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Aalto PS 2004
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
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.
As a one of Spain’s leading regions, Ribera del Duero is an icon of growth and innovation whereas its brother, Rioja, represents tradition. While winemaking goes back 2,000 years, only in the 1980s did a small handful of—now iconic—wineries make the region’s potential known to the discerning consumer.
In 1982 a mere nine producers of Ribera del Duero grouped together to achieve the Denominación de Origen (D.O.) status. Ever since then the region has boomed and today over 300 wineries exist.
Bodegas vega sicilia is on the western edge of the denomination and has been producing one of Spain's finest wines since the mid 19th century. Other iconic producers include Pesquera and Dominio de Pingus.
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 soil types give Ribera wines a distinctive depth and complexity. Furthermore, the D.O. laws allow for blending of Tinto Fino with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, a concept introduced by Vega Sicilia 130 years ago. Ribera del Duero red wines have characteristics of dried fig and sweet tomato, cherry and plum with spices of cedar, clove, tobacco, dill, vanilla and leather. A bold structure and smoky aromas make them perfect with anything off the grill, roasted meats and aged cheeses.
Albillo is the white grape of the area and Garnacha produces the region’s rosé.
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.