Like much of viticultural Spain, Ribera del Duero has a long history of winemaking. As far back as 2,000 years ago, there is strong evidence of grape growing and winemaking by the Romans. As early as the 16th century, the region began to establish rules governing varietals and quality levels. Located northwest of Madrid, the region is based around the Duero river which unites over 100 small villages and covers 115 kilometers of vineyard land along the riverbanks and further north and south.
It is ironic that one of the youngest properties in the region has one of the most prestigious lineages, but it is the case with Bodegas Aalto. A chance meeting between Mariano Garcia, former star winemaker of Vega Sicilia, and Javier Zaccagnini, former President of the governing body of the Ribera del Duero AOC, gave birth to this quality-oriented estate which produced its first vintage in 1999, a year after its creation.
Ribera del Duero does not benefit from the constantcy of climate in the Southern part of the country and experiences dramatic shifts in temperatures and climatic conditions throughout the year. The winters are quite cold, with temperatures as low as –18 degrees
Celsius, and the summers are hot and very dry, with lower than average rainfall than the rest of Spain. Altitude is between 750 and 950 meters and the soil is made up of clay alternated in many parts by sheets of limestone and harder chalk.
Mariano Garcia designed and commissioned the 15,000 liter fermentation tanks
formed from stainless steel, and there are other wood fermentation tanks which will soon be used. The original conical shape comes from Mariano’s desire to control and maneuver the cap of the must during the remouage. Each vineyard is harvested, vinified, and aged separately before assemblage just prior to bottling. There is no filtration of the wines following a lengthy ageing in barrel.
The property owns vines in three different sub-zones of Ribera del Duero with a total of 32 hectares scattered between Valladolid and Burgos. The parcels are planted to old clones of Tinto Fino. The property is continuing to buy exceptional parcels of old Tinto Fino, most recently a 10 hectare plot in Quemada of 60+ year old vines of exceptional quality. While some experts believe that Tinto Fino is in fact not far removed from Tempranillo, many experts based in Ribera del Duero strongly believe that there are significant differences between the two varietals, most notably with Tinto Fino over 50 years old.