Friday, October 24, 2008

Tasting Session: Domaine Select 10.21.08 with Zarate Albarino


The second winery that we tasted with Alison from Domaine Select was: Zarate.

Eulogio Pomares Zarate, the owner / winemaker, was here to introduce his wines and explain what differentiate his Albarinos from one to another.

Founded in 1920, by Eulogio's grand father, Don Ernesto Zarate, Bodegas Zarate was one of the pioneer estate in Rias Baixas to elaborate high quality Albarinos in the Valley of Salnes.

Located in Galicia, in the north-western part of Spain and directly north of Portugal. Although it only received the DO status in 1988, Rias Biaxas has always been producing wines. The wine presence date approximately from the XII century and came in part from the presence of the Cistercian monks and the pilgrims of Santiago de Compostela.

Val do Salnes (or Valley of Salnes) is the largest and one of the oldest of the 5 sub-zones that constitute the appellation. The other ones are: O Rosal, Condato de Tea, Soutomaior (since 1996) and Ribeira do Ulla (since 2000, not to be mistaken with its neighbors Ribeira Sacra DO or Ribeiro DO, also in Galicia). Due to its proximity to the coast and oceanic climate, Val do Salnes is one of the coldest areas of Rais Baixas, with high rainfall and wet winter.

Although O Rosal and Condato de Tea were making very characteristic Albarino wines in their own styles before, Val do Salnes has become, somewhat recently, the capital of Albarino and the benchmark reference for the appellation. Although most of the white wines of Rias Baixas are made with 100% Albarino grapes, other white grapes like Treixadura, Loureira Blanca and Godello are also authorized (but in small quantity). The blend of those different grapes is more current in the DO of Ribeiro.

Zarate is now an estate of 7-8 hectares owned by the same family for the past 3 generations. The average age of the vines is 35 years old. Some of their wines are produced by parcel selection or single vineyard selection in order to improve the quality and offer different types of Albarino, reminiscent of their terroir, exposition and micro-climate of origin, at all price level. They do not buy any fruit from other producers.

Eulogio perfected the vineyards, the cellar and some of the technics but overall continues to follow his grandfather's winemaking tradition and convey the same passion.

We tasted:

2007 Zarate Albarino Rias Baixas Galicia Spain
Suggested retail price $12-$16
Distributed by Domaine Select in NYC

It is the entry level wine from Zarate. 40,000 bottles were produced. The wine is bright, zesty and mineral on the nose. The palate is clean, very balanced with beautiful length and a lot of mineral through out the attack and the mid-palate due to the granite soil of the area.

Overall and despite the fact that I love Albarino wines and most Galician whites, it is a very good wine for the price and also for an entry level. The rare long established family business like Zarate make usually greater wines that the newer, bigger wineries or even the cooperatives that sell in bulk, and Zarate is no exception to the rule. This wine is great.

2005 Zarate "Tras da Vina" Albarino Rias Baixas Galicia Spain
Suggested retail price $16-$20
Distributed by Domaine Select in NYC

This wine made out of grapes coming from vines planted on sandy soils. It was fermented then aged in stainless steel tanks for 30 months on its lees (yes, that's right, 2 years and a half). Like for a Muscadet sur Lie from the Loire Valley, the lee ageing brings complexity and depth without altering the sharpness and vivacity of the wine.

The wine is very expressive on the nose. Here again, one can smell a lot of mineral with more distinctive notes of golden apple, yellow-white fruit, white blossom. The palate conveys the same kind of flavors with more unripe peach, citrus and hints of grass (slightly vegetal but in a good way). The mid-palate and fairly long finish boast great, vivid, high acidity with sharp edges.

Overall, it is a lovely wine, wine geeks and Sommeliers oriented. The freshness and slightly esoteric attitude of this wine should excite more than one taste bud in a connoisseur palate. A great discovery for a passionate Sommelier like me (even if I'm not working in restaurant no more..).

2006 Zarate "El Palomar" Albarino Rias Baixas Galicia Spain
Suggested retail price $38-$42
Distributed by Domaine Select in NYC

Coming from the oldest parcel of their vineyard, El Palomar is almost what we call in France a "Monopole" wine (one winery, one parcel, one wine). Eulogio pays a lot of attention to this wine and the resulting nectar is quite delightful, I must say.

After being carefully selected and hand harvested, the grapes and the juice are gently put into used, somewhat neutral, large oak "Foudre" of 1,500 liters (396,26 gallons). The wine stays on its lees in the same Foudre for approximately 6 months without any racking, then suddenly the malolactic fermentation occurs (yes, yes, 6 months later...and this is no BS). Once the Malo is finished, the wine is finally racked (and somehow naturally fined in the same time) then put back into the Foudre for another 6 months before bottling.

The resulting wine is (in my opinion) one of the finest Albarino that I tasted over the last 2-3 years. It boasts aromas of white peach, white blossom, hearty golden apple and loads of minerals. The palate shows lovely concentration and depth with the same intense flavors as on the nose and excellent balance with vivid acidity. The oak touch is barely noticeable and really integrated, adding some complexity to this awesome wine.

Overall, this wine is somewhat reminiscent of a high quality Bordeaux or even a Great Burgundy in therms of density, weight and length but with higher acidity, brighter attitude and fresher finish. I love it and will recommend it on Lobster dish or Galician fish in sauce.

Thank you for your wines Eulogio and see you at the winery during my next trip in Spain.

LeDom (du Vin)

For more info, visit the following website: and

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