2018 Bodegas y Vinedos Raul Perez, Ultreia, Saint Jacques, Valtuille de Abajo, Bierzo DO, Spain.
Raul Perez’s 2018 Ultreia Mencia based Saint Jacques from the Beizo region of Spain is wonderfully fresh and vibrant, perfect with a big bowl of spicy steamed mussels and pomme frites, showing bright dark berry fruits, nice acidity and mineral notes. I am a big fan of this bottling, which is juicy and easy to enjoy in its youth, somewhere between a Cru Beaujolais and a Crozes-Hermitage in style with blackberry, dark cherry and plum fruits along with a hint of dried flowers, cinnamon, anise and chalky stones. Some of the bigger wines from this area can take on a more dense, Cab Franc like character, but Perez’s wines are less heavy and give a more authentic Mencia profile with some rustic edges, but with an over abundance of charm. These Raul Perez wines, all made from organic grapes, are stylish efforts that showcase this region’s soils and climate, which is moderate and continental, a bit drier and warmer than the more coastal Ribeira Sacra and with more limestone and clay that gives the rich textural and deeper flavors. This medium bodied wine has loads of energy and fine tannins, making it wonderful with all kinds of foods, though it goes gracefully or better with more simple dishes, it is a nice companion to a range of hard cheeses, like Basque Idiazábal and or aged Manchego.

As noted in my prior reviews, the Raul Perez Ultreia Saint Jacques (mostly old vine Mencia) is multi vineyard old vine field blend style red from Bierzo’s Valtuille zone comes from vineyard plots ranging in age from 80 to 120 years old shows Mencia in a richer form than say the Ribeira Sacra, but includes inter-planted other varietals, including a small bit of Bastardo (believed to be Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet). As noted in my reviews and from what Perez has noted, he uses lots of whole bunches that keeps things well balanced and the fruit is contrasted by earthy, savory notes, bright spices and (crunchy) mineral elements. Raul Perez is a grand master of Mencia and the godfather of the Bierzo region with a huge impact on how this wine is seen world wide, clearly defining what it is and should be. His influence and generous guidance to young winemakers has launched a whole generation of Spanish talents with many on their way to super stardom. This Ulteia Saint Jacques is one of Perez’s entry level bottlings, but you’d be hard pressed to find anything lacking here, though his upper end cru stuff is out of this world. The Saint Jacques was about 80% whole cluster and fermented with indigenous yeasts in large wooden vats with maceration(s) lasting between two and five months, which is a long cool period, which adds to the dimension in this beautiful Tinto. The wine, after primary is then rack to an assortment of vessels to age with a combination of French casks including 225L, 500L, foudre and with some of the wine seeing its elevage in cement cuve, after which the Saint Jacques was bottled unfined and unfiltered. This vintage seems a touch lighter than the 2015, 2016 and 2017, but has a elegant roundness that is highly compelling, I recommend enjoying over the next 2 to 3 years.
($24 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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