Quinta da Muradella
VISIT IMPORTER'S WEBSITE
Country of Origin: Spain
Location: Monterrei, Galicia
People: Jose Luis Mateo, Owner & Winemaker
Viticulture: Certified Organic
Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews: A Week in Galicia
Spanish Wine Lover: Quinta da Muradella: the Quiet Search for Wine Purity
Quinta da Muradella is a winery but also a passionate quest of one man: José Luis Mateo. José has spent the last 30 years exploring the viticulture traditions and history of Monterrei. At first, he studied the history and spoke with the older generations as a way of learning how to make good wine in Monterrei. They referenced the region’s history of field blends and its diversity of grapes. As he dove deeper, José Luis Mateo’s realized there was a regional winemaking history on the verge of extinction, and that he was going to save it! While he is indeed a vigneron making exceptionally balanced and beautiful terroir-driven wines, he is also a preservationist who has taken over the responsibility of recovering and saving the lost grape varieties and vineyards of Monterrei. In a certain way, this winery is like a liquid book of history.
José Luis Mateo started Quinta da Muradella in 1991, naming his winery after a Celtic fort from the 3rd century BC located near the town of Verín. He produces wines from 20 hectares throughout Monterrei. 15 hectares are estate vineyards, which have been certified organic since 2005 by CRAEGA (Cjo. Regulador de Agricultura Ecológica de Galicia). The rest of the different parcels are in strict regiment but leased, and/or in direct supervision. The parcels contain a cornucopia of indigenous grape vines. All new plantings are propagated from selection massale material from the oldest vineyards found in the mountains. In the cellar, all ferments are wild from indigenous yeast, and the wines are neither fined nor filtered. Wine production is extremely small (total winery capacity is 75,000 bottles) and everything is done by hand.
Today (2018), José is one of only 26 wine producers labeling under the Monterrei Denominación de Origen. He is the only producer recuperating the winemaking history and tradition.
The Monterrei Terroir: The region of Monterrei is situated in the southern part of the province of Ourense in Galicia, and is within a large bowl that forms a valley running from north to south along the Tamega River, which feeds into the Douro. This part of the Galician interior has characteristics in between both the Atlantic zone and the Continental, with humid parts and areas that can reach extreme temperatures. It is furthest from the Atlantic Ocean, and its yearly rainfall is below average compared to other regions in Galicia. These inland continental conditions result in a drier, warmer climate than western Galician regions. One can find grapevines planted from the valley floor or middle of the hillside slopes all the way up to the high mountain areas, which can show a steep grade. The altitudes range from 360 meters (1,100 feet) in elevation all the way up to some vineyards in the mountain zone where they can reach 850 meters (2,800 feet). The western part (left bank of river) of the region has the oldest geology, with a granitic substrate, and the eastern part (right bank) is comprised of slates and clays with a presence of iron in the subsoil. There is evidence of viticulture in the area from before the Roman era, although during that period is when it grew to sizeable presence. Today, Monterrei has the most vineyards planted in all of Galicia (with +3800 hectares!), but most of the production goes into bulk wine.
Wine Advocate 5/2020
"Quinta da Muradella is the project of José Luis Mateo, considered by many to be the best vigneron in Galicia. His wines are like him, discrete, sincere and authentic. They transcend the Monterrei region, where he's well ahead of the rest—vintage, grape and everything—and the wines are usually marked by the soils, the place where the grapes grow.
When I asked him what he was doing, he told me, as always, that he's changing everything, the varieties, the pruning... But it's all going in the same direction, going back to the traditions of the past. So, he's not really changing anything, he's consistently improving in the same direction, going back to gobelet Mencía, planting more Brancellao, even reducing the surface of vineyards to be able to work them properly. He's had two really challenging years recently: 2017, with frost that killed the crop, and very low yields in 2018, when he couldn't produce all the labels. In 2019, the range has gone back to normal, and he's very positive about the wines."
Wine Advocate 2/2019
"Many producers consider José Luis Mateo to be the finest grape grower in Galicia. He's relentless in his search for excellence and is often unhappy with the results even when you think the wines are amazing. In fact, his wines are amazing, without a doubt the finest of Monterrei, and they transcend the appellation and find themselves among the finest wines from Galicia and from Spain. This time he has done a custom bottling for the Matador magazine in Spain, a white from 2016 that ranks among the finest he has produced so far."
Wine Advocate 10/2013
"Quinta da Muradella was created in 1993 by Jose Luis Mateo with 15 hectares of owned vineyards in different zones of the Monterrei appellation, some on the valley floor, some on the slopes and some others in the mountain zones where some vineyards reach 100 years of age. He works 20 different plots. All his vineyards are organically certified. He makes a total of 40,000 bottles per year, and experiments with different grapes, different zones, fermenting and aging vessels (wood, stainless steel, concrete) trying to understand the region and the grapes and what works best. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand the process he uses to make some of the wines, and you’ll see that he moves the wines from inox to barrel, from cement to whatever, in what seems to be quite a complicated operation. Some things work and some don’t. He makes varietal wines to examine the different grapes and their potential, he tries different blends, and his ultimate idea is to identify the ideal blend of ancient varieties, the ones that were planted in the region before phylloxera, not only to make the wine, but to plant those varieties already mixed in the vineyard.
His collection of wines is completely different from the rest of the wines produced in the appellation. If you ever visit Verin, which has a beautiful old town center and an impressive castle, you should make sure you visit the Mateo family’s bar, A Canteira (the name comes from their father who was a canteiro, a stone mason), where they serve their own house wine, both white and red, made by Jose Luis. It is the best house wine I’ve ever tried in a restaurant. The locals just don’t know how lucky they are. About the person himself, Jose Luis Mateo is extremely humble, a quality I find in the best people across different professions – very generous with his time and everything else. He’s passionate about what he’s doing, and he considers his work a long-term project to bring value and quality to the wines of his region, 'hoping that someone will take over and continue the things that I’m doing,' he said. When I asked him what he’d change if he could start again he was very clear. 'I’d focus on the mountain vineyards,' he told me. I asked what if it had to be somewhere else in Galicia? 'To me the place would be Ribeiro.' And now for something completely different! Jose Luis has been making a range of varietal red wines that he was reluctant to show, since quantities are sometimes tiny, but I found some of them too good not to talk about them; some are also non-DO wines declassified to the Vino de Mesa category."
Jancis Robinson 3/2013
“Although it is fascinating to taste wines from these relatively obscure varieties, what shines here is ‘the soul of Monterrei’ and the deft, light-handed winemaking of a skillful and intuitive winemaker.”