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Red and White from Spain’s Rare Grapes of Tierra de León

Pardevalles Albarín Blanco (Tierra de León 2014) White
Price: ~16/bottle

Pardevalles Prieto Picudo “Gamonal” (Tierra de León 2012) Red
Price: ~$19/bottle

Third generation vigneron Rafael Alonso is one of the pioneer winemakers of southern León. Viñedos y Bodegas Pardevalles, his family’s vineyards and 300 year old cellars, are situated in northwestern Spain at around 2,400 feet in elevation where the uncommon and indigenous grape varieties Prieto Picudo (red) and Albarín Blanco (white) thrive in the extreme microclimate around the River Esla. Rocky soil, swinging diurnal temperatures and less than 20 inches of annual rainfall combine to create wines of superb ripeness, acidity and balance with highly developed aromatics.

Recently granted official Denominación de Orígen status in 2007, Tierra de León is nevertheless an ancient region that has been cultivated for wine production for centuries. The Alonso family holds around 95 acres there in the high plains, where Quaternary Period soils are covered in rounded stones that absorb the heat of the sun during the day. Similar to the galets roulés of Châteauneuf-du-Pape but at a much higher elevation, these stones help the vines bear the low nighttime temperatures and ensure a long, even ripening.

Pardevalles’ seven acres of Albarín Blanco (about 10% of all vineyards planted to the variety) were developed in 2004 for the purpose of recovering this indigenous grape which was on the edge of extinction. But the wine is far more than a rescue mission for an obscure variety. The Albarín Blanco is an exuberant wine brimming with aromatics of fragrant herbs, mouthfuls of white fruits, and a finish that’s fresh and clean. It’s a wine that delights both the casual drinker and the most discerning gourmand. It’s versatile enough for sipping on the patio or pairing with seafood and poultry dishes. Only 3,180 cases produced.

One of Spain’s most fascinating indigenous varieties, Prieto Pecudo is highly aromatic with fleshy bright fruit and good acidity. Aged for one year in 225 liter neutral oak barrels, you might compare the Pardevalles Gamonal to a Cru Beaujolais from a vintage that achieved full ripeness (and then some). While it’s a joyous wine full of bursting berries up front it shows a more serious side with a concentration and a pure, lengthy finish. With the slightest chill it will pair with myriad grilled foods or a simple plate of cheese and olives. Production is limited to a mere 1,665 cases.

Both wines are ideal for large holiday gatherings or intimate sunsets.

For a delightful travelogue featuring Rafael Alonso and Pardevalles, check out Lawrence Ulrich’s article in the online automotive journalism magazine, The Drive.

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Posted on 2016.06.29 in Saturday Sips, Spain DO, Tierra de Leon


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