|6 x 75
Founded in 2001 by Javier Dominguez, Dominio do Bibei is widely credited as a driving force behind the quality revolution in Spain’s historic Ribeira Sacra region. Ribeira Sacra’s vines were first planted by the Romans, who came to the area to mine gold. They constructed hundreds of terraced vineyards on the precipitous slopes hugging the curves of the region's three river gorges, the Sil, the Miño and the Bibei. These vineyards were later farmed by monks for several centuries, which inspired the region's name, ‘sacred riverbanks’. Eventually, the devastation of phylloxera, economic depression and civil war drove local families to leave Ribeira Sacra and begin new, easier, lives elsewhere.
In the late 1990s, Javier Dominguez was among an influx of young winemakers attracted by the region’s old vines and untouched, Jurassic landscape. His family bought land in the Bibei valley, Ribeira’s most easterly sub-region, and today they own a 140-hectare estate, of which 45 are planted with vines. Javier has since worked tirelessly to revive the region and its indigenous vines, undertaking what is known locally as ‘heroic viticulture’.
Dominio do Bibei’s vines are grown at varying elevations from 200 to 700 metres, scattered across a large, north-facing hillside with schist and granite soils, flecked with slate, quartz and iron. They source some grapes from bordering vineyards provided they do not face south; freshness and good acidity levels are an obsession at Dominio do Bibei. This is aided by the region’s Atlantic climate, whose average annual rainfall of 700mm is mainly concentrated in the winter and spring. The summer and autumn are drier, with a large diurnal range.
Mencía is Dominio do Bibei’s most widely grown black grape. However, they also use the local Brancellao, Sousón, Mouratón, Alicante Bouschet and Caíño, reflecting the seemingly chaotic vineyards of their predecessors. For whites, Godello and Albariño dominate, with small amounts of Doña Blanca, Treixadura and Torrontés sometimes included. Their grapes are destemmed and aged in various vessels, including modern cement eggs, foudres and old 600-litre barrels.
Dominio do Bibei make four cuvées whose names begin with the letter ‘L’. ‘Lalama’ is a light and fragrant red (90% Mencía) with sappy, redcurrant freshness from grapes grown on the warmest, lower part of the valley. ‘Lacima’ is a blend of Mencía, Brancellao, Mouratón and Sousón from the peak of the hillside. It displays a vivid, black cherry character with a fine, filigree texture. Two white wines are also produced. ‘Lalume’ is a precise, barrel-fermented Treixadura, while the limited ‘Lapola’ is a blend of Godello with Albariño and Doña Blanca.
There are far easier places to make wine than in Ribeira Sacra. Yet Javier Dominguez and his consultant winemakers, Priorat’s Sara Pérez and René Barbier, are united in a common belief in this spectacular landscape, its ancient character and, most of all, its capacity to produce Spain’s most distinctive wines.
Vines are grown at varying degrees of elevation, between 300 to 700 metres above sea level, and are scattered across a large, north-facing hillside with schist and granite soils, flecked with slate, quartz and iron. The vine age varies between 25 and 100 years old and on average produces between 1 and 1.5kg of grapes. The region’s Atlantic climate, with an average annual rainfall of 700mm, mostly concentrated in the winter and spring months, helps retain freshness and acidity in the fruit. The summer and autumn are drier, with a large diurnal range.
The 2020 vintage began with healthy water reserves. Winter was very dry but mild. Spring began with abundant rainfall, which, alongside average temperatures, allowed the vines to bud under favourable conditions. May was warm with little rainfall, resulting in good vine health and many clusters. Cool weather in June slowed vine development but a very hot July helped to balance the growth. Summer saw some storms which luckily caused minimal vineyard damage. Rain refreshed the soil at the beginning of vérasion, and harvesting conditions were favourable which resulted in healthy grapes with balanced ripeness.
The grapes were hand picked in 10kg cases. The first selection took place at the vineyard, then the grapes were stored at cold temperatures for 24 hours, followed by further sorting in the winery, grape by grape. The grapes were then destemmed and vatted by a gravity-led system. Cold pre-fermentation maceration took place for 2 days, followed by fermentation with indegenous yeasts in French wooden tanks (25-45 hL). Punch downs were carried out daily, and long post-fermentation maceration took place. Manual run off and spontaneous malolactic fermentation then took place in French barrels. The wine was then aged for 18 months in French oak barrels followed by at least 12 months ageing in bottle.
Tasting Notes & Technical Details
'Lalama' has a vibrant and slightly spicy nose brimming with aromas of ripe black cherries, blueberries, dark plummy fruit and a touch of wild strawberry. These crunchy fruit aromas are contrasted beautifully by the peppery spices, some toasty oak notes and a warm mocha character. The wine is a dark red colour with youthful ruby reflections. The palate is fresh and texturally inviting.