Rathfinny Wine Estate

Ribera del Duero

My wife has left me and gone to Salamanca in Spain for a month to learn Spanish. So I thought I’d better go and check in on her progress so spent a long weekend, with her, in the Ribera Del Duero.

This Spanish wine region was voted the best in the world in 2012. You can see why. Its sandy and chalky hills that extend along the north of the river Duero to the east of Valladolid provide a perfect, if not dry, place to nurture the hardy red Tempranillo grape that has made this region famous for its rich red wines. Note – many of the vineyards use fixed irrigation, presumably using water from the river Duero to help sustain the vines through long hot dry summers.

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We stayed in Peñafiel in a hotel owned by the family behind Pesquera one of the oldest and largest producers of wine for the region. We went on a tour of their more modern wine producing facility, which was in full swing as they are mid-way through harvest. We were shown one of the oldest grape presses I’ve ever seen. It presses grapes using the weight of the log!

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Pesquera produce a very pleasing, but what I would class as a traditional wine from Spain, heavily oaked in a high proportion of new French and American oak barrels, then bottled and released with the traditional Crianza, Reserva and Grand Reserva titles prominent on the label. [Spanish wine labelling is all about the ageing of wine principally in oak – Crianza means the wine is aged for 2 years before release and has spent between 6-12 months in oak barrels, a Reserva is 3 years old and has spent more between 12 – 24 months in oak and Grand Reserva is five years old and has spent more than 2 years in oak]. Pesquera sell over 50% of their wine to America and the rest around the world. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very well made wine but the oak is just over powering and although you can still taste the fruit, this sort of wine is not what this region is beginning to be known for.

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We then went into the cellars of a wine merchant in Peñafiel to sample wine from the upstarts: the newer and smaller producers who are beginning to produce wines which are an expression of the regions Terroir, that French word which I loath but love because it expresses so much in a single word about a region’s climate, soils and wine making techniques. Rather than being dominated by expressions of oak these newer wines possess an expression of the Duero region.

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I’m talking about wines like Aalto and a smaller producer called Lynus, who age their wines for twelve – eighteen months in oak but don’t call their wine a Crianza or a Reserva but they are a delicious expression of this wonderful lush grape.


The fruit was still hanging, or hanging off the vines we passed. Most of the vines are on high trellises, but some are bushes like the one below and the fruit was so ripe you could taste the sugar. It was a rich sugary purple grape, busting with flavour.

So if you fancy a weekend off the beaten track in Spain I can recommend this region very highly. Oh and Salamanca is one of the most glorious cities I’ve ever visited and if you drive up from Madrid, one of the best airports in Europe, you can visit Avila with its wonderful walled city. Why did they need so many churches in the middle ages?

If you want to try some Aalto speak to Zoran at www.citywinecollection.co.uk

Back in Blighty now and hoping to harvest our grapes next week, if they haven’t been blown or washed away!

Mark Driver

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A bumper crop on the way

After the driest September since records began and one of the warmest, we are in for a bumper crop of grapes in England this year. Unfortunately, not at the Rathfinny Wine Estate!


Our young vines have loved the warm spring, they certainly loved the warm June / July period and they even welcomed the August rains, but we just haven’t got much fruit this year. The main reason for this is that our vines are still very young, many are only two years old, but the other reason is that the buds which hold the flowers that produce the grapes are established a year earlier and the amount of fruit depends on the warmth and sunshine we had prior to the period before flowering the previous year.

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So being the eternal optimist next year is looking fantastic for the Rathfinny vineyard as we had such a great warm and sunny June and July which is very good for bud development.

We look forward to picking the little fruit we have and running up the presses and then we will spend the winter pruning and getting the vines ready for next year when we might get our own bumper crop.

Mark Driver – Owner

PS – You’ve got to feel sorry for other parts of Europe that have really suffered this year. Italy has had a very poor harvest due to rainstorms, parts of France were devastated by hailstorms and Germany has been attacked by the Drosophila Suzukii fruit fly!

Oh to be in England!!

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