Silky smooth, low production Garnacha from one of Spain's premium "terroir hunters".
- Producer: Luis Oliván Vinos y Viñedos
- Region: DO Somontano
- Vintage: 2020
- ABV: 14%
- Grape: Garnacha
Medium ruby red in colour, the wine exudes wonderful aromas of red fruit, blueberries, and scrub herbs against a background of subtle toasted notes from the time in the barrel. Fresh, light and mineral on the palate, the wine has gentle tannins, bags of fruit and a long finish.
Blue Fish, Lamb
More about Las Pilas
Who makes it
Luis Oliván began his wine career on the commercial side, working for wineries in his home province of Huesca in the foothills of the Pyrenees and then further south in Aragon in the 1990s. He then crossed the country to Bierzo in north-east Spain where his focus was on Godello and Mencía, before moving down to the Gredos mountains west of Madrid where he worked alongside renowned Garnacha expert Isabel Galindo at the Las Moradas de San Martín.
With all that wine pedigree behind him, in 2018 Luis changed tack and started his own winemaking project. The focus from the outset was to look for vines in historic areas; areas that in Italy would called classico - sites or parcels where records showed that vines had been planted from at least pre-phylloxera times, as that longevity is a reliable guide that the site is right for vine cultivation.
Luis describes himself as a “terrain hunter”, seeking out small vineyard parcels ripe for cultivation. The first parcel he chose was Las Pilas in Bespén (Huesca), an area with a wine history dating back to the 12th century. The 2,000 bottles of the Las Pilas red wine are made in the Bodega de los Hermanos Lasierra winery who have been viticulturists for more than 200 years.
Garnacha is one of the most widely grown wine grapes in the world and in Spain it's about the third most grown red grape behind Tempranillo and Bobal.
It's a late-ripening variety which enjoys hot, dry conditions, which makes it a reliably robust choice for winemakers. In the northeast of Spain, Garnacha tends to produce quite soft, easy-drinking red wines. It's low in tannins, so you don't get that woody, dry sensation in the mouth. But because it's late ripening it can also be quite high in alcohol as the fruit has more time to develop the sugars which then become alcohol in the wine.
In terms of fruit, in younger wines you’ll pick up good bursts of red fruit like strawberry and raspberry. And in the varieties made with older vines that have been aged for a little you start to get sweeter, deeper fruit flavours reminiscent of figs. Occasionally you might also find a lick of white pepper just on top of the wine, which can add a nice touch of character.
Where it's made
The village of Bespén where Las Pilas is made is on the western side of DO Somontano,. Founded in 1984, it’s one of Spain’s newer DOs and sits in the foothills of the central Pyrenees in the region of Aragón. Like many winegrowing regions in Spain, it "benefitted" from the ravages of phylloxera in the nineteenth century as winemakers from Bordeaux moved south and began producing wine in Somontano from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Chardonnay grapes.
That emphasis on international grape varieties continued into the twentieth century and to some extent complicated the lives of Somontano’s wine producers as they found themselves competing with producers across the world working with the same grapes.
Nowadays, newer, smaller producers like Luis Oliván are putting the spotlight back on native varieties like Garnacha, seeking out and resuscitating old vineyard plots that in many cases have lain fallow for decades.