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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Mas Estela Vinya Selva de Mar

Spain (Empordà- Catalonia)

grenache (50%), syrah (35%), carignan (15%)

Mas Estela Vinya Selva de Mar 2001

Taken with an array of fine Spanish cheeses (Roncal, Majorero Maxorata, San Simón da Costa), there is a lot riding on this wine. It delivers. Garnet red in the glass, with dense, old world aromas. Polished fruit, well rounded tannins, yet never less than fresh, displaying the liveliness of experience, the complexity of its years spent in the bottle. A wine opened in anticipation of spring, that most organic of seasons. $$

There can hardly be a more stunning setting for a wine estate — tucked in the Saint Romà valley in the far northeastern reaches of the Catalonia region of Spain, just three kilometres from the Mediterranean’s Costa Brava.

The estate itself didn’t always suit its surroundings. In 1989, when owners Diego (‘Didier’) Soto and Núria Dalmau discovered the property while on a hiking expedition, it had been abandoned and was in acute disrepair. Although the roots of its viticulture date back centuries, it had been 30 years since it had last seen production. An intense dedication and years of hard work have restored and expanded the property. Today there are 17 hectares under vine, and many more surrounding them, a sloping landscape filled with pines and oaks and a myriad of wild herbs.

Mas Estela has been organic since the start and biodynamic since 1999. The owners, together with their son Didac, are greatly aided in their approach by the strong, dry winds that blow from the north. The moderating influence of the Mediterranean keeps the potentially intense heat of summer at bay. Here the soils are metamorphic brown slate, with a modest amount of chalk. The roots of the vines go deep in search of water, drawing minerals into the fruit, eventually doing much to enrich the wine.

Mas Estela makes a range of seven red, white, and sweet wines. The red Vinya Selva de Mar (named after the nearby village) is one of their signature bottles. Grapes from this 2001 vintage were hand-picked at optimum ripeness, de-stemmed, then crushed, leading to cold maceration in stainless steel tanks. Temperature-controlled fermentation followed, stretching over several weeks. The wine spent 18 months in French oak casks, then, after light filtering, continued to mature in the bottle…before years later the foil covering the cork was sliced away, and set aside, allowing the bottle to welcome spring (even if the tulips, like the wine, are imported).


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