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Spain’s Côte-Rôtie – The Soaring Slopes of Ribeira Sacra

Sílice Viticultores “Sílice” (Galicia 2016)
Special Price: $156/6-pack (~$26/bottle)

It has long been recognized that the western Spanish region of Ribeira Sacra in Galicia had the potential to create world-class wines. Indeed, thousands of years ago, Romans carved terraces on the steep slopes that rise from the rivers below, well aware that their monumental effort in cultivating vines on these mountainsides would lead to wines of distinction. But it wasn’t until relatively recently that more than a few winemakers were producing anything other than everyday wine for local consumption.

Staring up these vineyard cliffs one might imagine they were in the famous Northern Rhône appellation of Côte-Rôtie. Perhaps that is why today’s Ribeira Sacra is a region where young winemakers are settling in to harness these soaring slopes for the purpose of making great wines.

Sílice Viticultores is a small project started in 2013 by brothers Carlos and Juan Rodríguez with star winemaker Fredi Torres, a native of Galicia who cut his teeth in Priorat working with Clos Mogador before starting his own operation, Saó del Coster. Production is tiny, starting out with a mere 3,800 bottles in their first year. Although the partners do not seek the Ribeira Sacra appellation status for their wines, choosing the freedom to make their own rules, they cultivate indigenous vines using organic and biodynamic methods with the goal of expressing the terroir of Amandi — one of the five subzones of Ribeira Sacra.

These are lively, graceful, cool-climate wines, defined as much by the nearby Atlantic coast as the soils and slopes, with a similar sort of aromatic headiness and balanced ripeness of Northern Rhône. 2016 Sílice is a Mencía-based blend with 20% of other grapes including Albarello, Garnacha Tintorera, Merenzao, and even some white grapes from different vineyards in the Amandi zone, planted on sand, granite, and slate. 70% full clusters saw a relatively short maceration in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts. The wine is then matured in a 17-year-old, 4,000-liter oak foudre purchased in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Only a little over 1,000 cases of the 2016 vintage was produced.

The result is a wine made to drink early and often while still maintaining the complexities of the region. Aromas of sweet cherry, wanton flowers, smoked tea, and loamy earth fill the glass. Ripe fruit is in ideal balance with bright and juicy wild forest berries. The food culture of inland Galicia mainly revolves around pork rather than the seafood that highlights the coastal zones. A bottle of Sílice would be ideal with a quick-grilled tenderloin.

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Posted on 2018.04.11 in Ribeira Sacra, Saturday Sips, Spain DO


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