Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their November 2021 Spain supplement article Spain’s driving winemakers (see blue link below for the review).
Raul Perez, Ultreia Saint Jacques 2018 - November 2021 Decanter review
Raúl Pérez is widely regarded as one of the world’s most talented, innovative, and restless winemakers. His constant reinvention of his own portfolio and quest to restore old Bierzo vineyards since breaking away from his family estate Castro Ventosa in 2004, not to mention an extensive roster of consultancy projects around the world, has helped significantly in putting this corner of north-western Spain back on the map. In doing so, Pérez has inspired legions of young winemakers to follow in his footsteps, and yet he remains humble and softly-spoken. As many commentators have noted, there is no “Raúl Pérez” style, instead his beautiful Godellos and Mencia-based reds seek only to express their origins and push the boundaries of quality within the region, with Pérez adapting the winemaking to suit each individual parcel of vines. The only constant is a hands-off philosophy that allows natural fermentations to take place in traditional wooden vats with whole bunches in the case of the reds, and aging in neutral casks of varying sizes. The two regional wines Ultreia Godello and Ultreia Saint Jacques are some of the most exciting entry-level wines we have ever come across, while the mid-level La Vizcaina de Vinos range spotlights five single vineyards in the village of Valtuille de Abajo, the heart of the Bierzo region. The small batch Ultreia bottlings are rare birds indeed, often representing no more than a barrel or two from tiny, special plots, and as such are not necessarily produced every year. Put together, the Raúl Pérez stable is a big and at times complicated range, but one thing is for sure; the wines will never disappoint.
Ultreia Saint Jacques is another great wine from master winemaker Raúl Pérez. It is produced in his native Bierzo, a wonderful wine region located between inland Spain and the coast, where vines enjoy mild weather with the best features of both the Atlantic and continental climates. Grapes grown on old vines, between 50 and 100 years old, in the Villegas vineyard in Valtuille de Abajo, are used alongside younger Mencia from Villadecanes. The older plants are less vigorous and their finer shoots produce small purplish-black grapes in medium-sized bunches. Harvesting is carried out from the first week in September until early October, seeking out those perfectly ripe grapes which will create velvety, fresh and subtle wines.
The whole bunch is used, grapes and stems, and fermented in open wooden vats with a long maceration, little extraction and no temperature control for between two and five months depending on the evolution of each vintage. Ageing is carried out both in 225-litre wooden foudres previously used once or twice and large concrete tanks. The final blend displays the best features of each style of ageing coming together to accompany, favour and embellish the wine's fruity sensations rather than overpower them as sometimes happens.
Bottled unclarified and unfiltered, Ultreia Saint Jacques delights with a clear floral feeling from the start. Notes of violets and fresh mineral aromas amaze the nose, while a clear hint of chalk and a perfectly integrated and refreshing acidity treat the mouth to a seductive sensation. Spices, orange peel, and wild strawberry tarts abound in a full, rounded and delicious gift to the palate. With a little time in the glass, aromas rarely enjoyed in this price range appear – coffee, sarsaparilla, rose petals and ripe redcurrants. A mouth decorated with well-polished tannins and the wonderful freshness typical of wines from the north of Spain.