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Wines of Terras Gauda, Spain

by Tom Cannavan, 2012

Though formed only in 1989, the company Terras Gauda has developed a worldwide reputation for the quality of its wines, particularly those from the Rías Baixas region of Galicia in northwest Spain. Founder José María Fonseca, inspired by the region's 'upgrading' to full DO status in 1988, focused on the Albariño grape. From the outset the company pursued excellence in its vine material, establishing an experimental site with 115 Albariño clones, studying their growth and quality and carrying out individual micro-vinifications to establish the ideal clones for their soils, the programme not being concluded until 2005.


The company's vineyards and winery lie in the O Rosal Valley on the banks of the Miño River (above). This is an area of mild temperatures with an annual average of 15ºC, very little frost and abundant rainfall. Albariño is not the only variety however, as other indigenous varieties including Loureira and Caiño Blanco are also grown and blended in some of their Rías Baixas bottlings. The latter grape is particularly interesting as it is an ancient variety 'recovered' by Terras Gauda's research team and now the basis of their premium 'La Mar' bottling.

bottles Terras Gauda also owns a second winery called Pittacum in the nearby Bierzo region - currently a very hot property with many wine lovers discovering the excellent red wines from the Mencia grape and white wines from the Godello grape, that are the signatures of the Bierzo region. Pittacum has its own vineyard and has others under contract, but uses only old vines (50- to 80-year-old) and red wines made from Mencia is their main focus. The company has recently completed the acquisition of a third wine estate, Quinta Sardonia, on the border of Ribera del Duero in Castillo y León.

Terras Gauda recently sent me a selection of their Rías Baixas, Bierzo and Castillo y León wines to taste, including the new 'La Prohibición' from Bierzo, made from Garnacha Tintorera, a grape with a long tradition in the region.

white wines

Terras Gauda, Rías Baixas O Rosal 2011, Spain
The flagship of the Terras Gauda range is 70% Albariño, with 20% Loureira and 10% Caiño Blanco, late-harvested from selected vineyard plots and vinified in stainless steel using natural yeasts. It is always such a striking wine, with its abundant fruit on the nose suggesting ripe nectarine flesh and melon skins, and saline hints of minerals. On the palate this is crammed with flavour: some almond and honey softens the lemony acidity, but the mid-palate weight of crunchy, ripe fruit is the driving force. A beautifully fruity and balanced wine, and such a good match to seafood and white fish. 90/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Terras Gauda, Abadía De San Campio Rías Baixas 2011, Spain
This cuvée is 100% Albariño, picked in early October. It has a bright, fruity nose with a touch of pear drop, but then a more interesting peach and nectarine fruit character though a little less of the mineral and grippy fruit-skin character of the O Rosal. Fresh and tangy on the palate, it suggests big yellow apples, waxy lemons and grapefruit, with a little bit of phenolic grip but a clean, very fresh finish. 89/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Terras Gauda, La Mar Rías Baixas 2010, Spain
Only 7,000 bottles of this new wine were released, a 12.5% alcohol blend that is mostly Caiño Blanco with some Albariño and Loureira. This is a 2010 vintage, but the colour is slightly deeper and the nose richer, more honeyed and slightly creamy. There are very delicate floral notes and crisp apple fruit, but it seems to have a mealy, almond undertone. On the palate the fruit is beautifully sweet and ripe; there's an orange and lime brightness, but the sweeter and very juicy stone fruit notes are delicious into a long, very fine finish with balanced acidity. 91/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

red wines

Quinta Sardonia, Red Wine 2007, Spain
This Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León is a blend of 52% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, matured for 18 months in French oak. There's a deep pool of damson plum and blackcurrant fruit on the nose, a real sense of ripeness even a touch of over-ripeness. On the palate this is big, rich, and deeply filled with those deluxe black fruit flavours, all smoothed by a little vanilla and bittersweet twist of plum skins and liquorice. A huge wine, the alcohol (15% ABV), oak and velvety abundance of fruit are undeniably luxurious and impressive, but it perhaps lacks a little sense of place. An 'international' style and delicious without doubt, I could quite understand others giving a higher score, but for me: 90/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Pittacum, Mencia 2007, Spain
The 50- to 80-year-old Mencia for Pittacum is estate-grown, with vineyards spread over the rich alluvial soils of the valley floor and chalky soils of the hillsides. It is aged for eight months in a combination of French and American oak barrels. There are hints of exotic spices and kirsch on the nose of this wine, just lifting the solidity of the plummy black fruit. On the palate and abundant sweetness of fruit impresses, then this quite quickly becomes savoury and richly chewy, with a thick tannic structure, sinewy spices, oak and dark, quite pruney notes to the fruit. 89/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Pittacum, Aurea 2007, Spain
Only 900 cases are produced from a single vineyard of 70-year-old Mencia, with 14 months of ageing in French oak. Roasted, dark fruit notes also show a hint of clove and of woodland briar. There's a tiny floral note too. On the palate this seems a little fresher than the straight Mencia, with more of an edge, a little more energy in the mouth. It has a sweet, plump, plummy core and hints of chocolate, before a more refined finish. Possibly a touch too much oak for me, but very good indeed. 91/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Terras Gauda
arretera Tui - A Guarda, km 55
36760 O Rosal
Pontevedra
Spain.
Tel.: 00 34 986 621 001
e-mail: terrasgauda@terrasgauda.com