Some of the finest sherry in the world is made here in Montilla, Córdoba, Andalucía, Spain. The notion of breaking up monopolies on regional viticultural representation certainly features among the many ideological tenets that undergird part of what it means to make ‘natural’ wine. That these places are not one thing; they are endlessly complicated and plural, their gifts manifold in this rich diversity. And so goes the story for José Miguel Márquez of Marenas Viñedo y Bodega. In his own words (as per Selections de La Viña’s wonderful website), he “look[s] to the land for the forgotten memory of wines from before.” There is something spectral in this desire, that the ghosts of the past wander these same vines simply waiting to be given the opportunity to speak once more. Márquez works with indigenous and nearly-extinct grape varieties, and in this way, this particular bottling is from a local grape of whose history not much is known other than that it grows beautifully here in Montilla. The grape – Montepila – is a thick-skinned, and very dark white-wine grape capable of retaining a quite high concentration of sugar; so, despite being a direct-press, its character is more akin to an orange wine. Complexity, contradiction and, somehow, purity abound in this rare-as-rare-gets bottling.
Vinification: 100% old-vine Montepila grown in albariza (a kind of white-chalky soil endemic to Andalucía) soils 350-450m elevation outside the town of Montilla. Throughout the season, the thick-skinned grapes shrink with the sun and expand with the night’s rain, allowing an extraordinary osmosis of flesh and skin to take place within the grape itself. The grapes are directly pressed into stainless steel tank where they undergo spontaneous fermentation (ambient yeasts; no temp. control) over the course of 10-15 days. The juice ‘naturally decants’ (breathes, lightly oxidizes) through the winter before being bottled unfined, unfiltered, with no additional SO2. ~12.5%ABV
Tasting: Held up against the light of the sun, the wine in the glass is cloudy, straw-colored and ever-so-slightly orange. Slightly viscous and satisfyingly wiggly in texture. Like tasting a perfect pink-lady apple sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon. Rich but not overwhelmingly so, this still slaps on a hot summer day. Serve chilled.