Dominio del Aguila Picaro Tinto Vinas Viejas 2016
The Tinto counterpart to the Clarete is a co-fermented blend of primarily Tempranillo with Albillo, Garnacha and Bobal. Despite its 12-20 months in French oak, it is bright, vibrant and aromatic. Fun and vibrant are usually not words associated with Ribera but it is certainly the case with the Pícaro Tinto.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The youngest of the released wines I tasted is a red—the 2016 Pícaro del Águila Tinto. It is from what they consider to be one of the best and freshest vintages in recent times. This is produced with the vines from the warmer parts of La Aguilera, a cold place to start with (and in a cooler year). The old vines are planted with a mix that is dominated by Tempranillo but also contains some 5% other grapes. All the grapes are picked and fermented together with full clusters and natural yeasts in concrete and stainless steel vats. It matured in oak barrels for 13 months. This is fragrant, expressive, open, aromatic and really attractive. The palate is really balanced, with great freshness, fine tannins and a very pleasant mouthfeel—supple, balanced and with great depth. This is the best version of this bottling so far, and it seems like 2016 could be a great overall vintage, based on some other wines I sampled from cask (many of them have an extended élevage).
Jorge Monzón comes from a family with old vines in the town of La Aguilera. After working in Burgundy and Ribera del Duero, he founded this winery in 2010, renovating a 17th-century cellar, where he foot-treads whole bunches of his organically farmed grapes, mostly tempranillo interplanted with blanca del país, garnacha and bobal. Pícaro is his village wine, an intriguing contrast of rustic and polished, ancient and modern. There’s a floral scent of fresh grapes, and a sweet fruit character of blueberries even though the wine is not sweet. Lasting on deep, saturated, waxy fruit-skin tannins, this is tarry and spicy, needing bottle age to mellow and integrate.
One of the newest estates in Ribera del Duero, Dominio del Águila, was founded by Jorge Monzón and Isabel Rodero in 2010. Located in the village of La Aguilera, Jorge farms 30 hectares of vines organically with ongoing experiments with biodynamics. Like his neighbors, he relies primarily on the Tempranillo grape for his wines. Beyond that, all other similarities end.
At Dominio del Águila there is no Cabernet Sauvignon, no Merlot and certainly no Malbec or Petit Verdot, instead Jorge relies on Bobal, Garnacha, Tempranillo Gris and Albillo to add complexity to his wines. The vineyards are all over fifty years in age, and located on sandy and rocky clay soils. Jorge has acquired these plots over the last decade while working at Bodegas Arzuaga-Navarro which he departed in 2013 to work full time at his own estate. Before 2010 he sold his grapes to several high-profile neighbors. Proving the old adage that, “it takes a lot of beer to make good wine,” Jorge also operates a microbrewery on the estate brewing beer entirely from local ingredients.
Jorge comes from a family with a long tradition of growing grapes and making wines. He has studied in Bordeaux and Burgundy and has worked at both Domaine Romanée-Conti at Vega Sicilia before joining Arzuaga. His studies and travels taught him several important things: the importance of organic farming, an appreciation of old-vines, a desire for elegance and transparency and all the skills necessary to combine these ideas to make remarkable wines.
Jorge and his wife Isabel, who is an architect, have renovated an ancient cellar in the village of La Aguilera dating to the 15th century. They installed concrete tanks for fermentation and placed a barrel room in the coldest part of the subterranean cellar. Natural yeast co-fermentations are the first step in the process with pigeage done by foot. After primary fermentation the wines are placed in French oak for malo and aging. With such cold temperatures in the barrel room, the evolution of the aging wines proceeds slowly, allowing for the development of greater complexity and nuance.
The main emphasis at the estate in terms of production is Pícaro Tinto and Clarete – and don’t call Clarete a Rosé as it is fact a co-fermentation of red and white varieties that is aged like a red wine. Claretes are a traditional style of winemaking that was once made throughout Spain before falling out of fashion but growers like Jorge are re-popularizing this style. Jorge also makes a Reserva and Gran Reserva as well as several single vineyard wines made in nearly homeopathic quantities. With each vintage and with greater knowledge of the evolution of each of his wines and an increasing understanding of the potentialities of each of his sites, Jorge always seems to have another surprise for us. Quite a remarkable feat for a place that in many ways seems quite content to rest on its laurels.
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, long-lasting and Spain’s most widely planted grape, Tempranillo is the star variety of red wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero. The Rioja terms Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva indicate both barrel and bottle time before release. Traditionally blended in Rioja with Garnacha, plus a bit of Mazuelo (Carignan) and Graciano, the Tempranillo in Ribera del Duero typically stands alone. Somm Secret—Tempranillo claims many different names depending on location. In Penedès, it is called Ull de Llebre and in Valdepeñas, goes by Cencibel. Known as Tinta Roriz in Portugal, Tempranillo plays an important role in Port.