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Wine

The Wines of Right Now

June 08, 2022

Story: Leslie Pariseau

illustrations: Andy Bourne

Wine

The Wines of Right Now

June 08, 2022

Story: Leslie Pariseau

illustrations: Andy Bourne

We spoke to 150 sommeliers and retailers around the country to assemble a list of the 15 producers who represent the wine zeitgeist right now.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this is another “it” list stacked with bottles you might scroll past on Instagram—a grab bag of wines whose punk-rock ethos precedes them. This list is not that. 

In our first attempt to capture the American wine zeitgeist in one semi-comprehensive sweep, what we stumbled into instead was a group of winemakers and growers who embody a deep intellectual engagement with the continuum of wine’s history, shot through with a streak of exuberant curiosity—much more Eloise Bridgerton than, say, Juliette Lewis’ Nat of Yellowjackets. No longer is it enough to grab attention with terms like “noninterventionist” or purvey a raffish “do nothing,” middle-finger-to-the-man persona. Rather, intention and earnestness are in.

To assemble this list of 15-plus producers and five honorable mentions, we reached out to 150 sommeliers and wine sellers across the country whose opinions we trust and whose wide-ranging tastes might provide a diverse snapshot of what’s being stocked on lists and shelves today. In doing so, we hoped that the results would reflect the values that we are most concerned with—notably, a defined sense of place, a reverence for holistic agriculture and transparency in winemaking and labor practices. We set before this panel a difficult task: Choose just three producers you think represent the best of wine culture right now. 

The answers were as varied as the respondents, but a handful of themes emerged that wove a thread through many of the producers listed here. The most prevailing was a deep concern for climate change and the ways in which winegrowers and makers are dealing with its arrival. This manifests in everything from high-altitude farming to an embrace of regenerative agriculture to the co-fermentation of grapes with fill-in-the-blank fruit. The latter is also representative of a desire among many of the producers to broaden the definition of wine. And though we refrain from qualifying winemakers by race, gender or sexual orientation, it is worth noting that many respondents felt compelled to point out that the landscape of winemaking and growing is becoming incrementally more inclusive.

Of course, there are more technical themes to note, including an appreciation for younger, fresher wines (down with cellaring!), as well as a shift in the geographical hierarchies. It was encouraging to see so many island wines appear here, as well as the notable dominance of Spain. Tallies for Australia and South Africa were absent, which may speak to a lack of representation here, as well as higher prices. And though there were votes for French producers, in the end, the scales were weighted toward Spain and the Americas, prompting the question: Is French wine dead? Of course it isn’t, but it’s clear that it no longer has the unshakable grip on the zeitgeist it once did. There is also the delightful news that Americans are continuing to embrace wine made beyond the West Coast, with votes for producers in Vermont, New York, Texas, Virginia—even Wisconsin. This local-to-you mentality is telling of a new generational groundswell that sees potential to redraw America’s wine map.

Our plan is to update this guide regularly in an effort to document the constantly shifting landscape of American thirst. Without further ado, welcome to the inaugural edition of The Wines of Right Now.

United States

Âmevive | Santa Ynez Valley, California

A dreamy reimagining of central California’s Rhône-leaning heritage.

Âmevive’s Alice Anderson farms the Ibarra-Young Vineyard in Santa Ynez, which was first planted in the 1970s by Charlotte Young, and then in the 1990s and early aughts by Bob Lindquist of Qupé, an influential proponent of Rhône grape varieties on California’s Central Coast. Here, Anderson builds on Lindquist’s legacy of making classically delicious wines from grapes like mourvedre and marsanne, but with the holistic sensibilities of a modern natural producer: Her farming is regenerative, and each vineyard is given attention specific to its ecosystem. “There is probably no less hip variety family than white Rhône,” says Carlin Karr of Frasca in Boulder, Colorado, in reference to marsanne. “But Alice produces wines that have an electric backbone and beautiful aromatics. It’s impossible not to love them.” 

There’s something very humane about Anderson’s approach, too, which seems an ironic qualifier when it comes to shepherding the wildness of nature, but it’s a sentiment echoed by Samantha Bauer of Bay Grape, who called out Anderson for her inclusivity; she hosts family and friends for pruning, thinning and picking parties meant to bring in eager, green learners and “[build] true, authentic community within the industry, which sets her apart from the many other folks doing what she’s doing.”

Though her focus is much more on the land as a whole rather than simply grapes and wine, Anderson’s winemaking is exacting (she has worked in New Zealand and the Northern Rhône, and with New California stalwarts like A Tribute to Grace and Tatomer) without sacrificing the wines’ emotional quality. Âmevive translates loosely to “lively” in French, and Anderson’s wines embody the meaning. In a reflection of the intimate quality of her work, her labels are painted by her mother, Eileen, depicting native weasels and quail, monarch caterpillars and Darner dragonflies—all the things that make up the menagerie Anderson is stewarding.

Notable Bottlings

Âmevive Albariño A floral take on the grape made from Martian Ranch’s biodynamic vineyards in the Alisos Canyon AVA, and topping out at just 73 cases for the 2021 vintage.

Âmevive Graciano Rosé A lively high-acid, dark pink rosé from a little-known Spanish grape that tastes like pure summer raspberries.

Âmevive Périphérie A blend of syrah, marsanne and mourvedre from the property’s original 1970s plantings. Anderson’s aim with this 50th anniversary vintage was to make fresh wine from a serious vineyard.

Ashanta | Sonoma, California

Open-hearted experimentation.

Ashanta, a nascent label from Chenoa Ashton-Lewis and Will Basanta, has birthed only two vintages, and yet it has already forged a profound presence within the natural wine scene. Part of a cohort of small-scale producers straying from established convention by experimenting with co-fermentation and off-the-beaten-path sourcing, Ashton-Lewis and Basanta met while working on a film set in Sweden. After spending time in Sicily, they returned to Ashton-Lewis’ family’s land in Sonoma, where the pair tried their luck with producing a single barrel of wine. Encouraged, they eventually began working with the pioneering natural winemaker Tony Coturri in Sonoma to create their first vintage. 

Thus far, the pair has made a foraged pineapple guava and apple pét-nat, a no-sulfur chardonnay from Sonoma Mountain, a “table” zinfandel, a cider fermented with skins of carignan and viognier, and a couple of vintages of Brutal!!!, an open-source label with strict no-intervention parameters forged by one French and two Catalan winemakers. Their first Brutal effort—a wild, juicy pét-nat based on French colombard and elderberries—was part ingenuity and part practicality: Both fruits were spared from nearby forest fires, coming together to form what James Sligh of Children’s Atlas of Wine calls “a reinventing [of] what California wine can be.”

One of the more exciting themes to emerge from this inaugural survey is an exuberant interest in the wide bounds of fermentation, and a blurring of the lines among beer, wine and cider. Jirka Jireh, formerly of Ordinaire in the Bay Area, sees the application to wine of techniques like co-fermentation and dry-hopping as offering places like Latin American, Caribbean and African countries a spot in our new map of wine. “Why not ferment tropical fruit along with grapes or apples to create a beverage that demands a higher price when brought to market?” Ashanta, with its experimental, open-hearted approach, is one to watch.

Notable Bottlings

Ashanta Brutal!!! A bright, juicy pét-nat of French colombard from Solano County co-fermented with elderberries foraged from the San Gabriel Mountains.

Ashanta Mawu Interplanted and co-fermented merlot and chardonnay from Sonoma Mountain, named for the West African Dahomey goddess of the sun and the moon, echoing one accepted meaning of “Sonoma”: “valley of the moon.”

Ashanta Mermejita A skin-contact viognier co-fermented with marsanne, both grown in San Diego County’s volcanic soils, just north of the Mexican border.

Eater Wine Club Punch

Hiyu Wine Farm | Hood River, Columbia Gorge, Oregon

Savage and refined.

If there was one producer we could have predicted would be on this list, it was Hiyu. China Tresemer and Nate Ready’s Columbia Gorge farm braids together experimental agriculture (treating soil with probiotic teas to encourage good bacteria growth, for instance) and techniques like solera aging and co-fermentation to create wines that are well outside the bounds of the expected. “If a wine could advocate for headspace and mindful consumption and be relevant to some of our most pressing issues, it would be a wine worth paying attention to,” says Jason Zuliani, founder of Dedalus wine shops in Vermont and Colorado, when name-checking Hiyu. “If it was also wild and beautiful, it would demand even more.” 

Hiyu (which means “abundance” or “big party” in Chinook) is a kind of wonderland of regenerative agroforestry, overfull with flora and fauna. The farm is also a menagerie of grape varieties—112 in all—scattered together in experimental plots, like one dedicated to Alpine syrah relatives from the Valle d’Aosta, or another that mixes together Greek and southern Italian varieties. The result is a wildly diverse library of wines that shift from year to year. In 2019, Hiyu made Aura, a whole-cluster co-ferment of pinot gris and pinot noir; in 2018 there was Aedín, a blend of southern French grapes dominated by a cabernet clone taken from Château Margaux that saw 50 days on the skins; in 2020 there was Halo Spring Ephemeral, which saw whole-cluster pinot noir and pinot gris sealed into a tank and left to ferment for several months before being pressed directly into barrel. There are also fruit wines, like Floréal, a nonvintage cider that appears every year, and Espina, a multivintage, solera-aged mix of pinot gris, plums, pears, elderberries, blackberries and rose hips.

Tresemer and Ready’s wines are not everyday drinking—they are expensive, and they should be—but they are an emotional experience, telegraphing something more atmospheric and fantastical than a preoccupation with technique. They are difficult to pin down, at times ethereal, other times confounding. Sommelier and Punch contributor Miguel de Leon of Pinch in New York City calls Hiyu’s method of stewarding the land “future-driven,” while Zuliani of Dedalus says that the wines themselves are “an environmental touchstone. I haven’t had any other wines that move between the savage and the refined in the same way.”

Notable Bottlings

Hiyu Wine Farm Draco Available as part of a three-bottle collection meant to evoke the pre-Bordeaux wines of southwestern France. Forty heirloom clones of merlot create strange, savory layers of aroma that seem infinite. 

Hiyu Wine Farm Floréal Cider V A blend of up to 50 varieties of apple from a biodynamic orchard at the base of Mount Hood.

Hiyu Wine Farm Tzum Atavus VI An old-vine, nonvintage blend of pinot noir and gewürztraminer, aged in solera with wines dating back to 2013.

La Montañuela | Barnard, Vermont

Welcome to America’s next great wine region.

In the course of gathering entries for this list, it became apparent that there is something afoot in American wine beyond the West Coast—from Wisconsin to Texas, Virginia to Vermont. These regions are still pre-cusp, with sometimes only one or two growers representing, but the idea of local-to-you is certainly present in the consciousness of how wine sellers are curating their shelf spaces and lists. La Montañuela is one of a handful of Vermont producers, including Fable Farm, La Garagista and Kalchē, pushing the boundaries of American wine territory.

"A co-ferment of wild crab apples and grapes, or a hybrid grape variety especially created to withstand the humid summers and frigid winters of the Northeast, tells us a lot about a time and place,” says Meri Lugo, wine buyer at Domestique in Washington, D.C. “It can really transmit a vigneron’s personality, talent and risk-taking.”

First-generation winemaker Camila Carrillo trained at Gentle Folk in Australia and La Stoppa in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna before coming home in 2018 to work out of Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber’s La Garagista winery in Barnard. Named for Carrillo’s grandfather’s farm in Venezuela, La Montañuela is reflective of Heekin’s nurturing, as biodynamics and a reliance on foraged fruit and hybrid grapes are likewise pillars of Carrillo’s ethos. Hybrid grapes (a crossing of species typically created to withstand marginal climes), once roundly dismissed by the cognoscenti, are crucial to winemaking in the Northeast. Carrillo’s current lineup is a patchwork of them, sourced from neighboring farms until her own vines are ready. Her Los Enamorados Pét-Nat, vibrant and bone-dry, is composed of 26 wild apple varieties fermented with the skins of la crescent and frontenac gris grapes; Eléctrico rosé is based on the sabrevois grape sourced from Walpole, New Hampshire; and the current vintage of Rocio is entirely marquette, from a half-acre plot in the Champlain Valley that Carrillo is currently rehabilitating and farming herself.

Notable Bottlings

La Montañuela Eléctrico Rosé Made with 100 percent New Hampshire sabrevois, a dark-skinned grape primed for cold weather, yielding a juicy, brambly pink wine.

La Montañuela Los Enamorados Sparkling Cider Pétillant Naturel A mingling of 26 varieties of wild Vermont apples fermented with frontenac gris and la crescent skins.

La Montañuela Rocio An inky purple wine made with the red hybrid marquette grape, farmed by Carrillo in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, aged in glass. Only 396 bottles.

Argentina

Matías Riccitelli | Vistalba, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza

Bringing dignity to Argentine malbec. 

“When most Americans think of Argentine wines, they see a high-shouldered, thick glass bottle full of dark, sweet, oaky malbec,” says Grayum Vickers, of Longoven in Richmond, Virginia. There is perhaps no wine more maligned by current vogue than Argentine malbec, and deservedly so, considering the quantity of industrial plonk that emerges from the country. But in the hands of Matías Riccitelli, malbec is remade to represent Argentina as it might have been—before its Californication.

With bottlings called This is Not Another Lovely Malbec and The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree, Riccitelli is aware of the challenge, and is approaching it with humor rather than a need to prove worth. Occupying 20 hectares at the base of the Andes Mountains in Mendoza, many of Riccitelli’s vines are nearly a century old. He also makes bastardo and torrentés from Patagonia; speaking of, Vickers was quick to also point out fellow Patagonian producer Bodega Aniello, whose wines provide a fresh look at the country, especially its trousseau, sourced from 90-year-old vines. 

“Matías translates consistently every year Mother Nature’s offering, and captures it in many fresh-style wines,” says Pedro Rodríguez of Grand Cata, a shop in Washington, D.C., that is focused on Latin American wines. A herald of what might be a long-awaited Argentine wine rebirth (following its Chilean cousin), Riccitelli is eschewing big oak for concrete, stainless steel and clay, crafting wines in a style more akin to Chile’s new-wave producers (Louis-Antoine Luyt, Roberto Henríquez, Cacique Maravilla and more) than the high-octane fruit bombs Argentina has become known for internationally.

Notable Bottlings

Matías Riccitelli Old Vines From Patagonia Bastardo Better known as trousseau, this Patagonia-grown wine is meant for long-aging and to demonstrate the power of Argentina’s potential for producing serious wines.

Matías Riccitelli The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree Malbec A great example of a producer redefining Mendoza malbec with subtlety; fermented in concrete and aged in used oak.

Matías Riccitelli This Is Not Another Lovely Malbec An ageable malbec that sees whole-cluster fermentation in open-air vats and aging in concrete eggs.

Italy

Bulli | Colli Piacentini, Emilia-Romagna

Old bubbles, new audience.

Bulli is a fifth-generation operation from the Colli Piacentini, a region that sits about halfway between Parma and Milan on the border with Lombardia, not a rebellious upstart bucking trends or reigniting old traditions. Those traditions, instead, have been mostly unbroken; it’s wine drinkers who have finally come around to them. Although Bulli is old, the producer’s wines are experiencing renewed interest at a time when our thirst for lo-fi sparkling wines has never been greater (see the global rise of pét-nat).

Back in May 2020, regular Punch contributor Zachary Sussman wrote about the renaissance of sparkling wines across Emilia-Romagna, with producers like Gianluca Bergianti’s lively biodynamic Terrevive wines returning to the old ways and Camillo Donati sticking to them. These wines undergo refermentation in bottle, or rifermentato in bottiglia, akin to the pétillant-naturel process, rather than industrial, steel-tank charmat-style fermentation, which has dominated here in Emilia-Romagna (it’s how most Lambrusco is made) and in Valdobbiadene (where Prosecco is produced) since World War II. In Bulli’s case, they never stopped making the rifermentato style, and the wines prove a truism that “natural” or “low-intervention” isn’t just fashion—that, in fact, many older producers have never known any other way; senza solfiti aggiunti, or “no sulfur added,” has been on Bulli’s labels since the 1950s. Ezra Wicks of Seattle’s Light Sleeper echoes the appeal of Bulli’s Julius label in particular: “​​For us, the big draw is the contrast of an aromatic grape variety made into a bone-dry wine, and the fact that it’s amber and ancestral method makes the story so much better.”

Here, Leonardo Bulli and his mother make wines from barbera, bonarda, uva rara, ortrugo, malvasia di candia aromatica and uva sampagnina, farmed on 12 hectares and hand-harvested by Bulli and his gaggle of local retirees. The resulting wines—locally dubbed sampagnino, a play on the pronunciation of “Champagne”—are incredibly fresh and simple, though not one-dimensional. They are made to drink right now.

Notable Bottlings

Bulli Cör Colli Piacentini Rosso A blend of red grapes (barbera, bonarda and uva rara) that results in a juicy, savory table wine that will disappear quickly.

Bulli Julius Bolle Macerato Colli Piacentini Frizzante A floral skin-contact (i.e., orange) sparkler made from 100 percent malvasia di candia aromatica.

Bulli Sampagnino Colli Piacentini Frizzante A fizzy blend of aromatic white grapes that translate the salinity and minerality of the limestone soils here.

Divella | Franciacorta, Lombardia

Down with the DOC.

Lombardia’s Franciacorta region is often touted as Italy’s answer to Champagne, minus the international name recognition or prestige. In fact, there are few Italian regions that feel as firmly outside the zeitgeist as the Franciacorta DOC, which was formed in the 1960s and has been dominated by wines that have struggled to carve an identity all their own. Alessandra Divella, who began making wine in 2012, is offering a glimpse of what Franciacorta can be, sans rules.

Instead of subscribing to the DOC, which directs most of its emphasis and resources toward the region’s western, glacial soils, the self-taught Divella created her own designation, “Gussago,” named for the hillside village distinct for its Jurassic limestone and clay soils, where she farms 3 hectares of chardonnay and pinot noir. Whereas most producers in Franciacorta are working conventionally with cultivated yeasts, Divella hews to the traditions of méthode champenoise, but uses native yeast and does not add dosage (i.e., sugar) or sulfur. The wines “are not so gentle” in Divella’s words; they have a power, structure and grip. Lately, she has been working oxidatively, not topping barrels to capacity in order to simulate the qualities of older vintages, and plans to zoom in on specific parcels for future vintages.

“She is refining an already-fine product: taking the practice of Franciacorta, and identifying single vineyards and special cuvées,” says Helen Johannesen of Helen’s Wines in Los Angeles. “It resonates right now, when people tend to think a digital representation defines the individual. But really, it’s the artist, in the vines, creating something astounding, that does.”

Notable Bottlings

Divella Gussago Blanc de Blancs Made with 100 percent chardonnay and aged in concrete and used barrique, with 30 months on the lees.

Divella Gussago Clo Clo Rosé Named for Divella’s mother, this second-press pinot noir is seashell pink and meant to be consumed alongside salty snacks.

Divella Gussago NiNì Equal parts chardonnay and pinot noir; named for Divella’s father.

Occhipinti | Vittoria, Sicily

A natural wine pioneer still innovating.

There was some debate about whether or not Arianna Occhipinti belonged on a list that was meant to describe the right now. After all, it was Occhipinti who helped forge a vogue for reviving historic plots, promoting underdog grapes and marrying classic and natural sensibilities. But her place on this list proves that not only has she solidified herself among the modern-classic producers, but is innovative enough to still be defining the zeitgeist 22 years after her first vintage. Though her wines may seem ubiquitous, they are, in actuality, highly allocated, increasingly difficult to find each year. (Leonora Varvoutis of Houston’s Coltivare attests to this, citing her 2022 ration of SP68 Bianco, one of Occhipinti’s flagships, as just three bottles.) “She might be seen as a more traditional producer,” says Jill Bernheimer of Domaine LA, “but I think her methodology and precision in winemaking is what will ultimately make natural wine culture really stand the test of time.” 

Best known for her work reigniting interest in varieties like frappato and nero d’avola, Occhipinti was schooled by her uncle Giusto at COS, whose noninterventionist methods she combined with her formal studies of viticulture and oenology when striking off on her own. These two viewpoints have come together to create wines that are representative of Sicily’s ancient soul and soil, but dance to their own idiosyncratic rhythms. Occhipinti’s newest line of bottlings, Vino di Contrada, seeks to prove the ability of frappato—a grape once known only for juicy, easygoing reds—to express the particularities of a vineyard site on par with some of the world’s most revered grape varieties. She’s now extended the project to test the thesis with grillo, a native white grape. Bernheimer sees Occhipinti as a great uniter of generations, “[bridging] the gap between different palates and preferences.”

Notable Bottlings

Occhipinti Contrada PT, BB and FL Three historic single-parcel bottlings focused solely on the expression of frappato, Occhipinti’s object of obsession.

Occhipinti Il Frappato A singular representation of the grape whose humble origins belie its refined originality.

Occhipinti SP68 Rosso Occhipinti’s entry-level frappato–nero d’avola blend, named for the historic road that runs through the vineyards.

Spain

Ca’n Verdura, Cati Ribot and Mesquida Mora | Mallorca

Not just for tourists anymore.

“I am convinced that Mallorcan wines are about to hit the scene in a big way,” says Grayum Vickers, sommelier at Longoven in Richmond, Virginia. Mallorca’s story is a bit of a David and Goliath one, with vineyards and producers competing against the forces of tourism, international influence and the cost of land. Though grapes have been grown here since at least the first century B.C., most of the wines have remained local to the Mediterranean oasis. Of late, though, a few new producers have made their way stateside, including three natural winemakers who exemplify a spectrum of styles, showcasing old-vine native grapes that lend these seemingly “new” wines a sense of dignity and maturity.

Ca’n Verdura, from the inland Binissalem DO, the heart of Mallorca’s wine culture, is run by Tomeu Llabrés, a winemaker whose Supernova label features entirely native grapes—the red mantonegro and white moll—farmed without chemical inputs. Similar to grapes grown in the Sherry Triangle, the vines here benefit from the Levante winds, helping to offset humidity and mildew. The wines are made in Llabrés’ converted auto garage in the center of Binissalem, with the main Ca’n Verdura label focusing on mantonegro, a dark-skinned grape, supported by varieties like merlot, monastrell and syrah.

Cati Ribot, a sommelier and third-generation winegrower located in Santa Margalida, in the island’s northeast, is one of only a few women on Mallorca making wines. With the help of her vigneron father, she began replacing international varieties in the family vineyards with native grapes like escursac, moll, giró ros and negrella. Eventually, she shifted her focus from conventional farming to biodynamics and her winemaking to minimal-intervention practices, taking over her father’s bodega in 2019. According to importer José Pastor, she grazes Mallorcan sheep over cover crops and has begun growing apples in anticipation of becoming one of the first cider producers on the island. Denny and Katie Culbert of Wild Child Wines in Lafayette, Louisiana, say these are the kinds of wines that pushed them to open a shop: “They offer a drinkability and surprising liveliness that we think appeals to new wine drinkers [who are] just discovering the world as much as traditional consumers with even the smallest curiosity to try something new.”

Finally, at Mesquida Mora, Bàrbara Mesquida Mora, a fourth-generation winemaker, converted her family’s Pla i Llevant vineyards to biodynamic farming with regenerative practices. The vines include not only native varieties planted by her grandfather that she’s helped to reintegrate, but also old French plantings brought in by her parents nearly half a century ago. Fruit trees, medicinal plants and vegetable cover crops are sown throughout the vineyards, with all labor done manually and according to celestial cycles. Beachy and clean, her Sincronia wines are a wonderful entry point to the new Mallorca.

Notable Bottlings

Ca’n Verdura Ca’n Xicatlà Blanc de Mantonegro Made with indigenous mantonegro from a single historic parcel of vines that are more than 60 years old, a limited bottling from the 2019 vintage demonstrates Mallorca’s potential to bring together ancient knowledge shot through with new blood.

Ve d’Avior Cati Ribot Son Llebre Negre Like many here, Ribot’s inherited vines are grown on the native iron, clay and calcareous soils; this release is a mix of escursac, callet and callet negrella. 

Mesquida Mora Sincronia Blanc Biodynamic moll and giró (both grapes indigenous to the island) with chardonnay. Wonderful acidity and salinity, a wine meant for Mallorcan beaches.

Cota 45 | Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Jerez, Andalucía

A new translation of a historic region.

“The wines of Ramiro Ibáñez are the wines that made me reconsider just about everything I knew about sherry,” says Houston sommelier Justin Vann. “I would argue their unfortified manzanillas are more delicious than just about any ‘traditional’ fino or manzanilla I’ve ever tasted, and possibly easier for consumers to love, too.” Ibáñez has been crucial to the reinvention of the Jerez region, with his dedication to grapes nearly lost to time as well as his return to the tradition of unfortified wines, some aged under flor like fino or manzanilla, others without. The real impetus here is not just reconsidering the nobility of the palomino grape, but showing the true character of the region’s pagos, or historic vineyards, and the singularity of its albariza soils—blindingly white powdery chalk and limestone that interacts with salt and light to form wines with impossible freshness and electricity. Ibáñez is joined in his quest to present sherry beyond fortification by producers like Alba Viticultores, Equipo Navazos, Muchada-Léclapart and Callejuela, as well as his other label, M. Antonio de la Riva, with Willy Pérez.

Though sherry will likely not ascend to experience the boom it did in the 19th century, it is ever more present in the minds of drinkers seeking wines in those hidden corners of the world whose essence is incomparable. Ibáñez’s work is a bit like that of a translator attempting to reignite the language of an author’s opus from another century—partly technical, partly intuitive, with a devotion that borders on the spiritual. Like an ancient text unearthed from a ruin, Cota 45’s wines (“45” is a reference to the number of meters above sea level at which Ibáñez believes the best soils are found) provide a taste of another moment in time when the wines of the Sherry Triangle were more varied and weirder than we could ever know. 

Notable Bottlings

Agostado A rare expression of nearly extinct varieties grown at multiple altitudes, fermented and aged in sherry botas (oak casks) both biologically (under flor, protected from oxygen) and oxidatively (exposed to oxygen). 

Pandorga A sweet wine made from Pedro Ximénez grapes grown on especially limestone-rich albariza soil and sun-dried before pressing. 

UBE Miraflores 80- to 90-year-old palomino fino from five different plots within one of Sanlúcar de Barrameda’s most celebrated pagos.

Daterra Viticultores | Ribeira Sacra, Galicia

A quilt of Galician biodiversity.

As the story of the New Spain unfolds, Galicia and the Ribeira Sacra, in particular, have begun to capture the attention of the wine world with their dramatically diverse terrain—wild brushlands, verdant vegetation, craggy mountains plunging to crystalline rivers—and grapes nearly lost to time. Today, vineyards that were abandoned after the civil war in the 1930s, due to the costs of farming such a challenging landscape, are being rediscovered and nurtured by those up to the task—notably, Laura Lorenzo of Daterra Viticultores, Pedro Rodríguez of Guímaro, Ramón Losado of D. Ventura and the team behind Envínate. Daterra stands out for its imaginative scope, which cuts a dizzying trail through inland Galicia.

Though she made her first vintage in 2014, Lorenzo has already garnered a cult following. Located in Ribeira Sacra’s biodiverse Quiroga-Bibei region, Lorenzo farms a patchwork of very old parcels (some 80 to 120 years old) that swing from warm, vegetated low-elevation sites to steep, terraced plots up to 2,200 feet above the azure waters of the Bibei, Jares and Navea rivers. By tending the vineyards with a proprietary mix of biodynamic techniques and agroecology, she encourages interactions between flora and fauna to maintain a holistic ecosystem. Chloé Grigri of Philadelphia’s Good King Tavern and Le Caveau called out Lorenzo for this willingness to interface with such wildly ranging land: “[She has a] profound respect for both the biological and ideological richness of Ribeira Sacra.” Her bottlings capture this diversity as well, integrating a mix of fermentation and aging vessels (amphorae, old chestnut foudres) and techniques (skin contact, open-barrel fermentation), each calibrated to the grapes she works with (nearly 20 varieties, both well-known and nearly extinct) and what will help them best express themselves.

Notable Bottlings

Daterra Viticultores Azos de Vila A field blend of mouraton, mencía, garnacha tintorera, merenzao and gran negro from own-rooted 80- to 120-year-old vines from the ski village of Manzaneda.

Daterra Viticultores Gavela da Vila A multi-elevation skin-contact palomino, fermented in chestnut barrels.

Daterra Viticultores Tabernario Rosado Mencía and garnacha tintorera the color of strawberries, with an herbal aromatic kick.

Finca Parera | Penedès, Catalunya

The beating heart of Iberian natural wine.

If the heart of Spain’s natural wine movement lies in Catalunya, fourth-generation farmer Rubèn Parera is at the heart of that heart. In this autonomous pocket bordering France and Spain, culturally distinct from both, doing things differently might be viewed as a statement of defiance. In Parera’s case, the difference is in earnest. In Penedès, Finca Parera comprises 10 hectares of biodiverse land where Parera and his family biodynamically farm sumoll, xarel-lo and garnacha blanca alongside vegetables, olives and cherries. For such a new endeavor, Parera’s wines are surprisingly fully formed, joining the ranks of producers like Clos Lentiscus, Partida Creus and Mas Candí to bring a sea change to a region best known for industrial cava production.

What stands out about Finca Parera—and echoes with so many producers on this list—is a concentrated focus on biodiversity, land stewardship and a conversation that revolves around the soil rather than the cellar. “When you talk to Rubèn, his texts are peppered with the tractor emoji and the farmer in a straw hat emoji and carrots and leaves,” says Amanda Smeltz of Folkways, a wine shop in Croton Falls, New York. “He’s immensely proud of being able to make natural wines, olive oil and cherries on his home finca—it’s a country pride, a pride in being able to grow and make your own things that isn’t reactionary.” Finca Parera’s way of doing things isn’t political, but its idiosyncrasies are indicative of this region’s internal sense of rhythm, which operates beyond prescription and the prevailing reputation of Penedès as synonymous with nondescript, conventional wines.

Notable Bottlings

Finca Parera Clar A skin-contact blend of mostly xarel-lo and other indigenous varieties, aged in concrete. 

Finca Parera Khrónos Made with the native red variety sumoll, this wine was aged in amphora and has a delicate woodsy quality to it.

Finca Parera Vermell Litrona An entry-level mix of xarel-lo varieties, aged in cement.

Eater Wine Club Punch

La Araucaria | Tenerife, Canary Islands

On a planet all its own.

The story of the Canary Islands is at the intersection of many important conversations happening in wine today, including the role colonization has played in what and how we drink. While grapes were growing here long before the archipelago became a Spanish colony in the 1400s—and, subsequently, a major stop on the trans-Atlantic slave route—the wines are considered Spanish. Today, the Canaries are a collection of wildly diverse, and often extreme, terroirs (the soot-black, moonscape-like vineyards of Lanzarote, for example, or the high-elevation volcanic vineyards of Tenerife—Europe’s highest) unified by cultivation of native grapes in rugged terrain using techniques that are unique within the world of wine. The wines and the methods by which they come into being buck the qualifier “rustic” in lieu of something more ineffable and much more complex than can be grasped in a single bottle or sip. They simply live in a galaxy all their own.

At the center of the Canaries’ ongoing evolution is Dolores Cabrera Fernández, a pioneering winegrower and maker in Tenerife’s Valle de La Orotava DO. Her label focuses on listán negro and listán blanco, the most common grapes in the Canaries, sourced from vines that are over 100 years old, trained in a braided cord style local to the area, rendering vines that can reach more than 70 feet long. Cabrera sold her grapes until 2013, when she began bottling her own wines with the help of a picking team made up entirely of women. She is known for her fervent and tireless recruiting efforts to bring her neighbors toward organic agriculture, in true stewardship of Tenerife’s idiosyncratic vineyards.

Notable Bottlings

La Araucaria Blanco Skin-contact listán blanco that’s briny and aromatic.

La Araucaria Rosado Savory, herbal listán negro more reminiscent of a light red or a hearty Spanish rosé than the typical Provençal summer water.

La Araucaria Tinto Listán negro that’s full of camphor, smoke, iron and dark fruit.

France

Les Vins Pirouettes | Alsace

Open source, Alsatian style.

The story of Christian Binner, a legend in the natural wine world, is well-known by now. His family has been farming in Alsace’s Ammerschwihr since the 18th century, and when he took over their historic vineyards around the turn of the 21st century, he began integrating biodynamic methods into the already-organic farming. Binner, having learned from old-guard natural producers like Marcel Lapierre in Beaujolais and Thierry Puzelat in the Loire, has changed the perception of what can be done with underappreciated grapes like muscat and gewürztraminer, crafting them into unexpectedly pure and transparent representations of a region situated firmly outside the axis of cool.

With his Les Vins Pirouettes project, Binner created infrastructure for organic and biodynamic vineyards across Alsace to bottle their own releases rather than sell them off to cooperatives for market rate. Pirouettes not only showcases the diversity of Alsatian grapes and styles, but provides a global platform to producers whose names might languish in obscurity otherwise. Each release is vinified in its grower’s cellar with zero inputs, and labeled with their name, such as Tutti Frutti de Stéphane (an auxerrois-dominant blend of grapes from Stéphane Bannwarth) or Le Pet Nat de David (a sparkling riesling from Domaine Muller-Koeberlé).

“The results are regularly amazing,” says Houston sommelier Justin Vann, “and I believe [Binner’s] influence—along with the influence of his peers—makes Alsatian wine some of the most exciting in all of France right now.” Pirouettes is indicative of a growing movement that emphasizes an open-source attitude to knowledge and resources across the wine industry, as well as a transparency about whose labor comprises not only a finished product, but the reputation and output of a region at large. “This intention of purposefully not looking to take and keep for oneself, but rather share resources and encourage burgeoning winemakers, is something that I find important and can connect with beyond the wine,” says Chris Lingua of Phoenix’s Sauvage.

Notable Bottlings

Les Vins Pirouettes Eros by Vincent Part of Pirouettes’ skin-maceration collection, this one a 25-day skin-contact blend of pinot gris, riesling and sylvaner.

Les Vins Pirouettes Glouglou Saveurs d’Eric Part of the easy-drinking Glouglou line; 50-year-old auxerrois and sylvaner from Domaine Jean-Louis et Eric Kamm.

Les Vins Pirouettes Tutti Frutti d’Olivier A mix of sylvaner, auxerrois and pinot gris from Olivier Carl of Domaine André Carl & Fils in Dambach-la-Ville. All the Tutti Fruttis are a blend of white grapes and a good example of the typical acid and fruit found in Pirouettes’ representation of the Alsace.

Germany

Ulrich Stein | Mosel

Whimsy at the edge of climate change.

Dr. Ulrich “Ulli” Stein’s wines occupy territory that is seemingly above the clouds. He himself lives at the top of a mountain and his Mosel vineyards are wildly steep, topography that would ostensibly refuse to be tamed. And yet the wines he produces are evidence of some witchy understanding of the interplay among his impossible terrain, his mostly ungrafted, old-vine riesling, and the sharp blue slate on which it grows. His joyous, intimate approach has become celebrated among the most fervent of riesling nerds, but also by those attuned to the shifts that climate change is generating in regions like the Mosel, where styles like feinherb and kabinett depend upon cool temperatures. Stein helped to overturn laws from 1933 that had banned red wine production, allowing for makers to grow spätburgunder (pinot noir), cabernet sauvignon and merlot, which are thriving on lower slopes as temperatures continue to increase.

Stein’s wines are part of a larger theme; they are deeply connected to a place whose “classic” styles are under threat, shepherded into bottle by someone unconcerned with his mark and more interested in the transparency of place. “From the entry-level bottles that can retail for under $25, down to his holy-grail ‘1900,’ which is made from vines planted 122 years ago—the Mosel’s second-oldest riesling vineyard—you can taste the laser-sharp accuracy for his love of dry white wine,” says Diego Aliste of Rose’s Fine Food and Wine in Detroit. Whether his unorthodox rosé, Secco, made with pinot noir alongside cabernet sauvignon and merlot, or his iconic Weihwasser feinherb, Stein’s wines are filled with a kind of levity that is more reflective of hope than struggle.

Notable Bottlings

Stein Blauschiefer Riesling Trocken A pure, electric example of Mosel riesling, whose simplicity reveals itself in turns as joyous zippiness.

Stein Cabernet Sauvignon vom Berg A manifesto wine that speaks to Stein’s legacy in the Mosel, which he hopes will encourage future generations to consider how to shore up its livelihood in the face of climate change. 

Stein Riesling Alfer Hölle 1900 An insanely affordable old-vine riesling (120 years!) with high acid against a backdrop of textured fruit density. 

Honorable Mentions

Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot

Lelarge-Pugeot has been growing wines in Vrigny since 1799, and bottling them since 1930. Today, the family-run operation grows biodynamically and relies only on native yeasts with a focus on pinot meunier. Lelarge-Pugeot has broken away from the grower Champagne pack to forge its own identity within a classical framework, experimenting with zero-zero, still wines (thanks to climate change) and deploying local honey for dosage.

Kelley Fox

Working in historic vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Kelley Fox is dedicated to expressing place above all. Having spent time at The Eyrie Vineyards, she makes wines that are as free-spirited as they are classic, thanks to an approach that’s precise yet flexible depending on a vintage’s particular circumstances. Her releases include single-vineyard pinot noirs and pinot blancs as well as a traditional Champagne blend—but make it still—and a pinot noir–based vermouth.

Moric

Winemaker Roland Velich’s love language is blaufränkisch, one of Austria’s most widely planted red grape, which he treats like age-worthy Burgundy rather than the prevailing style of young, fruit-forward wines. His seriousness is measured with a dose of whimsy (for example, bottlings like Serious Wine from a Gorgeous Place, an old-vine grüner veltliner that drinks like Meursault).

Nicolas Carmarans

Off the beaten path in southern France’s Aveyron, Nicolas Carmarans stands out for his focus on the oddball grapes negret de banhars and fer servadou, some of which he farms at his estate Mauvais Temps. Many of the reds, like Fer de Sang and Maximus, undergo carbonic maceration while his elegant Selves is an outstanding granitic chenin blanc.

Southold Farm + Cellar

Name-checked by several different Texan wine sellers, the improbable Southold grows wine in Texas Hill Country, where fertile soils and pockets of old vines attracted Regan and Carey Meador. Relocating from the North Fork of Long Island, the Meadors planted a wide range of grapes and source from the High Plains, producing textural white field blends, a juicy, light sangiovese and an alicante bouschet reminiscent of Rhône syrah.

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