Wines need to ‘undress to reveal themselves’

Bierzo based Raul Perez has revealed his winemaking approach has changed and he now seeks to make more naked, honest wines via subtle oak treatment.

Speaking to the drinks business during a recent visit to his bodega in Bierzo, Perez said: “To begin with I was seeking power and concentration from my wines, now I’m looking for coolness, freshness and lower alcohol – my thinking and approach has changed.

“I think tastes are changing and winemakers are starting making wines they really want to drink.

“The worst thing you can do with wine is to search for things from it – then you end up adding things to it rather than letting it express its natural character.

“I don’t like using new oak. Wines in barrel are too closed – they need to undress themselves in order to reveal themselves. I can never tell how they’ll turn out. The only thing I ask from my wines is that they’re good and they make people happy.”

Born into a winemaking family, Perez has been making wine at his family estate, Castro Ventosa, since his teenage years but recently branched out on his own.

Perez works organically with 11 small parcels of vines across two hectares in Bierzo and recently bought an abandoned parcel of Mencía with the aim of reviving it.

He has been working on a dry white field blend aged for four years under flor and is also working on a skin contact white aged in amphora. Going against the grain, Perez prefers to age his whites longer in oak than his reds.

“Bierzo is like Burgundy in that is has 5,000 hectares spread across 7,000 plots. In the past the co-ops promoted Palomino in Bierzo but in my opinion it’s not worth harvesting here as the character of the grape is so neural,” Perez told db.

“I don’t need to treat my grapes as the wind that flows through the region dries them quickly. I have more trouble with wild boars and rabbits eating the grapes,” he admitted.

Perez makes two barrels of Pinot Noir from Bierzo a year as he loves the variety. Outside of Bierzo he makes small amounts of Prieto Picudo in Tierra de León.

He recently released an under water aged Albariño from Rías Baixas called Sketch though told db that the time under water had no effect on the aroma or flavour of the wine.

Perez is also working on a project with Douro Valley-based Dirk Niepoort, another in the Swartland in South Africa and yet another in Bordeaux’s Côtes de Blaye.

Just 125 cases of his Vico Mencía, made in the town of Valtuille de Abajo from dry farmed old vines, are produced every year. His wines are imported into the UK through Indigo Wines.

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