2018 Siete Vidas Tinto
Region: Austurias, Cangas DOP, Spain
Grapes: Albarin Negro, Mencia, Carrasquín, Verdejo Negro (Trousseau)
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: organic farming, 30 to 60 year-old on steep slate soils; fermented and aged in stainless steel, 12.5% ABV
Winemaker: Beatriz Pérez and Pepe Flores
Asturias is our favorite part of Spain -- vibrantly 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). Because 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. ‘Siete Vidas’ (which means 7 lives) is an easy-drinking, light bodied red made from a field blend of all of these local red grapes, including the oddball Carrasquín. We had never heard of this grape, but are now quite smitten. We love the satisfying mouthful of crunchy cranberries, tart cherries and herbal, spicy notes here, wrapped up in a tight, fresh, low ABV package. And we want to drink it, lightly chilled, with pretty much anything off the grill.