D.O. Monterrei – Lobarzán & Ladairo

Let us focus on a specific wine region; DO Monterrei, located in Northwestern Spain just across the border from Portugal. Granted D.O. status only in 1994, Monterrei is home to hot weather and deep red clay soil. Small family wineries, not big industrial producers, are the norm in this diminutive region. Just 20 wineries operate here, making wine from 1700 acres of vineyard land. This little known area is usually thought of (when it is thought of at all) as a source of fresh white wines made from Godello and Treixadura grapes. The red wines are less well known, but share much in common with reds from neighboring DO Bierzo and DO Ribeira Sacra. The Mencía grape is the predominant red variety here and most of the wines are fermented in tank, forgoing the barrel ageing regimens so common in other parts of Spain.
We are focused on red wines from Monterrei because they offer a different perspective on Spanish wine. Lighter in tone than the wines from the rocky, arid heartland, the wines from Northwestern Spain have a lean purity and (often, though not always) a moderate level of alcohol that is refreshing in these days of big, bold reds. I find similarities here to the reds of the Loire valley in France (another region known mostly for its white wines), with firm minerality, tart fruit character and quirky individuality.
Castro de Lobarzán is a small family winery located in the home of José Fernández Feijóo (3rd generation winemaker) near the small town of Vilaza. He and his family personally work 11 acres of vineyard land to grow the fruit for their wines. The small winery, located in what amounts to a large garage adjacent to the family home, produces both a white Godello/Treixadura blend as well as a red that combines Mencía with the local clone of Tempranillo called Arauxa (ar-ow-sha). Lobarzán Tinto 2006 is a fifty-fifty blend of Mencía and Arauxa, aged briefly in tank before bottling (no room for oak barrels in the family garage/winery). A few years of bottle age has mellowed this wine a bit from its original firmly flinty incarnation. The twiggy/leafy character of Mencía adds contrast to the cherry/berry fruit of the Arauxa, while a bit of loamy funk can be found lurking in the background here. When first released last year this was a $20 +/- wine, but the world is not yet clamoring for DO Monterrei reds so the importer José Pastor made us a deal on the remaining stock. We are selling the rest of the vintage (not much of it left) at $11.99.
Adegas Ladairo (‘Bodega’ becomes ‘Adega’ in Galicia) was founded in 1984 by Jose Luiz Vaz Vilela in O Rosal (not to be confused with the coastal town of the same name) near Oimbra in DO Monterrei. Ladairo Mencía 2007 is a monovarietal wine that is fermented in tank (they do a barrel aged version as well). This light bodied red displays tart cranberry fruit character and earthy minerality. A bit closed at first, the wine expresses its full nature with a quick decantation. This simple, young wine will find a good match with lighter meals such as rice or pasta where meat is not at the center of the plate. Originally priced around $17, this too comes from Jose Pastor at a special reduced price of $9.99

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