Get Schooled On The Best Albariño
A fresh drop of wines from Nanclares y Prieto
The first time I tasted a wine from Alberto Nanclares was one of those "ah-ha" moments for me. I was in a tasting group, studying for an exam to get an overly-expensive sommelier pin (that I ended up throwing out a few years later). I was chin-deep in blind tasting, meeting with my tasting group every other Sunday. I had snatched a bottle of Albariño on the recommendation of a friend at one of my favorite wine shops in Manhattan. Albariño is a high-toned, ocean-influenced Spanish white that found popularity as a Sauvignon Blanc alternative, and I was skeptical that it would impress the tasting group. But she had assured me that, served blind, nobody would guess it was Albariño, because it was too good. She was right.
With beautiful, creamy texture, stony, mineral tones, and gorgeously ripe citrus and stone fruits, this group of intensely competitive wine professionals guessed the Albarino was Premier Cru Chablis from a top producer. In fact, it was Alberto Nanclares' Albariño from 2014. I had never tasted anything like it. I assumed young Albariño was light-bodied, single-noted — and had stomach ache-inducing acidity. Or, worse, it was de-acidified, manipulated into banana-tasting spoof. My first experience with Nanclares flipped that notion on its head.
Needless to say, from that day forward I've been a huge fan of everything Alberto Nanclares has produced. Many of you may be familiar with their basic Albariño called "Dandelion," which was a big hit here a few months ago. The three wines below represent the next tier and showcase the remarkable work being done at Nanclares today. I can't recommend them enough. Unfortunately, yields in 2020 were staggeringly low, so all wines offered have a single bottle limit.
Alberto Nanclare has been pushing the boundaries of winemaking in Rías Baixas since the mid 2000's. Like many of his neighbors, he originally farmed his small 2.5 hectares of vines conventionally. He quickly became disenchanted with the results of these practices in both the finished wines and state of the land around him. By 2007, he had converted his farming to organics (with some Biodynamic practices) and had taken over winemaking operations for his bodega. In 2009, Alberto met Silvia Prieto, a young consultant from Pontevedra who worked with local wineries to move toward organic viticulture traditional winemaking methods without additives. The two struck up a friendship and in 2015 Prieto joined Nanclares as an equal partner in the operation.
Today, the two farm about 5 hectares of Atlantic-influenced vineyards across Rías Baixas, including some parcels with vines over 100 years of age, and work with other like-minded growers to round out their roster. Traditional pergola training of the vines is a central theme of their viticulture, working to temper the sometimes unforgiving humidity of the region. Winemaking is kept intentionally slow: fermentations with natural yeasts, aging done with large barrels, often with extended time on the wines fine lees. There are no additions other than a small amount of sulfur at bottling and only the gentlest of clarification when necessary. Most of the time the wines ferment totally dry, but sometimes they finish with a small amount of residual sugar, and they never prevent malolactic transformation when it rarely occurs; Silvia and Alberto let nature make the decisions.
The end result is some of the most pure and precise white wines I've ever had the pleasure to drink — and one of my most enjoyable journeys from skeptical student to proselytizing tub-thumper.