My charming interpreter had little to do when I visited Eladio Piñeiro this May, because the irrepressible Eladio can reach an audience no matter what their level of Spanish. One of the founders of large scale Albariño production in Spain with Mar de Frades in 1983, he left it all behind when his wife fell ill in 2003, selling the winery and keeping only a few prized vineyards. Now he dedicates himself to making artisanal hand-crafted Albariño (also hand-bottled and hand labeled….you get the drift) in the prime vineyard area of the Salnés Valley.
Additionally, and most unusually, they make red wine in Portugal’s Alentejo, where they have a second home. His (fully recovered) wife Carmen designs the whimsical labels, he commissioned the unique and patented bottle shapes, everything is bio-dynamic except a few parcels in transition, and the wines are as original as they sound. Don’t miss them, but don’t wait either—total production is only about 5,000 cases.
Eladio wanted to make red wine, and he knew Rias Baixas was not the place for it, so he bought an estate with vineyards near his holiday home in the Alentejo and made a red wine which is again about as far from an “industrial” wine as you can get. Four YEARS in new barrels, 3 years in stainless after that, at least six months in the bottle, no clarification, no fining etc. , designed to be drunk on release but will age effortlessly…The methods are somewhat evocative of López de Heredia in the sense that the wine is released when deemed ready to drink, while remaining capable of much longer aging. But the warmer Portuguese climate makes for a broader shouldered vein, not at all overripe but concentrated, minerally, and sublime.
Abandon everything you think you know about Albariño when you taste this wine, which was on the lees for fourteen months with monthly batonnage, then given extended bottle age before release. Think instead of recent releases of aged Muscadet, but then add a layer of fruit and density you will never get in that region, and the cognate becomes somewhere between Muscadet and Riesling, a land of milk and honey that you want to go to again and again….
The name means “the envy of the worm”, the pithy Spanish way of conveying that “I want to be in your shoes when good things are happening”. This is the “second” wine, which Eladio resisted making for years, but debuted with the 2011 vintage. It spends six months on the lees in stainless steel, with weekly batonnage, and is then blended with 15% Frore de Carmen from the previous vintage and held a year in the bottle before release. Super-charged Albariño with honey and tropical fruit, but showing also the lees contact with an almost balsamic sweetness and a mineral finish.