I was really quite taken by this Spanish white wine because of how different it is from those done in stainless steel with NO malolactic fermentation, resulting in pure, fresh, riveting white wines so commonly seen in the marketplace, especially in the Albariño/Rías Baixas category. Furthermore, it is also thankfully vey different from other renditions which seek more ripeness levels/longer hang time, BUT are often quite alcoholic with a bitterness to the finish. Yes, this rendition is thankfully & respectfully very different from the “pack”, on either side. We love its innate minerality, sublime texture/viscosity, salinity & “quiet” vinosity. I liked it more & more after each taste, to the point where I thought it was a true standout! Yes, a whole ‘nother level on what Spanish Albariño (or any other white wine) could be.
Atalier is a project between winemaking phenom Raúl Pérez & his long time friend/collaborator Rodri Méndez of the Forjas del Salnés estate in the Val do Salnés subzone (which is generally regarded as the ancestral Spanish home to Albariño). Rodri, for this project, garnered grapes from 3 different parcels, each in predominately sandy soils & each less than 1 kilometer from the sea. These ancient, ungrafted, pre-phylloxera (150 to 160 years old) vines are heirloom treasures & provide the true character & soul of this wine.
A consideration when trying to better understand this wine is how it came to be. Many Albariño (& white wine grape varieties in general) producers, harvest early (to retain acidity & what they say/think is “minerality” & result in lower alcohol levels in the finished wine). Unlike their counterparts of the appellation, these grapes are left on the vines for up to 2 to 3 weeks longer, depending on the weather, giving them much more hang time & physiological development without any raisining or over ripeness. This allows the grapes to have less malic acidity to deal with, gives the juice more complexity, weight & viscosity, while still finishing at roughly around 13% alcohol naturally.
Secondly, in many other cases, a wine’s freshness & refreshingness can be maintained/maximized by long, cool fermentations, especially in stainless steel tanks. Think about how many fresh, exuberant, vivacious white wines are on the store shelves today. (Absolutely nothing wrong with that by the way.)
Raúl Pérez, in comparison, ferments & ages this wine in large, neutral oak foudres, which in my opinion, frames the wine & gives it more texture, roundness & mouthfeel amongst other sought after attributes….WITHOUT the wine being oaky to the smell or taste.
While many others do similar approaches, somehow, there is a special magic to this wine, one I find so compelling. It really is an example of what can be–physiological maturity, minerality, vinosity, balance, texture, character all at roughly 13 degrees alcohol. It is one of those wines that makes me think of what it possible & hopefully others will be inspired too & use it as a springboard moving forward.
Furthermore, I was also really amazed after tasting it, & seeing the price tag, which I find even more utterly remarkable! Bravo!!!!!