Bodegas Vegalfaro "Pago de los Balagueses" Syrah 2017

Valencia, Spain

Vino de Pago: one of Spain's most elite, rare designations – the Grand Crus of Spain. So rare, there are to date only twenty of them in the entire country. Most of us can recite a few of the major wine regions of Spain: Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and so forth. Interspersed amongst them, however, are some singular, world-class estate deserving of recognition. 

The "Vino de Pago" labeling was created to honor these estates. Consider them individual "islands' of great wine estates, with the name of the Pago affixed to their estate only, unlike other wine regions that cover numerous producers (like Rioja, for example). By law, they must be 100% estate-owned fruit (no purchased grapes) and undergo stringent vetting before approved, hence the elite club of a mere twenty estates thus far.

Which brings us, then, to the Valiente family of Bodegas Vegalfaro. Andrés and his son Rodolfo Valiente steward old vines of organic Syrah, Grenache, Bobal, and others across their singular estate in eastern Spain. This is their Syrah bottling, hand-harvested and fermented in French oak for ten months. Heady and intoxicating with brambly plums, spiced blackberry liqueur, loamy earth, and dusty-but-suave tannins that wrap around the tongue and complement the deep, aromatic fruit texture that keeps going and going.

The Pago de los Balaguesas is remote and fascinatingly unique, within the rugged Parque Natural de las Hoces del Cabriel, near a UNESCO Heritage site and surrounded by forest and diverse natural habitats. Bodegas Vegalfaro is a strict devotee of responsible land management, one of just three organic Vino de Pago estates.

Both classically Spanish and reminiscent of its Rhône counterparts, this is truly a special wine from a special place – proof positive that Spain is every bit as capable of producing world-class Syrah as its neighbors in the Rhône valley.

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