Siete Vidas, Cangas DOP, Asturias
Asturias is my favorite part of Spain--it is stunningly green, with endless dramatic coastal and mountain views, diverse cuisine, and wonderfully open and friendly people. Driving around Asturias often feels like traveling back to the Middle Ages (think Spanish Game of Thrones scenery). It is also an area which, although this is beginning to change, has seen very little international tourism, and feels untouched.
Although best known for its cider and cheese, Asturias was an important wine region from the 11th century until the 1950's, when coal mining took over, and most vineyards were abandoned and uprooted. A handful of wineries exist now, centered in the village of Cangas del Narcea, who are working to revive the region's viticultural tradition--which is a great thing, as the grapes and wines are exceptional, unique and are some of the most exciting in Spain.
Asturianos Beatriz Pérez and Pepe Flores own Bodega Vidas (Siete Vidas) and are a major force in the region's revival. They own a handful of vineyards and tend to many old plots in the region, owned by older folks who, seeing what great work the couple does and no longer being able to tend to them on their own, have asked Vidas to care for their vines).
Viticulture here is difficult and extreme. A cold, wet climate means demanding viticulture to fend of disease. The vineyards have extremely steep slopes, which, coupled with the rocky slate soils (see pics), make for loose footing and dangerous working conditions. For these reasons, Cangas is one of three regions that Spain has given the "Viticultura Heroica" (heroic viticulture) designation.
Cangas is also home to some of the most interesting grapes in Spain: Albarín Blanco (aka Branco Lexitimo and Raposo) is very rare, and I think Spain's finest white grape. Like an exotic Muscadet in its youth, the wines become profound after about 3 or 4 years, when intense, smokey, petrol-y aromas begin to develop. They can be highly complex wines.
Carrasquín is even rarer and just as interesting. Found only in Asturias, it is a red grape that makes earthy, herbal, acid driven wines.
In addition to these two local and old specialties, the old vineyards are all field blends of these and Albarín Negro (Alfrocheiro), Verdedo Negro (Trousseau) and Mencia.
Vidas farms organically the vast majority of the time, but in difficult years where disease would cause crop loss in certain sites, the winery will use non-organics where needed--though this is not a common occurrence.
"Siete Vidas" Albarín Blanco
Most of the Albarín Blanco in the Cangas DO is grown in the Ibias subregion. Ibias is south of Cangas del Narcea, a bit warmer, with dark slate soils. The wine is stainless fermented and aged, always with great acidity. Fun and fresh in its youth, getting smoky and profound with age.
"Siete Vidas" Tinto
Fresh, stainless fermented and aged, the Tinto is a blend of all four red grapes found in Cangas: Albarín Negro (aka Alfrocheiro, 40%), Carrasquín (indigenous to Cangas, 30%) and Verdejo Negro (aka Trosseau, 30%), and Mencia, from the Cangas subregion of the Cangas DOP, colder and with lighter slate soils.
"Siete Vidas" Roble
A blend Cangas' most traditional varieties: Albarín Negro, Carrasquín and Verdejo Negro (Mencia is not included as it only arrived around 70 years ago). From the Carboiro vineyard, located in the Ibias region of the Cangas DOP, which has particularly slate-rich soils and receives ample sunlight--very important in cold, wet Asturias.
1/3 whole cluster, uncrushed, 2/3's destemmed and lightly crushed, placed on top of the whole clusters. Fermented and aged 8 months in a 3000 liter French oak foudre. Light bodied, balanced and food friendly. Bright purple fruit with a deep herbal quality.
"Siete Vidas" Carrasquín
Cangas' rarest grape, and the only one found nowhere else. Vidas makes a couple barrels each year of this 100% Carrasquín: herbal, mushroomy and acid driven. A rare delicacy from the region.