Guelbenzu Vierlas 2006
98 acres of vines planted in 1980 to 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 30% Tempranillo, dispersed in numerous small plots encircling Cascante in the Queiles River Valley. The 7,600-foot Sierra del Moncayo rises just 20 miles to the south, its late-melting snows providing adequate moisture in the sub soils to withstand summer droughts. The vineyards lie between 1200 and 1800 feet, ripening the grapes in stages for an unhurried and perfectly timed harvest.
The modern winery maintains Don Miguel's original gravity-flow design from 1851, and is a gem of space utilization. Stainless fermentation tanks were inserted through the roof of building formerly devoted to olive oil production, while custom-made 10,000-litre Aillers oak uprights (for assemblage) fill the original cellar. Barriques are of various French oak types in which Guelbenzu's aged reds spend one full year prior to bottling, racked four times. The enologist, Yoseba Altuna, is a French educated native of Navarra with experience in a top Bordeaux Chateaux.
Spanish red wine is known for being bold, heady, rustic and age-worthy, Spain is truly a one-of-a-kind wine-producing nation. A great majority of the country is hot, arid and drought-ridden, and since irrigation has only been recently introduced and (controversially) accepted, viticulture has sustained—and flourished—only through a great understanding of Spain’s particular conditions. Large spacing between vines allows each enough resources to survive and as a result, the country has the most acreage under vine compared to any other country, but is usually third in production.
Of the Spanish red wines, the most planted and respected grape variety is Tempranillo, the star of Spain’s Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. Priorat specializes in bold red blends, Jumilla has gained global recognition for its single varietal Monastrell and Utiel-Requena has garnered recent attention for its reds made of Bobal.