Working our way through another box of new and unknown samples from various importers last evening, Renee and I were both surprised to find and be very drawn to a bottle of 2019 Viña Zorzal Señora de las Alturas from the Navarra region of northern Spain.
Our research this morning has revealed that Viña Zorzal’s Señora de las Alturas (“Lady of the Heights”) is only produced in extremely special vintages with a focus on the terroir of a small plot of surviving pre-phylloxera, dry farmed, 140+ year old grenache bush vines on their own root stock (ungrafted). The Pontigos parcel is situated near Fitero, a village in the Iberian mountains separating Sierra de Cameros and the Elbro Valley. The conditions here are very arid, but with a great diurnal temperature range. The vines grow in rocky and stony “hetrovariegated clay, limestone and composite soils. Zorzal practices all organic viticulture, and very minimalistic, non-intervention winemaking. Pontigos yields are extremely low. The fruit is hand harvested and hand sorted. Fermentation takes place with native yeasts in just two, second used, 500 liter used French oak barrels where the wine continues to age about 15 months. The wine is bottled with a light clarification and filtration.
We were taken by this wine’s intense expression of fully ripened, pure strawberry and raspberry fruit, and attractive nuance of underlying earthiness and floral spice, all measured both aromatically and on the palate. More so, the balancing fresh acidity and integrated fine tannin make for a sublime and unexpectedly elegant wine to drink now, but with an upside towards potential cellaring.
More research! We were very surprised to find any rating or review, but Wine Advocate’s Luis Guttierez has given this wine a brilliant 95-point rating. “The single-vineyard 2019 Señora de Las Alturas comes from an ancient plot on the gravel and silt soils on the banks of the Alhama River they call Pontigos. They only work with healthy grapes, and this comes from the first vintage that they considered to be an exceptional year of moderate yields and low pHs. This pure Garnacha was picked at 14.1% alcohol, and the bottled wine has a pH of 3.39 with six grams of acidity (tartaric). It fermented in open 1,000-liter pools followed by malolactic and in two used 500-liter French oak barrels for 15 months. It has an impactful nose combining notes of violets and ripe cherries, a little deeper than other cuvées from the same zone, nuanced, with a little more ripeness, very complete and complex. It has also developed nice complexity for its young age. The palate has the depth and complexity of the old vines, with super fine, chalky tannins and great balance. It really transcends the price. 1,300 bottles produced. It was bottled in January 2021. Drink 2022 to 2027. $40.” – 95 points (Nov 2021)