These weeks leading into the holidays have us thinking about the affordable and refreshing wines that work so well with the great variety and abundance of food on the table during gatherings of friends and family.
Uva de Vida “Latitud 40” (Vino de la Tierra de Castilla 2015)
Special 6-pack Price: $124 (~$21/bottle)
When the wife-and-husband team of Carmen López and Luis Ruiz began the Uva de Vida project in 2005 their intention was merely to be farmers and cultivate vineyards without the use of synthetic chemicals that they could sell at a better price than the typical cooperative producer. They almost immediately discovered that buyers weren’t all that interested in higher quality grapes so the couple decided to produce the wine themselves.
But when Carmen was diagnosed with a severe illness the family’s philosophy took a further turn. Struggling with the ravaging effects of chemotherapy she decided that she would try and establish a harmony with nature by using strict biodynamic viticultural practices both in the vineyards and the cellars. Indeed, Uva de Vida is one of just a few Spanish winemakers belonging to the group Renaissance des Appellations, the prestigious association of biodynamic producers chaired by Nicolas Joly, one of the pioneers of the biodynamic movement in the Loire Valley of France.
The couple own 33 acres of vines planted at 1,600 feet of altitude in the clay-based soils near the tiny village of Santa Olalla in the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha, just up the road from the city of Toledo. Uva de Vida employs minimal intervention techniques from start to finish. The fruit is collected by hand in small boxes to keep it intact until fermentation is started spontaneously with indigenous yeasts. Aging for the “Latitud 40” is completed in stainless steel vats before bottling without fining, filtering, or the addition of sulfites. The risk a winemaker runs with this type of minimal intervention is that the wines can show aromatic and flavor characteristics that have nothing to do with the terroir and everything to do with bacteria in the cellar. That is certainly not the case at Uva de Vida.
They have harnessed the soul of the land to produce wines of purity, brilliance and energy, expressing the native grape of Graciano, a key variety of the Gran Reservas in Rioja that contributes higher aromatics and brightness. 100% Graciano and nearly opaque deep red, a glass of “Latitud 40” radiates aromas of cherry fruit leather, dark chocolate, herbs, and salty, sun-baked earth. These heady scents merge seamlessly into a mid-weight sip of blackcurrant fruit with a long and juicy finish. Only 3,300 cases produced.