Terra Brava - 2017 Ribera Sacra, Lagar de Breo
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Inside the Bottle: Lagar do Breo is made with 95% Caiño Longo, an indigenous grape varietal specific to this area of the Iberian Peninsula that has caught our full attention—and perhaps soon the wine world’s attention. It can be freakishly acidic for a red wine, but it also delivers a full range of complexities that are undeniably unique and noble. This must be the most overlooked mega-talent in the list of the world’s top noble and unique grapes, at least from what I’ve tasted. To me, it seems so far above the cut of red grapes I’ve tasted in Galicia that I’d be willing to bet it will become a bit of a cult varietal given that it’s rare and often blended with other grapes to curb its enthusiasm.
I guess one could criticize Caiño Longo for not being so subtle in palate feel, but the wine as a whole can be layered with a tremendous range of complexity that would stand tall next to the world’s best. The first taste of every bottle will definitely get your attention, much like the first time you may have tasted a white wine from the hills of Brézé, in France’s Loire Valley. There is some kind of rage inside Caiño Longo and its naturally high acidity hums like an overhead power line. From what I’ve tasted thus far from Galicia (which admittedly is not much compared to other importers who have been working in these parts much longer), the fruit character of Caiño Longo wines seem to veer toward the red spectrum (apparently, its close relatives, Caiño da Terra and Caiño Redondo, from the neighboring region, Rias Baixas, are more typically a balsamic tint of red, with a slightly darker fruit spectrum) despite Breo’s version of this being darker in color. Instead of pushing against nature to find more red tones, he has embraced the sun-filled south and southwest aspects of his vineyards that naturally push red grapes to a darker shade, despite the cooler temperatures in the final ripening phase of the season.
Much like a great Côte Rôtie or Cornas, you must take your time with this wine to see all it has to offer. There are layers and layers of goodness to discover and given that there are so few wines made with almost 100% Caiño Longo, it would be a waste (but not entirely) to gulp it down and not give it the time to rise as tall as it can go.
The details: Like the other wines from Breo, there was 100% stem inclusion (a good thing if only to try to soften the acidic tension) for its sixty-day, natural yeast fermentation and post fermentation maceration, and it spends nine months in old French oak barrels before bottling. There are no forceful extractions made during the vinification except a gentle pushdown by hand of the cap into the must to keep it healthy during fermentation. It's raised in old French oak barrels with no enological additions made to the wine except a single addition of sulfur at bottling. (The total sulfur in the wine is low at less than 20mg/l.)