Ventura Pena do Lobo Ribeira Sacra 2016
Looking over the edge of D. Ventura’s vineyards is like taking a glance off the edge of the world. These steeply terraced vineyards climb directly up the Sacred Banks (Ribeira Sacra, Spain) of the River Sil, accessible only by ladder.
Imagine it this way: take your average home ladder, the kind you might use to paint the side of your house. That’s usually resting at a 75-degree pitch. Now tighten that pitch by half, to somewhere much closer to 90 degrees. And make your house 10 stories tall and put the bottom of that ladder in running water. Now paint all 10 stories of your house as you climb the ladder. That is what farming in the Ribeira Sacra is like!
Why would anyone ever want do this?
Well, they didn’t. Wine agriculture in this northwest corner of Spain—Galicia—began with the conflux of the Romans, Celts, and religion. For the past several generations, though, farming had become way too labor-intensive for anyone to make a good living, including those making wine for religious purposes. The vines were left to go fallow, their fruit picked off by feasting birds.
But that is all changing – Galicia has become enormously popular with Spanish and international tourists. Couple with that the EU’s vastly diversified global market, and new life was brought back into these vineyards. Homegrown heroes once again return to the lands they love, making world-changing wine in the process:
The nose offers aromas that are beautifully sweet and smoky – macerated blackberries, ripe pomegranate and blueberry fruit intermingle with loamy earth and black tea aromas touched by licorice. The palate is tightly woven, but balanced. This is not a blockbuster red wine; rather, its density gives elegance, making it perfect for red wine drinkers who want to be outside picnicking on a hot summer day. (Thoroughly enjoy this with a platter of Iberico ham!) The palate steers towards a Burgundian feel – black fruits mixed with hints of truffles and crushed gravel. Decanting for 30 minutes can only help. Otherwise, in your cellar, look for buried treasure 5 to 10 years out.
True, you’ve probably never heard of Mencia, Ribeira Sacra’s native grape. So it hasn’t (quite yet) set the world on fire. But I can remember a time when nobody had ever heard of Pinot Noir, and now few people question how good it is.
I always say that great treasure awards those willing to explore. This exceptional value from Spain belongs in your summer rotation—and in your cellar!