Colleteiro Galician for farmer; person of the soil; winegrower.
by Christopher Barnes
“We have a saying in Galicia… a man who does not watch the moon does not reap the harvest.” This bit of Gallego mysticism originates from Miguel Alfonso of Pedralonga, a colleteiro who so aptly bridges the gap between the agrarian ethos of Galicia’s past to his present work as an organic farmer, and long time experimenter with biodynamics, and as a producer of some of the most singular, non-interventionist, soil-driven Albariños and tintos in Rías Baixas.
Two years ago, Miguel gave José Pastor and I a tour of his family’s lone vineyard, a swelling and tough-to-work slope of mostly granite that plateaus a stones throw from the Atlantic. As indicated by the super lush qualities and the full spectrum of verdant colors, it is a place inextricably influenced by the Galician plight of Calabobos, the local word for a constant gentle rain. Miguel’s father Francisco planted this vineyard nearly thirty years ago, and, in spite of the damp climate which promotes vine diseases like rot and oidium, this vineyard has never seen a chemical. This long time organic approach has helped create an extraordinary equilibrium in the vineyard, according to Miguel. He rarely plows. We did not see some of the problems as I had mentioned above, as we did in other organic vineyards on the same trip. We did see however an abundance of plant life - wild strawberries, little mushrooms, chamomile and mint (which I swear this flavor is a signature of Pedralonga wines) amongst other unidentifiable foliage. In short, this place radiates energy and life and is one of the most singular vineyards we have found on our travels to Spain.
At the bottom of the slope there are sandier, granite-infused soils with alluvial deposits left over from the nearby Rio Umia. This is where the native heirloom red grapes Mencía, Caiño, and Espadeiro are planted. According to the folks at Pedralonga, the native Caiño and Espadeiro were always grown here and featured prominently in exports pre-phylloxera. This tiny plot, some of vines being ungrafted, gives Pedralonga’s smallest production wine and one of the finest red wines we have tasted in Galicia – Do Umia. Sulfur is not added at the crush and the wine is always fermented with wild yeasts in temperature-controlled vats. The wine spends a year on the lees. Then bottled and released late.
Do Umia is a wine for fanatics for Loire reds to take notice. When young, it is Pineau d’Aunis-like with straightforward aromas of white pepper, kirsch, and minerals. With age, as this is a late release wine, Do Umia is redolent of sous bois, black olives, spearmint, peat, and red currants, flavors reminiscent of a Chinon in mid-life, if not a bit more flamboyant. At 12% alcohol, the palate is lean, austere, yet tightly concentrated with notes of red fruit, orange oil, and loamy soil. This is a serious wine for smoky Padrón chiles, pork roasts, wild game, and richer seafood dishes.
If you want to taste a wine that gives a vivid glimpse into the past, present, and future of Galician, and thus Spanish, wine, Do Umia is it.
To purchase the wine click here.