At 1000 meters in altitude, farming at Castell d’Encus is an interesting proposition. Surrounded by mountains, the site is prone to snow, frost, and attacks by ravenous birds so extensive steps must be taken to protect the vines and fruit from the depredations of nature. As is the case with other regions where the vines struggle to thrive, the finished wines benefit from the suffering. Despite the youthfulness of the vineyards, the finished wines are remarkably complex and nuanced, and show the potential of moving back to places long abandoned. Because the climate is so extreme Raul has selected more northerly varieties to cultivate: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Riesling and Albarino. What indigenous varieties were planted up here so long ago, will never be known, it seems that he’s doing just fine with these – as recently remarked by Luis Guiterrez, “These are some of the most exciting new wines throughout Spain.”
Spanish red wine is known for being bold, heady, rustic and age-worthy, Spain is truly a one-of-a-kind wine-producing nation. A great majority of the country is hot, arid and drought-ridden, and since irrigation has only been recently introduced and (controversially) accepted, viticulture has sustained—and flourished—only through a great understanding of Spain’s particular conditions. Large spacing between vines allows each enough resources to survive and as a result, the country has the most acreage under vine compared to any other country, but is usually third in production.
Of the Spanish red wines, the most planted and respected grape variety is Tempranillo, the star of Spain’s Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. Priorat specializes in bold red blends, Jumilla has gained global recognition for its single varietal Monastrell and Utiel-Requena has garnered recent attention for its reds made of Bobal.