We’ve been telling the Raul Perez story for a while now. If you haven’t heard it, think of it as one of those ‘local guy makes good’ as long as that locale is northwestern Spain. The Raul Perez ‘legend’ has grown over the years and, thanks to some ‘market changes’, the prices have come down a bit. Meanwhile Raul is making some of the best wines he has ever made. If it all sounds like a pretty advantageous situation for consumers, it is!
While his portfolio is chock full of stunning examples made from the native grape of Bierzo, Mencia, some difficult to tell apart because the label nomenclature is so similar, we have chosen to focus on his entry-level bottling called Ultreia. Why? Well it might be one of the most amazing red wine values in Spain, if not the world.
Raul has been working at a high level for quite a while now and certainly the raw materials play a part in the wine’s success. The Mencia grapes for this cuvee are grown in clay soils in the village of Valtuille de Abajo and were harvested from vines that were planted between 1900 and 1940. The Raul Perez Bierzo Ultreia St. Jacques 2015, which we sold last year, was the wine that gave Raul a spotlight like none of his previous, brilliant efforts ever had.
The 2015 vintage was perfect for Raul’s style. The flavors ranged from ripe cranberry to dark cherry. Weight-wise this Mencia plays like a hefty Pinot from the Santa Lucia Highlands flavor-wise, but with more florality to the nose, more lift and freshness to the palate, and striking harmony. Sometimes Mencia can be a little inward and unyielding at first, but there is none of that here! This is a beautifully proportioned and surprisingly sophisticated red for the fare.
It got plenty of attention from the critics including 93 points from Luis Gutierrez of Wine Advocate with comments, “…The 2015 Ultreia St Jacques …is amazingly good for the price. Produced from old vines, this is a serious wine, with juicy fruit, a fine palate and good freshness…”. James Suckling tossed a 91 on that ’15 saying, ” …Cherry and floral accents sing through the finish. Energetic…”
We finished our comments on that at the time by saying, “We are sure there are more reviews to come but we suspect they will arrive a little late.” Sure enough, the Wine Spectator came along and not only gave it a 91 point score but included it in the Wine Spectator Top 100 (#51) for 2017.
We’re reminding you of all of that to tell you this. The Raul Perez Bierzo Ultreia St. Jacques 2016 just hit the floor and it is another striking effort. Plenty of explosive red and black fruits in the mid-palate, maybe a touch less fleshy at the moment but with tremendous drive through the back palate, this is quite aristocratic for something in this price range. We’re finding that 2016 is making its own mark in Spain as a vintage.
Once again the wine features mostly Mencia, with touches of other indigenous varietals Bastardo (Trousseau) and Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet). This wine was done via 80% whole cluster fermentation in large oak vats then aged in a variety of vessels from 225L and 500L barrels to upright vats to cement. It is bottled unfiltered and unfined. Expressive and attention-getting, with a slightly cooler edge, it is once again an incredibly impressive beverage for a modest fare comfortably under $20 ($17.98).
We haven’t seen any press yet (3/12/2018) but given the performance here, and Raul’s recent track record, we are pretty confident there will be plenty. We love the stuff. Meanwhile we have ours, get yours.