When John Radford first published the 'New Spain' in 1998, there were just five bodegas plying their trade in this remote Galician region which dips southwards to the very border of northern Portugal. Today there are twenty-three independent producers and Jose Luis Mateo and his Quinta de Muradella are considered, respectively, the doyen vigneron and the revolutionary winery of the region. Then again, perhaps winery is the wrong term, Quinta de Muradella is a garage project in the truest sense of the word.
The fame of this pioneering vigneron has spread far beyond the borders of Monterrei. In a world where terms like cult, boutique and natural have become marketing speak, Quinta de Muradella is the real deal.
Established in 1992, the D.O Monterrei may be young, but its legacy of winegrowing goes back some 300 years. Having set up shop in 1991, Mateo works with 24 ha of vines spread across Monterrei's three growing districts of Pazo de Monterrei, Oimbra and Tamaguelos. The vineyards are generally tiny, isolated 'hermitic' plots, both in the hills and the flatter lands. These sites had been formerly farmed by the local paysannes and/or abandoned. Scrupulously resuscitated, vine-by-vine, all Muradella vineyards are managed biodynamically (certified organic) and are populated with a cornucopia of indigenous vines - a list far too long to mention here. All new plantings are propagated from massale selection material, in the main from Jose's ‘A Trabe’ mountain vineyard, home to some of Galicia's oldest vines. Soils vary considerably with differing degrees of slate, granite, iron and quartz, as do the altitude and aspect, offering the artistic Mateo, a rich palette with which to work. The wines are either field blends or single-varietal, single vineyard cuvées where the variety has been carefully matched to the appropriate site.
Mateo follows traditional techniques but does not shy away from technological advances when they aid quality. All the wines are whole berry pressed and raised in used Burgundian pieces (228lt), although he is experimenting with larger format oak for some of the cuvees. All ferments are 'wild' and the wines are neither fined nor filtered. There is tremendous poise, purity and character to be found in these unique wines. Moreover, these are some of the most delicious and terroir expressive wines we have tasted from Spain. In a country where wine of elegance and finesse have been hitherto hard to come by, Mateo is heavily courted by the country's most forward thinking sommeliers and wine buyers.
The ‘entry level’ red is called Alanda, a blend of 65% Mencia, 30% Bastardo and 5% Tinta Fin. Alanda Tinto showcases the grapes from the 3 different districts of Monterrei and is therefore symbolic of the Monterrei maco-terroir. There is a red and white from the eponymous 1.2ha “Gorvia” vineyard; situated in the north-western Pazos de Monterrei subzone. Gorvia tinto, an ultra-pure, graceful, Atlantic red of substance and atmosphere, is a field blend of 90% Mencía, 5% Bastardo and 5% Caiño Redondo. Gorvia Blanco is produced entirely from the indigenous, character-rich Doña Blanca. If we thought we were just about getting our heads around the captivating wines of Galicia's high-country regions, then this charismatic white certainly put us back in our place. Amazing booze. The single varietal wines - made from Bastardo, Albarello, Sousón, amongst others are nothing if not a paean to this zealous agronomist's love affair with his region and its local grapes. Do not miss the wines of this remarkable producer.