Nuria Altés, like many young vintners in Spain, comes from a family who has grown grapes for generations. Tucked away […]Keep Reading
Nuria Altés, like many young vintners in Spain, comes from a family who has grown grapes for generations. Tucked away in a remote corner of Catalunya, Nuria’s new project, Herència Altés, is situated outside the village of Batea, in the DO of Terra Alta. Remarkably Terra Alta is one of the largest wine-growing regions in Cataluyna and one of which few are aware – something Nuria has set about changing. Growing up among the vines that her grandfather tended, Nuria has known these vineyards since childhood and decided in 2010 to purchase grapes from her father to make her wines. She is assisted by her partner Rafael de Haan, and together, they inaugurated a new cellar for the 2016 vintage located in her hometown of Batea.
Since 2010, Rafa and Nuria have slowly grown their property from 14 to 60 hectares. They purchased their first vineyard, La Serra, in 2013, followed by Lo Grau and Xalamera in 2014 and 2015. Near the Garnacha’s birthplace in the neighboring province of Aragon, these sites are predominantly Garnatxa Blanca, Negra, and Gris, planted primarily between 1900 and 1960. Old vine Carinyena, locally called Samsó, is also present in their vineyards and small amounts of Syrah.
The soils around the village of Batea are called Panal – chalky and sandy topsoil over deep, clay-limestone, all underpinned by limestone bedrock. Panal is naturally low in nutrients with a tremendous capacity to store water, which is vital for the vines. The summers are warm and dry and almost always windy, alternating between the continental Cirç and the easterly Garbi bringing in humidity from the Mediterranean. This part of Terra Alta is so prone to these two winds that the area is famous for windmills that generate much of the region’s electricity in addition to growing grapes. At elevations between 390 and 480 meters above sea level, the vineyards of Herència Altés benefit from a higher elevation than most of the rest of the DO. This allows for full maturation of the grapes at lower finished alcohol and higher acidity.
Above all, Rafa and Nuria are Garnatxa Blanca specialists. While this variety most likely originated further up the Ebro valley in Aragon, the climate of Terra Alta is far better suited to this variety. So much, so that of all the Garnatxa Blanca planted in the world, more is found in Terra Alta than anywhere else in the world. Taking well to the panal soils and benefiting from shifting winds, Garnatxa Blanca can reach exceptional levels of concentration and ripeness while retaining acidity. These conditions have allowed Rafa and Nuria to make refreshing village-level Garnatxa Blanca, individual vineyard and terroir bottlings, ancestral skin-contact Garnatxa Blanca called vins brisats and even the occasional late harvest rendition of the variety. Such a diversity of Garnatxa Blanca styles is unique to Terra Alta and Herencia Altes’ location at the foot of the Serra de Cavalls.
Harvest at Herència Altés is carried out by hand, starting with Garnatxa Blanca and the Garnatxa Negra, intended for the Rosat, followed by the older vine Garnatxa Negra and Peluda, Syrah and finally the Carinyena or Samsó. Each variety is brought to the cellar in small crates and chilled for 24 hours to prevent oxidation during fermentation. The whites see a short maceration before pressing while the reds are destemmed, crushed, and fermented with regular punch-downs to submerge the cap. Multiple vinifications are made based on vineyard site, variety, and vine age and are done in stainless steel tanks, concrete, or oak vessels of varying sizes. Following fermentation, the wines are aged in tank, cement, foudre, or 300L–600L French oak barrels.
Having completed their new cellar in 2016 and converted their vineyards to certified organic farming, Rafa and Nuria have expanded their idea of sustainability in the face of increasing climate instability. They have untaken a comprehensive native replanting and habitat restoration project to promote biodiversity on the lands surrounding their vineyards and have witnessed the return of avian and ground-dwelling predators that have kept less desirable insects at bay. Their winery was built to allow for gravity-flow winemaking, reducing the need for electrical pumps, and solar panels on the roof provide 50-60% of the electricity used on the property. Organic waste and wastewater are composted or recycled, and runoff is controlled by restoring vineyard terraces and channeling rainfall into cisterns and restored ponds. In an effort to achieve a carbon-neutral footprint, Herència Altés joined International Wineries for Climate Action in 2021 and are currently a Silver Member. The International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) mission is to reduce the carbon footprint of wine production and promote sustainable practices in vineyards and winemaking. Recognizing that packaging represents a significant proportion of their carbon footprint, rather than offset this deficit, they are investigating lighter-weight, innovative packaging for their wines.Close