Spanish Wine Week at ELY

It being Spanish Wine Week, we thought we’d take this opportunity to introduce you to some of our favourite producers, and first up is Zarate from Rias Baixas in northwest Spain.

Situated in Val do Salnes, one of the 5 sub-zones in Rias Baixas, Zarate are arguably the most historically important winery in the region, responsible not just for propelling the popularity of Albarino to its current heights, but also for constantly increasing the quality of the wines produced. By continually raising their own standards, they have forced others to do the same, to the benefit of the region and its primary grape variety.

The history of the winery dates back to 1707, but its current form took shape in the 1920’s under the guidance of Ernesto Zarate, and today the winery is run by his grandson Eulogio Pomares, internationally recognised as a -if not the – leading authority on the Albarino grape. Eulogio didn’t change too much in terms of winemaking, the Zarate style has always been about the fresher, more focused side of Albarino. But he did invest his time and energy into the vineyards, converting everything initially to organic, and now to what he describes as “natural care”. No chemicals or unnatural fertilizers, he uses ground sea shells to provide the vineyard with minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and seaweed as compost.

It’s fair to say that Zarate’s wines have little in common with much of what passes for Albarino these days. Where some commercial styles of Albarino can seem overly ripe and tropical, Zarate’s wines are just the opposite – precise, mineral and taut, drawing on the salty character of the Atlantic coast to give the wines a remarkable freshness and sapidity. From the Zarate Albarino through to the single vineyard and old vine wines, they have more in common with the great acid and mineral dominated whites – Chablis, Pouilly Fume, great German Riesling -than they do with other wines from the same variety.

We were initially drawn in by the Albarino, such an incredibly refreshing glass of wine with its citrus fruit and salty tang, like the wine equivalent of a sea breeze. We expanded our range to include Tras da Vina, a more serious version of the original Albarino, but grown on granite soils. We couldn’t resist Balado – from a tiny single vineyard with 60-year-old vines that dials the intensity levels up to 12, but with an added richness from lees ageing. And we have corkscrews at the ready in anticipation of the arrival of El Palomar– another tiny old single vineyard, but one that receives some time in oak, combining that Atlantic freshness with a toasty creaminess.

Zarate are one of only two wineries in this region that produce reds, and we’ve got three of them, each more interesting and unusual than the last. Caiño Tinto is one of three indigenous varieties of the region, and the only red under the Zarate label. It is medium bodied and gloriously fruity, gently supported by subtle oak and has a wonderfully grippy, tart finish.  Under the Eulogio Pomares Parcellarios label he produces two remarkable reds in very limited supply. Penapedre is from Ribeira Sacra, a blend of Mencia, Garnacha and a splash of Palomino Fino. Deeply coloured and beautifully scented, it evokes wild herbs and violets, berries and spice. Finally, Espadeiro – another local, indigenous variety that was in danger of disappearing completely. Light in colour and in body, delicately perfumed with red berry, pepper and hint of vanilla, this wine explodes to life on the palate, with a searing streak of minerality that the winemaker describes as “like an electric shock from a granite rock”!

How could you not want to drink that?
Especially during Spanish Wine Week!

*Offers available online and in-store until Sunday October 18th 2020.