QDM Albarello is a wine made by Bodegas Quinta da Muradella in the DO region of Monterrei, just above the border of Portugal in northwestern Spain. Monterrei was part of an area whose rich geology was once prized by the Romans for mining, notably gold. Ancient findings have confirmed that the Romans are responsible for another of the area's treasures, vineyards. The vineyard is 11.6 hectares (28 acres) with a 15% slope. From the proximity to Portugal, an estate here is called a quinta, rather than the traditional Spanish term finca. Muradella is named for a Celtic fort from the 3rd Century BC located near the town of Verin. At this bodega, winemaker and proprietor Jose Luis Mateo makes several wines all with certified organic grapes. The philosophy with QDM Albarello is to prevent the extinction of a great indigenous grape that was very popular during the 1800s. Quinta da Muradella's other wines with the same purpose are QDM Sousón and QDM Bastardo. Through exacting work recuperating old vineyards, Jose Luis has crafted wines that have earned accolades from numerous wine publications.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE? The sole mission of this wine is to save the Albarello grape variety from extinction. The wine is made from estate-owned grapes grown using organic viticulture. Only one barrel is produced. The Albarello grape is the oldest indigenous grape variety of Galicia.
RATING HISTORY: 2008 91+RP; 2007 95RP
GRAPE: 100% Albarello. Certified organically grown vines planted in 2000. Tended in slate, granite and clay soil at 430 m ( 1,411ft) elevation.
PAIRING SUGGESTIONS: Braised pork shoulder in wild mushroom sauce, osso bucco, ox tail soup and aged, hard cheeses would all pair well with this wine's distinctive aromatic and dark fruit profile.
VINIFICATION AND AGEING: There is a long maceration with 50% whole clusters before and after fermentation using the indigenous yeasts of the grapes. There is lees contact during malolactic fermentation in 300-liter barrels before the wine is aged for 14 months in French oak barrels, two years old. It is aged an additional 6 months in stainless steel tanks to achieve a natural stabilization.
PRODUCTION: 66 cases (6 pack)
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE: The vineyards are located in Zone 1, towards the interior of Galicia, by the Portuguese border. The Monterrei DO region is divided in two sections from north to south by the Tamega River situated at 420 meters elevation. The grapes that go into making this wine come from the Tamaguelos district, at 390-460 meters (1,280-1,509 feet) elevation. The soils are granite and sandy clay, which contribute minerality, depth and volume in aromas and palate flavors. The climate is Atlantic (cold and wet) with a Continental influence (in general, extremely hot and dry summers with cold, dry winters). Monterrei is one of the DO regions within Galicia that is furthest from the Atlantic Ocean with yearly rainfall below average compared to other regions in Galicia. In summary, Monterrei has a drier, warmer climate than western Galicia. Here, the average yearly rainfall is 23 inches and closer to the water in Rias Baixas the average is 93 inches.
TASTING NOTES: Albarello (100% Albarello aka Brancellao) is produced from a grape that is nearly extinct, wiped out beginning in the 1850s from oidium and subsequently by phylloxera. These vines are 9 years old and only 33 cases were produced. It presents a unique aromatic array (it was always regarded as an intensely aromatic variety) with a roasted, plum compote character. Sweetly fruited and seamless on the palate, this is a concentrated, elegant offering with no hard edges.
All photos: Friederike Paetzold