Short and stocky, with a head of graying unruly hair and a prophet’s beard, Raul Perez’s eyes shine with energy and intelligence. His demeanor is calm and like many of his wines, he seems reserved at first, but opens up with time and conversation.
Over the past decade, Raul has become one of the most influential people in the Spanish wine world. Most of his work has been done in the northwest corner of Spain, an area defined by climatic factors—mainly the influence of the Atlantic Ocean—more than political borders. It covers the region of Galicia and the neighboring area of Bierzo, one of the few areas of Castilla y Leon that is green and lush and doesn’t remind you of a desert.
Raul started his prolific career making the wines on his family estate, Castro Ventosa, under the supervision of his mentor, Alvaro Palacios. Since then he has been adding vineyards and wines to his repertoire, some his own, some in partnership with fellow vignerons, and many others as a consultant.
Unlike the itinerant winemakers of the past, he is not interested in a homogeneous style of wine or in a personal signature. He focuses on the idiosyncrasies of each vineyard, in the subtle variations of soil, inclination, or exposure, and how those nuances translate into the character of each grape varietal.
Raul’s holdings in Bierzo are in the rolling hills of Valtuille de Abajo, in the heart of the appellation, home of his family for many generations. Here he follows the Burgundian approach, producing two “village” wines, blends of different parcels and soils, as well as several single vineyard cuvees.
Under his own label, he also produces two legendary red wines in in Galicia: El Pecado and La Penitencia, from the very steep vineyards of Ribeira Sacra, old-vine field blends, both with incredible depth and aging potential; and Albariño Sketch, a white wine from Rias Baixas that has become a cult item and certainly one of the finest white wines of Spain.
The wines of Raul are soulful, beautiful expressions of terroir, a rare find—and a pleasure to drink!
At Eli’s List
Bierzo, Ultreia de Valtuille 2014 $90
Bierzo, Ultreia Las Paluezas 2014 $90
Bierzo, Ultreia Rapolao 2014 $90
Ribeira Sacra El Pecado 2015 $100
Ribeira Sacra La Penitencia 2015 $100
Rias Baixas Albariño Sketch $80