|Pedralonga A Jewel in Rías Baixas
“We have a saying in Galicia… a man who does not watch the moon does not reap the harvest.” This bit of Gallego mysticism originates from Miguel Alfonso of Pedralonga, a colleteiro who so aptly bridges the gap between the agrarian ethos of Galicia’s past to his present work as an organic farmer, long time experimenter with biodynamics, and as a producer of some of the most singular, non-interventionist, soil-driven Albariños and tintos in Rías Baixas.
Located in the northwest corner of Green Spain, Rías Baixas is home to some of the most delicious seafood on earth, and crisp, mineral-laden white wines made from the Albariño grape. In their truest form, these Albariño wines effortlessly combine delicate floral notes, sumptuous texture, and a mouthwatering salinity that begs to be paired with the local sea bounty.
Of course, everything is not as beautiful as it sounds. In recent years, “Albariño” has become well known in the world of wine and, as a result, Rías Baixas has seen a barrage of new investment. Many of the ambitious folks behind these new wineries are not from the area and have little to no background in winegrowing. Their main goal is to produce -at all costs- a “recipe” Albariño that fits neatly into the marketplace. While nothing is wrong with that, the down side is that many of these new wines are sadly too often stripped of their true character.
If there is a grower in Rías Baixas who is making the opposite of a recipe wine, it is Miguel Alfonso of Pedralonga. Miguel’s own roots in the area are deep. Coming from a long line of colleteiros, his family originates from Caldas de Reis, a small village located in the Val do Salnes, the prime subzone for winemaking in Rías Baixas. In 1982, Miguel’s father Francisco
planted their 7.5 hectare “Cru” on a pure granitic hillside, ten miles away from the Atlantic ocean.
The Pedralonga vineyard is one of the most unique and “alive” places we have ever visited. A good portion of the vines are planted pie franco, on their original rootstock. As you walk up the slope, huge chunks of granite emerge from the land, hence the name Pedralonga, which means “big rock” in Gallego. This seemingly magical place has been farmed organically since the beginning. In 2007, Miguel started incorporating some biodynamic methods, such as herbal treatments. He told us that working biodynamically was no stretch for his family, as they had always worked according to the moon cycle. He plows only when needed, to safeguard the land from erosion in the Galician wet climate and to encourage the vineyard’s natural equilibrium. Because of this, it is normal to find mint, chamomile, little mushrooms, and wild strawberries in the vines.
Miguel is just as non-interventionist in the winery. He does not de-stem the Albariño grapes and keeps a healthy percentage of stems in the reds. He adds no sulfur at the crush. The wines are fermented with native yeast in small temperature-controlled steel vats. He never blocks the malos, choosing to let nature take its course as part of the vintage variation. All of the wines rest for long periods on the lees, before being bottle without cold stabilization or filtration.
The results are texturally dazzling wines of extreme purity, that improve with time in the bottle and vividly evoke the place where they come from and the rocks they grow on. In the end, it is the vineyard Pedralonga that speaks loudest in the glass.