Laureano Serres (El Pinell de Brai, Spain)

Laureano conducting a tasting in his Ranci cellar, 2021

For as much as a believer as I am in Laureano Serres and his wines, I’m going to pass off this write-up to a recently email-only publishing of an intervivew between Laure’s US importer Josh Eubank and Serres, about the 2021 vintage, a harvest that I was fortunate to spend a weekend helping out with that autumn. 

[translated from the Castilian with minor edits for clarity]

Josh Eubank: Hi Laure, thanks for agreeing to chat with us for the May catalog. What are you up to these days?

Laureano Serres: Hi! This morning the weather is good and the cierzo [dry wind from the West] is blowing, so I am ploughing at Terme de Guiu. The weather has been dry, very dry. We've gotten around 15 liters of rain per square meter this past month, which really is nothing. We're on track for 250 liters per square meter annually, which is as bad as or even worse than 2022 and 2023.

JE: For those less acquainted with the importance of ploughing, maybe you can explain what you see as the relationship between turning the soil and precipitation.

LS: Yes, of course. For us, the main purpose of ploughing is hydro-management. As I mentioned, it rained a little last week. Today it is sunny and dry. If I don't open the soil, that little bit of water will evaporate. I must open the soil to nourish the vines.

JE: As you know, there is a vociferous no-till movement, at least in some regions. What do you think about it?

LS: In the Northern regions, places where it rains, the main purpose of ploughing is to reduce competition between the vines and other plants. Theoretically, if you don't plough, you get lower yields, with the possible benefit of increasing biodiversity and soil health. These are good things. In fact, I am in favor of lower yields. It generally tastes better. However, this is not our situation in Terra Alta. Reducing competition is not our problem; our problem is survival of the vines at all. If we don't allow water to enter the soil, photosynthesis does not occur and the vines do not produce grapes.

JE: Why not just irrigate?

LS: In fact, we do have a limited amount of irrigation set up, mainly for the baby vines, which would have died without them in the heat wave of 2019. But, even though we've had the water lines since 2017, we've rarely used them. Dry farming the young vines is de facto. Although the drought we are facing now is extreme, it's not a totally new situation. When it comes to this subject, I listen to old people. In particular I listen to my father-in-law (Josep Guiu) who reminded me of the very old Catalan expression: "At the point of the plough, there is a fountain." It's nothing new.

JE: What else can be done in a time of drought?

LS: Really, 50 years ago we should have thought about reducing the density of our plantings. This is becoming a permanent situation and we will have to adapt.

JE: Changing subjects, can we talk a little bit about the 2021 harvest. Those are the wines that we are putting on sale today.

LS: In fact, 2021 was the last time we had a significant amount of rain, though really it fell at the wrong time of the year! Spring was dry and then, just before the harvest, it came all at once, practically every day in August.

JE: How did you adapt to that situation?

LS: It was interesting because the late rain pushed back the harvest date for us while also driving down the alcohol in some wines. We didn't start picking Macabeo unti the middle of September and we were not finished with our Carinyenas until mid-October. Many of the macabeos were of lower alcohol than we normally get.

JE: But you still managed to exceed 14 degrees on the Carinyenas?

LS: Sure, we got 14.5% on the later picks but normally we'd get 15.5! [laughter]. I don't really pay attention to the potential alcohol when we pick. Some people see that number increase and they panic. We are considering the plant's phenolic development. When the plant is ripe, that's when we pick.

JE: Do you have any favorite wines from the 2021 harvest?

LS: On the one hand, you could say that the macabeos are truer to the year. They are somewhat less concentrated and less alcoholic than usual. We still waited and picked them when they turned gold, as one should with macabeo. But they have somewhat elevated acidity. I love the way that macabeo can reflect the characteristics of the year in this way. Let's be honest, macabeo is not really a grand variety. It can be a little flat. But with time in the bottle, macabeo can become very expressive. I think the 2021 macabeos have a story to tell. But to answer your question, you know me, the carinyena is always my favorite!

JE: There are not many people who truly love carinyena. Why is it so special to you?

LS: Carinyena must be very ripe to be truly great. It is a voluminous vine with a lot of plant material that can transmit vegetal flavors when underripe. You could try to make a "concept wine" out of it, but it wouldn't be the same.

JE: I've heard you talk about "concept wines" before. Can you explain what it means to you?

LS: It means that you are imposing your vision, your ego, onto the wine. You are forcing things that are not meant to be. Paradoxically, you are acting with less freedom when you do this. Maybe you say, "I'd love to make Burgundy wine in Terra Alta", so you get a greenhouse, collect the correct soils, and plant some Pinot Noir. You'd have to phone up to Gevrey-Chambertin to ask, "how's the weather today? Is it raining? Was there hail?" That way you could make your adjustments. [laughter]. When you accompany the grapes to be healthy and ripe, or to let them be what they want to be, you encounter more surprises. Things that you didn't know were possible and could never have been conceived in advance as a concept. Of course there is still ego here, but it is submitted to the environment.

JE: I imagine this continues in the cellar.

LS: Indeed, it cannot occur in the cellar if it does not begin in the vines.

JE: Thanks for talking with me. Before we hang up, wondering if you've had any wines lately that you were excited about.

LS: Yes, Alicia [Serres] brought me a bottle from Jerome Balmet. I thought it was good. Other than that, I have enjoyed the new white grenaches from Sisilio [Josep Serres] and from Alex [of la Despeinada].

JE: Thanks again and salut!

Terme de Laureano 2 2021 Blanc

Terme de Laureano 1 2021 Roig

Terme de Laureano 3 2021 Roig

Terme de Guiu La Plana 2 2021

Terme de Guiu La Plana 4 2021

La Pedrera 2021

The Last 2021