Quinta da Muradella

VigneronJosé Luis Mateo
LocationVerín (Ourense)
Size of Domaine15 ha
TerroirAtlantic climate with Continental influence, sheltered from the rain by the Sierra de Larouca mountains. Slate, granite, iron and quartz. Steep terraced vineyards. 300-850m altitude.
ViticultureCertified organic, practicing biodynamic.
View Quinta da Muradella wines ↓

At first sight, A Canteira is one of those nondescript bars, with slot machines and a TV set where locals and workmen in blue overalls go for a drink. But the difference between this bar in Verín on the Portugese border and a thousand other ones across Spain is that the by the glass wine served here is made by José Luis Mateo of Quinta da Muradella, undoubtedly one of the finest winemakers on the Spanish scene. We meet there, at his brother’s bar (where he also cooks a mean goat stew!), before visiting some of José’s 15 ha of vineyards he works in the Monterrei DO, an ancient viticultural region dating back prior to Roman times when work concentrated on the best hillside and mountain locations.

Setting out in 1991 José started a life’s work to restore the viticultural traditions of this region which had been lost after the second world war, when farmers abandoned hillsides and the mountain areas in favour of the higher yielding valley floors and an easier life. Here in a transitional zone between an atlantic and continental climate summers are very hot followed by freezing cold winters.

“This is a work of many generations. I’m not in a hurry; I’d rather do little but be good at it”.

His estate is split into four fincas, three of which are on different hillsides surrounding Verín (at 360 to 500m) and one La Trabe a little further away on the mountain of Vilardeves crowning the highest lands (at 850m) of this Galician wine region. Here it’s a remote, deserted area abandoned by farmers some 30-40 years ago. “Those of us who continue working up here have to carry out maintenance works to avoid fires and keep paths free from vegetation; the authorities don’t seem to care much”, José Luis explains. He has used bed frames to build makeshift gates to keep wild boar and roe deer away from his grapes. In this unspoiled wilderness wit is a necessary asset.

In that constant pursuit of elegant, long-lasting balanced wines which express the different identities of the area, José Luis vinifies his plots separately but he picks all the grape varieties within one plot at the same time; he adapts fermentations, ageing methods and times (some of his whites are given a three year élevage) to the characteristics of the vintage, but the focus is always the same – to make fresh wines, something that is not easy given Monterrei’s climate. This attitude requires spending a lot of time in the vineyards doing manual work, but he is unfazed. “The only essential thing is that the vineyard has balance”, explains José Luis, whose production has been organically certified since 2005.

He works with no less than 15 different red and nine different white varieties, trialling different grapes in different locations in his vineyards (all planted by massale selection), located between 300 and 850 meters of altitude with various kinds of soils: clay, gravel, slate, quartz and granite, looking for the perfect spot to bring out the best in each variety, and working with insanely low yields. “This is a work of many generations. I’m not in a hurry; I’d rather do little but be good at it”.

Quinta da Muradella Wines

Quinta da Muradella

MONTERREI 2016
Alanda Blanco
50% Doña Blanca, 20% Treixadura, 20% Verdello, 10% Monstruosa de Monterrei (13% alc.)

This comes from three of José’s fincas spread around the hillsides of Verín where the soils are a mix of slate and clay, sandy gravel and decomposing granite. Made from yields around 30hh, cuve aged with no malos and kept on the fine lees with no stirring before bottling in February 2018, like all of the Muradella whites this wine is subtle and elegant, quite tightly wound initially with vibrant acidity, displaying a strong mineral character with subtle peach and citrus fruits, fennel and eucalyptus notes gradually emerging, and salinity on the finish.

Quinta da Muradella

MONTERREI 2013
Gorvia Blanco
100% Doña Blanca (13.5% alc.)

Gorvia is one of José’s single vineyards, from a 1ha steep slope near the castle of Monterrei in Verín, where the 27yo vines are planted by massale selection in a clay, slate soil with high metal content. Here José Luis has settled on tiny yields of just 12hh to fully capture all the potential of Doña Blanca from which he fashions the ‘best Doña Blanca on earth’ (Luis Gutierrez), ageing for a year in older foudres, and then two years in stainless steel before bottling unfined and unfiltered. It is vibrant, complex, intense and impeccably balanced with some yellow plum and citrus fruit, acacia and pollen notes, minerals, salty and savoury, with attractive bitters on a long finish.

Quinta da Muradella

MONTERREI 2015
Muradella Blanco
100% Treixadura (13% alc.)

José’s finest white comes from a separate finca in the Tamaguelos de Monterrei zone, where the soils are a mix of clay, slate and granitic sand, and the vines range from 18yo to very old. Also called the Trajadura grape in Portugal, it has always been renowned for its quality and vigour, but there are no other winemakers who have explored its quality boundaries by dropping the yields down to a mere 9hh, perhaps helping to explain why Gutierrez believes this wine is at the quality helm of all Galician whites. Aged initially in older foudres then cuve for over two years before being bottled unfiltered this is still a baby. You’ll find exotic spices like star anis and cumin as well as fennel and hints of hay on the nose, with savoury, intense, high pitched flavours, herbal and spicy tones, all the time wrapped up with an austere quality and frank mineral resonance. For drinking now to 2024.

Quinta da Muradella

MONTERREI 2013
Alanda Tinto
Mencía, Bastardo, Garnacha Tintorera, Mouraton, Gran Negro and Arauxa (13% alc.)

The 2013 red version of Alanda is a blend from the many different vineyards, sub-zones, and soil types within the Monterrei DO. The different grape varieties (harvested at around 25hh) were fermented together, part in stainless steel, part in cement, with one third of full clusters and aged for one year in used barrels and cement tank then assembled and matured for a further year in stainless steel before being bottled neither fined nor filtered. The nose is fruit-driven, with cherry, herbs and a pinch of spice, and a medium-bodied palate with focused, red cherry flavours, fine tannins and balanced acidity.

Quinta da Muradella

MONTERREI 2015
Gorvia Tinto
90% Mencía, 5% Bastardo, 5% Caiño Redondo (13% alc.)

The red 2015 Gorvia is produced from 29yo vines (yielding 22hh) on a 1ha south-facing slate slope near Monterrei Castle. It was fermented in an open stainless steel vat with 60% whole bunches and a very long maceration, aged for six months and then transferred into older 300 and 500ltr barrels. On the nose you notice wild strawberries, and floral perfume of violets and dry roses, with sour cherries, spice and an earthy sensation on the palate. This is a superb Atlantic red with a Burgundian accent and the finesse that is typical of the reds from Muradella. 3,000 bottles were filled by hand, unfined and unfiltered in May 2017. For drinking now to 2024.

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