Who: Nacho Gonzalez.
Where: Larouco, Valdeorras, Galicia, Spain.
When: Since 2013.
La Perdida of course means “the lost” and refers to the fact that the vineyards are all tiny parcels, and quite hidden, in more ways than one; they’re off the beaten track and sometimes the other vegetation, grasses and other crops grow so thick and strong that the vines themselves are hidden.
This is the way of Nacho Gonzalez who makes some of the finest, most interesting and most delicious, most ethereal wines we know, in the Valdeorras region of Galicia, inland from Ribeiro and Ribeira Sacra, from organic vines and without any additives. Starting with a production of just 300 bottles in 2012, he’s up to around 5,000 bottles in 2017 and will make around 12,000 bottles of the 2018 vintage.
He’s a former biologist who studied life on both land and sea for both government and private organisations for a number of years. And then his Grandmother gave him a small, more or less abandoned vineyard in the Valdeorras region of Galicia and he found a new calling in the bringing back to life of old abandoned vines. It’s an undertaking of love and commitment for he works around 28 parcels representing a total of just around 4 hectares by hand and organically to produce fewer than 15,000 bottles.
Galicia is Spain’s largest region in the north-west. It’s Atlantic, wet and green and hot in summer. It has a strong regional identity and people speak the local dialect. Once upon a time, four hundred years ago, the wines were as highly rated as any in the world, in particular from the Ribeiro region, around one hour west of Nacho’s region toward the coast. The key to that lies in the soil, mostly granite but with plenty of pockets of schist, slate, clay. But most of the vines are perilously steep, on tiny terraces, in a rainy climate and today, everywhere you go, you see vines that have been abandoned since 50 years ago. Most wine growing is carried out by big companies working chemically, and industrially, whether in Valdeorras, or Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra or Rias Baixas. Very few producers work as Nacho and his small group of friends and colleagues in Galicia.
Nacho’s strong and dogged character with great sense of humour shows through in his wines. He makes around seven Cuvées, mostly around 1,000 bottles with a couple over 2,000 bottles. They are all made without any additives, without sulfur, very simply but very carefully and pulsate with energy and subtlety. They are unlike any other wines.
Starting with the original inherited vineyard, Nacho has little by little added parcels around his home base in Serdur and around his cellar in Larouco, a few kilometres apart. His family home remains A Coruña some 200km north on the coast.
It’s a striking landscape, rugged and mountainous, cold in winter, very hot in summer and prone to being wet and foggy all the time. So growing great grapes (organically) is a huge challenge – with great reward for both producer and drinker when carried out well, or rather ordinary when carried out chemically and industrially. Nacho seems to be simultaneously blissed out and stressed out by the challenge. Which may result in the tension found in his wines. He works with local grapes, which, as we’re all discovering after years of our drinking being dominated by the main French varieties, are joyous adventures into the widest world of wine.
His cellar is not a pretty sight (for enologists, especially, but Nacho doesn’t rely on them anyway) with its clutter of materials everywhere yet the wines that emerge are ravishing. And the cellar floor is clean enough for Pepe the Cat, who seems to love tasting the odd spill. The wines are made in a mixture of stainless steel, old barrels and amphora, here called Tinaja, all made for Nacho by the celebrated Jordi Padilla in La Mancha. All wines are bottled in the Spring. There’s no filtration or clarification or other processes involved, just pure fermented grape juice.
We discovered the wines while drinking at three wine bars in Barcelona in 2017 and immediately set off to find the man behind these effervescent and ethereal wines, catching up with Nacho finally at a tasting at the Monvinic Store in early 2018, where Nacho’s love for organic and natural totally resonated with the wines he was presenting.