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.
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!
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.
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.
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!