships, Laura took over the reins at Dominio do Bibei, a pioneering producer of fine wine in the Quiroga-Bibei subzone of Ribeira Sacra, and here she made a name for herself and the area with a string of outstanding offerings, before leaving to make her own label and exploring her own path. In 2014, after her last harvest at Dominio do Bibei, she and her partner Alvaro Dominguez, an artist and chef, formed Daterra Viticultores, and the rest they say is history, with her 2014, 2015 and 2016 wines making a big splash in the natural wine world and gaining her fame by even the most serious of wine critics. I have followed her wines since her time at Domino do Bibei and they are some of my absolute favorites, so I was thrilled to get a few of her new 2017’s to explore and review here, though I honestly buy these purely for my own love of them, they are such thrilling examples and expression of place, I find them impossible to resist.
While usually we think of Mencia when we think of the Ribeira Sacra, the 2017 Daterra Vino Tinto Camino de la Frontera is a field blend coming from Val do Bibei sub zone, and intriguingly is comprised of 70% Juan García, 15% Tempranillo, 5% Bobal, 3% Rufete, surprisingly only 2% Mencia, and 5% Bastardo (which may be Trousseau) grapes. Juan García is also known as Mouratón, a very little known varietal usually used as a blending grape and rarely featured in a high percentage, it can be found mostly around the Arribes area (as in this one), though it is also in the Salamanca area of Spain. Because of the close proximity to Portugal and also that this area was inhabited by the wine obsessed Romans there are many differing grapes here in Galicia and sometimes the Ribeira Sacra with it’s remoteness can feel like a place where time stood still, it is close to a miracle that these isolated river valleys have a thriving wine community in the modern world, it is almost heroic. The Val do Bibei is at the confluence of the cool Atlantic and the Continental climate with this wine having more of the warmth and influenced by the sandy granite loams all highlighted here in Laura’s Camino de la Frontera, which comes from a high elevation parcel with a northwest exposure that helped, during this warm dry year, by keeping things fresh, while the tannins are ripe and juicy. Lorenzo used 50% de-Stemmed grapes, while 50% whole foot stomped whole cluster employing 100% natural yeast fermentation with a 14 day maceration, after which she aged this vintage in a new 2,000 liter French Foudre and a couple of well used 500 Liter barrels for close to a year before bottling unfined and unfiltered. The 2017 shows more zip and crunchiness than the 2015 or 2016’s I had from Lorenzo and the purity of fruit is impressive with layers of blackberry, blueberry, cranberry, cherry and tart currant along with loads of mineral, crushed quartz, rose oil, minty herb, walnut, earthy tones and Moro orange. This wine benefits from cuisine that matches its lifting savoriness and vibrant acids and is lovely with a slight chill on it, drink Lorenzo’s Camino de la Frontera over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive