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Aalto PS 2001
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
In 1999, after 30 years as technical director and world–renown winemaker for Vega Sicilia, Mariano Garcia founded Bodegas Aalto. From the beginning he has been guided by three principals: old-vine or massale selection Tinto Fino, a wide range of terroirs spread over nine villages in the province of Burgos, and his vast experience in viticulture and winemaking. Bodegas Aalto controls and farms 110 hectares of vines. Twenty hectares are a young vines (a massale selection from their best old-vine material) while the remaining 90 hectares are from 40 to 100 years old. The soils where their vineyards are situated vary from stony red clay to free-draining and limestone rich sands. The combination of the two provides both structure and a purity of fruit to the final wines.
Vineyard work at Aalto is entirely manual with the primary goal of maintaining low yields. With many of the vines being old, yields are kept low naturally but Mariano will also green harvest to ensure that the fruit at harvest is concentrated and evenly ripe. Harvesting is manual as well and the grapes are transported to the cellar in small crates where they are sorted, chilled, destemming and sorted again before crushing. Fermentations are conducted, by parcel, in stainless steel, cement or oak vats designed specifically by Mariano. Maceration is gentle with regular pump overs ensuring a good extraction of fruit without harsh or bitter tannins. Once the fermentation is complete the wines are racked, by gravity, into French and American oak barrels located in a cool, subterranean cellar.
Final blends are decided by site rather than barrel. The primary cuvée, simply known as Aalto, sees about 50% new oak with the remainder in second and third fill barrels. In the very best vintages a small selection of the oldest vines fruit from the best sites is bottled separately as Aalto PS (Pagos Selectionados). This wine is aged entirely in new French oak and sees an additional four months of elevage.
Ribera del Duero is located in northen Spain’s Castilla y León region, just a 2-hour drive from Madrid. While winemaking in this area goes back more than 2000 years, it was in the 1980s that 9 wineries applied for and were granted Denominación de Origen (D.O.) status. Today, more than 300 wineries call Ribera del Duero home, including some of Spain’s most iconic names.
Notable Facts Ribera’s main grape variety, Tempranillo, locally know as Tinto Fino, is perfectly suited to the extreme climate of the region, where it must survive scorching summers and frigid winters. Low yields resulting from conscientious tending to old vines planted in Ribera’s diverse soils types, give Ribera wines a distinctive depth and complexity not found in other Tempranillos. Rich and full-bodied, the spice, dark fruit and smoky flavors in a bold Ribera del Duero will pair well with roasted and grilled meats, Mexican food and tomato-based sauces.
Notoriously food-friendly with soft tannins, modest alcohol, and bright acidity, Tempranillo is the star of Spain’s Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. It is important throughout Spain as well as in Portugal, where it is known as Tinta Roriz and is an important component of Port wines and the table wines of the Douro region that Port calls home. California, Washington, and Oregon have all had moderate success with Tempranillo, producing a riper, more fruit-forward style of wine.
In the Glass
Tempranillo is often aged in new oak for the integration of spicy, woodsy, and herbal flavors, often with hints of vanilla, coconut, and dill. The grape itself produces medium-weight reds with bright red and black fruit aromas and hints of spice, leather, and tobacco, with no shortage of flavor.
Tempranillo’s modest, fine-grained tannins and bright acidity make it extremely food friendly, pairing with a wide variety of Spanish-inspired dishes—especially grilled lamb chops, a rich chorizo and bean stew, or paella.
The Spanish take their oak aging requirements very seriously, especially in Rioja. There, a system is in place to indicate on the label how much time the wine has spent in both barrel and bottle before release, which is helpful to the consumer trying to determine the style of an unfamiliar wine. Rioja can range from Joven (fresh, fruity, and unoaked) to Gran Reserva (complex and oxidized from extended barrel aging), with Crianza and Reserva in between.