BARRANCO OSCURO produces natural wines in the the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the Sierra de la Contraviesa-Alpujarra de Granada in Granada in Andalucia, Spain. This area has some of the the highest vineyards in mainland Europe.
OWNER | Lorenzo Valenzuela (Manuel’s son).
VINEYARDS | 2010 12ha.
Doug Wregg (2011) says ‘Manuel Valenzuela was the first to establish vineyards [in Andalucia at high altitude] in a district called Costa-Albondón. Growers had previously been reluctant to go so high. He tells us his small vineyard called Cerro de la Monjas is at an altitude of almost 1,400 m (4,593 ft), one of the highest in Continental Europe. His home and winery, Cortijo Barranco Oscuro, is in Cádiar, Sierra de la Contraviesa, in the midst of the Alpujarras. He set out as a winemaker, some would say at great risk, using organic methods. He tried out varieties that were reminiscent of times past, such as the rare white Vigiriega, which only exists in Granada and the Canary Islands. But he also tried his hand at some of the French and Italian varieties that are famous on the international wine-growing scene,’ (Caves de Pyrene list July 2011).
VINEYARDS | Lorenzo told me ‘we have six hectares of vineyard planted between 1981 to 1996 on the Cerro Las Monjas, at 1,368 metres above sea level, making this highest altitude piece of cultivated land in the zone. We have another six hectares of trellised vines surrounding the farm, planted between 1995 and 2000. These vineyards are at 1,280 metres above sea level, the same level as the winery. Both sites were planted in land which had not been cultivated for years, and were not touched by agricultural chemicals like the fertilizers which began arriving in the 1970s. Not far from here there’s the plastic agriculture (green houses) for intensively grown vegetables with all kinds of chemicals, but here in the heights there is no place for mass production or instant revenue. My father started working the land as a neo-rural in 1980 (we lived in Barcelona before that) growing almonds, figs, and vegetables. We started to plant the vineyard as the house we bought had wine in it and vineyards attached to it by the seller sold only the house and not the vineyards. My father always worked in a natural way on the farm for all crop, the fruits, the wine and so on.’
GRAPE VARIETIES | The main varieties are Garnacha, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc for red wine, and Vigiriega, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Vermentino for white wines.
ORGANIC CERTIFICATION | Lorenzo told me ‘We started to participate into the organic movement in the mid-1980s via an Association called Umbela which started to provide an organic label. That finished when the organic rules were approved by the EU and we started to use the official label of the CRAE (Consejo Regulador de la Agricultura Ecológica). We were the first in Spain to achieve this official label, that was around 1989. Two years later the responsibility for certificatoin was passed to Spain autonomous regions. So we started to work the CAAE (Comité Andaluz de la Agricultura Ecológica), or the Andalusia Organic Agriculture Committee. My father was a member of this Committee but some years later we abandoned it because of the corruption inside. Then we started to work with Sohiscert-Ecocert for certification. Finally, we renounced any official label or organic rule because we find out not serious and we feel we are far more self-demanding. Now we participate in the Association of Natural Wine Producers. It is like we are back starting again as it was in the beginning with the people we trust, after break and those years of politicians, rules, papers, bureaucracy, inspectors.
BRUT NATURE | 2007 Vino Espumoso de Calidad Brut Nature 100% Vigiriega. 4,000 bottles. / 2008 100% Vigiriega. Nice cream texture, funky flavours, amazing acidity Natural Wine Fair 2011.
TRES UVES | Oak-aged white from Viognier, Vermentino and Vigiriega made in an oxidative, bruised applestyle. / 2006 Oak and oxidatative flavours, dense and refreshing underneath at the Natural Wine Fair 2011.
BLANCAS NOBLES | Vigiriega (80%), Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Viognier, Vermentino and Albariño. In Cerro Las Monjas. Schistous soil. 2 plots of Vigiriega with a total of 1.5 hectares. Planted between 1985 and 1990. Altitude: 1,340 and 1,360 metres. Spur pruned (‘en vaso’). Less than 1kg of grapes per vine. Also in the Cerro Las Monjas, next to the highest plot of Vigiriega, are 0.3ha of Sauvignon Blanc at about 1,350 metres, schistous soil, very stony, planted in 1986, with an average yield of about 750 grams per strain. The rest of the varieties are found in the plains behind the cortijo, Pagos del Barranco Oscuro and Pagos del Hoyo and Cerro de las Gayumbas. All are planted in trellis with double cord pruning. The origin of this plot was as a research project, with grapes shown to be unsuitable having already been eliminated. / 2008 Blancas Nobles Funky crisp acidity and bacon crisps, and acetaldehyde at the Natural Wine Fair, Borough Market 15-17 May 2011.
CERRO LAS MONJAS 1368 | The vines are at 1,368 metres (4,500 feet) above sea level, hence the name. / 2003 Tasted but no notes taken at the Natural Wine Fair 2011. / 2005 ‘Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Grenache Noir. No added sulfites,’ (Isabelle Legeron, 2014, p191).
GARNATA | From 2 hectares of Garnacha at Cerro Las Monjas. Production of 500- 750 grams per plant. Planted between 1983 and 1989. Spur pruned (‘en vaso’) leaving 3 or 4 spurs with 2 buds each. The soils are slate shales, very poor at an altitude between 1,320-1,368 metres above sea level.
BORGONON GRANATE | The Borgoñón Granate is a Pinot Noir. From 1,400 Pinot Noir vines on a plot of 0.6 hectares, planted in 1996. Wire trained, bi-lateral cordons, 6 spurs with two buds each. There is another 0.35 ha plot on espalier, 1,400 vines, single cordon, 3 spurs, 2 buds per spur. Slate soil, stony, at 1e350 metres altitude.
TINTO, BARRANCO OSCURO 1368 | 1368 refers to the altitude of the vines, namely Garnacha, Cabernet (both Sauvignon and Franc), Merlot and Tempranillo.
Bodega Barranco Oscuro, Cortijo Barranco Oscuro s/n, Carretera A345 Km 6,6, E-18440 Cádiar (Granada), Spain | Tel+34 958.343066 | www.barrancooscuro.com
Doug Wregg, Caves de Pyrene list, July 2011.
Isabelle Legeron MW, Natural Wine, An introduction to organic and biodynamic wines grown naturally (2014, Cico Books, London & New York).
Natural Wine Fair 2011, Borough Market, London 15-17 May.