The tres uves in this stunning wine are Vigiriega, Vermentino and Viognier - an unlikely combination for the mountainous region of Alpujarras that stirs thoughts of Italy and France as well as Spain, but what a fantastic blend it is. The wine is rich and golden; at first on the nose there is an abundance of that matchstick-y reduction one might associate with an Anjou Chenin or a Burgundian Chardonnay, but this first note is deceptive, as on the palate the fruit is tropically ripe, fleshy and pure, with a lime cordial-esque concentration and a counterpoint of sea-breeze salinity that balances things out to perfection. It really is sunshine in a glass, and one of the most impressive whites we have tried from this brilliant producer.
Manuel Valenzuela, with his son Lorenzo farm a few hectares of vines in the Alpujarras, the hills that sit between the Sierra Nevada and the Mediterranean. They are champions of their native grape varietals and make wines of breathtaking purity and precision.
Manuel was born in Grenada and as an adult moved to France to escape Franco’s regime. He returned to the Alpujarras in the late 70s and bought Barranco Oscuro in 1979. The area had once been heavily planted with vines and was a significant producer of wines before being decimated by phylloxera. Farmers mostly replanted with almond trees rather than take the risk of replanting vines. Some vineyards remained but indigenous varieties were much depleted.
Having bought the farm, Manuel kept many of the almond trees but started to replant the vineyards with some of the old indigenous varieties – Tempranillo, Garnacha and Vigiriega. To begin with he sold the grapes to a local cooperative but in the mid nineties he started making and bottling the wine at the Bodega. At the same time, in a spirit of experimentation and in collaboration with a local university he planted some international varieties – Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Viognier, Vermentino, Riesling and others. The first few bottlings on the estate were what is known as Vino Costa – everything is harvested and vinified together leaving you with a pale orangey pink wine and over the years they have gradually moved to bottling varieties separately and doing some blends.
The farm now comprises of 12 hectares of vines at around 1,300 meters above sea level planted on schist soil. Nestled amongst almond groves and just 10 km from the Mediterranean the microclimate is special and perfect for working without chemicals in the vineyard. Manuel’s son Lorenzo now helps in the vineyard and cellar but Barranco O scuro still work in the way they have from the beginning – totally naturally. The combination of skilled vineyard management, winemaking, climate and terroir is what makes the wines of Barranco Oscuro so special. Such freshness from a place from which you feel like you could see Africa on a clear day!