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Spain - Top Producers of Northwest Spain

Λογότυπο DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/7/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Tempranillo vineyard, Emilio Moro © Provided by DKBooks Tempranillo vineyard, Emilio Moro

Martín Códax

Photo: Picker at Marqués de Riscal © Provided by DKBooks Picker at Marqués de Riscal

Tempranillo vineyard, Emilio Moro

Picker at Marqués de Riscal

Top Producers of Northwest Spain

Fillaboa - Galicia/Rías Baixas

location: Lugar de Fillaboa, Salvaterra do Miño, Pontevedra
telephone number: 986 658 132
website: www.fillaboa.es
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: white
best vintages: most recent
recommended wines: Fillaboa, Selección de la Familia

This small (32-ha), corporately owned but family-run estate produces exemplary, fragrant Albariño wines. It is one of the few bodegas in Rías Baixas that makes some wines for keeping, as well as those for instant drinking: either way, they are among the finest to emerge from the DO, conjuring a great deal of subtlety from the grape and regularly winning prizes.


Martín Códax - Galicia/Rías Baixas

location: Burgáns 91, Vilariño, Cambados, Pontevedra
telephone number: 986 526 040
website: www.martincodax.com
wine styles: white
best vintages: most recent
recommended wines: Burgáns, Organistrum, Gallaecia

Founded in 1986, this is an excellent example of a small winery with modern technology. All 190 ha are planted with Albariño, but, as is common in Galicia, these are spread out over 1,200 separate plots. Two basic wines are made (the Burgáns is from premium selected grapes) plus the barrel-fermented Organistrum and a fabulous late-harvest semi seco (medium dry) Gallaecia.


Aalto - Castilla y León/Ribera del Duero

location: ctra de Peñafiel, Roa de Duero, Burgos
telephone number: 947 540 781
website: www.aalto.es
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999
recommended wines: Aalto, Pagos Seleccionados

Aalto is an ambitious project run by two of Ribera del Duero’s best-known names. Mariano García was head winemaker at Vega Sicilia for 30 years, and Javier Zaccagnini was director of the consejo regulador (from 1992–8), so their combined expertise is impressive. The first wines from this producer founded in 1999 show astonishing maturity, richness and finesse, but they claim that it will be 15 to 20 years before production reaches its full potential. Aalto is a member of Grandes Pagos de Castilla, Spain’s most elite wine producers’ organization.


Abadía Retuerta - Castilla y León

location: ctra de Soria, Sardón de Duero, Valladolid
telephone number: 983 680 317
website: www.abadia-retuerta.com
wine styles: red
best vintages: 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996
recommended wines: El Campanario, Pago Negralada, Pago Valdebellón

The stunningly restored former abbey of Santa María de la Retuerta has a 1996-built winery with technology that goes beyond up-to-date and into space-age. Mainly Tempranillo is grown, as well as some Cabernet Sauvignon, with wines made from hand-selected grapes. This independent winery operates outside the DO system, but even the basic cuvée Primicia outperforms many wines from Ribera del Duero DO.


Alejandro Fernández - Castilla y León/Ribera del Duero

location: Real 2, Pesquera de Duero, Valladolid
telephone number: 983 870 037
website: www.pesqueraafernandez.com
wine styles: red
best vintages: 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Pesquera, Condado de Haza, Alenza

Fernández is the man whose blockbusting 1986 vintage made the world take note of Ribera del Duero. He has 150 ha of vines in Pesquera and a further 200 ha at the Condado de Haza, an estate in Roa de Duero, about 12 miles (20 km) to the east. The wines (all Tempranillo) are magnificent; positively glowing with fruit and ripeness. Unsurprisingly, they are also suitably expensive.


Álvarez y Díez - Castilla y León/Rueda

location: Juan Antonio Carmona 16, Nava del Rey, Valladolid
telephone number: 983 850 136
website: www.alvarezydiez.com
wine styles: white
best vintages: most recent
recommended wines: Mantel Blanco

This long-established bodega reinvented itself in 1994 to make cool-fermented white wines in the modern style from Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc, and a little Viura. There is also a heady yet delicate barrel-fermented Verdejo, but the bestseller is the Mantel Blanco, a slightly drier style than some wines made by other companies in Rueda DO, but with the classic Verdejo fruit and herbs.


Castilla la Vieja - Castilla y León/Rueda

location: ctra La Coruña, km 170.6, Rueda, Valladolid
telephone number: 983 868 116
website: www.bodegasdecastilla.com
wine styles: white
best vintages: most recent
recommended wines: Palacio de Bornos, Bornos

Members of rueda’s first family of wine, brothers Ricardo and Antonio Sanz farm 200 ha and have been in the business since 1976. Palacio de Bornos is their flagship wine: pure Verdejo and very fragrant. Bornos is 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc with the typical grassy, gooseberry fruit given a warm Spanish twist. They also make a beguiling semi-sweet, late-harvest Verdejo, called Exxencia de Bornos. Other branches of the Sanz family make wine at Bodegas Con Class and Cuevas de Castilla in Rueda, and Toresanas in Toro.


Descendientes de J Palacios - Castilla y León/Bierzo

location: Calvo Sotelo 6, Villafranca del Bierzo, León
telephone number: 987 540 821
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2000, 1999
recommended wines: Corullón, Bierzo

This is another collaboration between pioneering winemaker Álvaro Palacios, creator of Finca Dofi in Priorat and his nephew Ricardo Pérez, a former student at Château Margaux in Bordeaux. Both are, as the name indicates, descendants of José Palacios, a venerable local legend in Rioja. They came to Bierzo in 1999 to tame the difficult Mencía grape, and bought 11 ha of old vines in 45 separate parcels. The duo makes a first (Corullón) and a second wine (Bierzo), and their early vintages are showing exceptionally well. Old vine (low-yield) Mencía has an elegant structure with crisp, brambly fruit.


Durius Alto Duero - Castilla y León/VdIT

location: ctra Zamora-Fermoselle, km 56, Fermoselle, Zamora
telephone number: 980 613 163
website: www.arcobu.com
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2000, 1999
recommended wines: Durius, Hacienda Zorita

This company is a joint venture between Carlos Falcó, Marqués de Griñón and the rapidly expanding Arco-Bodegas Unidas, which is developing projects all along the Duero River from Ribera del Duero to Douro in Portugal. Falcó’s Durius brand name has existed for some years, but since the 2003 harvest, the wines have been made in a new bodega that lies outside any DO and whose wines are classified VdlT Arribes del Duero. The Tempranillo fruit style is slightly cooler than that of wines farther south and judicious cask aging gives the wines a softer edge.


Perfect case: Northwest Spain

Emilio Moro - Castilla y León/Ribera del Duero

location: ctra Peñafiel-Valoria, Pesquera de Duero, Valladolid
telephone number: 983 878 400
website: www.emiliomoro.com
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993
recommended wines: Finca Resalso, Malleolus, Malleolus de Valderramiro

EMilio moro has 70 ha of Tempranillo vines, including the single-vineyard Finca Resalso (planted in 1933, the year Moro was born). His Malleolus is made from old-vine grapes, while the Malleolus de Valderramiro is the product of an 80-year-old vineyard of the same name and is one of Ribero del Duero’s finest wines, with superb fruit and complexity.


Fariña - Castilla y León/Toro

location: Camino del Pal, Toro, Zamora
telephone number: 980 577 673
website: www.bodegasfarina.com
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1990
recommended wines: Colegiata, Gran Colegiata, Primero

Manuel Fariña is arguably the man who put the Toro DO on the map. His father founded this business in 1942, but it was Manuel who brought new technology and new thinking to the winemaking. His 250 ha are mainly planted with Tempranillo, and his wines are legendary: big, powerful, and plummy, they are the perfect match for the area’s robust, meaty cuisine.


Hacienda Monasterio - Castilla y León/Ribera del Duero

location: ctra Pesquera-Valbuena, Pesquera de Duero, Valladolid
telephone number: 983 484 002
wine styles: red
best vintages: 1998, 1997, 1995, 1994, 1992
recommended wines: Hacienda Monasterio, Pingus, Flor de Pingus

This modern winery has achieved singular fame in a very short time thanks to the vision of its dynamic owner, Danish winemaker Peter Sisseck. Tempranillo is the dominant grape, with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Sisseck has developed the Dominio de Pingus at Quintanilla de Onésimo, 12 miles (20 km) to the west, where he claims to make wine with the “maximum expression of the Tempranillo.” The wine (Pingus) from this site is, at 5535 a bottle, Spain’s most expensive, but even the cheaper wines are supremely concentrated and beautifully structured.


Marqués de Riscal - Castilla y León/Rueda

location: ctra N-IV, km 172.600, Rueda, Valladolid
telephone number: 983 868 029
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: red: 2001, 2000, 1999; white: most recent
recommended wines: Marqués de Riscal, Reserva Limousin

More correctly known as Vinos Blancos de Castilla, this was the bodega that re-invented Rueda DO in 1972. Francisco Hurtado of Marqués de Riscal wanted to make a white wine, but was unimpressed by white Riojas, so he began looking for an alternative location. After many pilot plantings, he settled on Rueda as having the best native white grape (Verdejo). He built a new winery, and also persuaded the consejo regulador to permit plantings of Sauvignon Blanc. His Verdejo has a crisp, herby freshness that is very appealing. A 100 percent Verdejo Reserva Limousin with six months in cask and a non-DO Tempranillo red, simply called Riscal, are also made.


Mauro - Castilla y León/VdIT

location: Cervantes 12, Tudela de Duero, Valladolid
telephone number: 983 521 439
website: www.bodegasmauro.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993
recommended wines: Mauro

This is Mariano García’s family bodega , established in 1980. Lying 12 miles (20 km) from the western boundary of the Ribera del Duero DO, this vineyard’s wines are classified as VdlT Castilla y León: nevertheless, they are exemplary. Tempranillo predominates, but there is a sprinkling of Garnacha and Syrah (banned within the DO). All the wines have the García touch: ripe, complex, and judiciously oaked.


Maurodos - Castilla y León/VdIT

location: ctra N-122, km 412, Villaester, Valladolid
telephone number: 983 521 972
wine styles: red
best vintages: 1999
recommended wines: Viña San Román

This is the new venture by Mariano García’s family, with the singular aim of creating the Toro DO’s finest wine. The first vintage—Viña San Román 1999—is 100 percent Tempranillo with 22 months in cask and is already showing superb quality. In line with all Garcia’s wines, San Román is a modern classic: rich, structured, and powerful, yet with a subtle delicacy. Like his Aalto estate, Maurodos is a member of Grandes Pagos de Castilla.


Valdelosfrailes - Castilla y León/Cigales

location: ctra Cubillas, Cubillas de Santa Marta, Valladolid
telephone number: 983 485 024
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999
recommended wines: Valdelosfrailes, Prestigio, Vendímia Seleccionada

This smart new winery in the Cigales DO is owned by a collective of Ribera del Duero bodegas looking to diversify in neighboring DOs. It makes a delicious Tempranillo jóven as well as two even better cuvées with a year or more in oak. The basic Valdelosfrailes is a fine example of a good, young wine with plenty of fruit, designed to be enjoyed the year after the vintage.


Vega Sicilia - Castilla y León/Ribero del Duero

location: ctra N-122, km 323, Valbuena de Duero, Valladolid
telephone number: 983 680 147
website: www.vegasicilia.com
wine styles: red
best vintages: 1999, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1992
recommended wines: Valbuena, Alión, Único (1989)

Ribera del Duero’s oldest, most prestigious fine wine bodega was founded in 1864, although the first commercial bottle appeared only in 1915. It still turns out immaculate wines of the quality for which it became famous—before anyone had even heard of Ribera del Duero. The 200 ha of vines are mainly Tempranillo, with a substantial minority of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. Typically, wines are 80 percent Tempranillo: the five-year-old Valbuena has been aged for 30 months in oak, while the legendary Único is matured for any-thing up to 15 years. Vega Sicilia also owns nearby Alión, which makes wines in a more modern style from 100 percent Tempranillo with just 12 months in oak.


The evolution of Vega Sicilia wines

In the early 20th century, Vega Sicilia was in the hands of a Basque winemaker, Domingo Garramiola. He had carte blanche with investment, time, and winemaking style and soon established a reputation for quality. He used grapes from the oldest, lowest-producing vines to make a wine with deep, perfumed fruit and tremendous staying power. The wine traditionally spent 10 years in the cask before release. Mariano García became winemaker in 1966 and gradually the wine evolved away from the original heavily-oaked styles, maintaining its great contration, perfume, and depth in order to preserve the essential character. Then, in 1982, David Álvarez bought Vega Sicilia and invested heavily to modernize the bodega and put the wines on a proper commercial footing. Now, with winemaker Xavier Ausás at the helm, the work continues. Vega Sicilia Único, if not quite the heavy, oaky giant of the past, remains beautifully constructed and harmonious, with dark, powerful fruit and a long bottle life.


Viña Bajoz - Castilla y León/Toro

location: av de los Comuneros 90, Morales de Toro, Zamora
telephone number: 980 698 023
website: www.vinabajoz.com
wine styles: red
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997
recommended wines: Bajoz, Gran Bajoz

Founded in 1962, this co-op in the Toro DO has reinvented itself in the past few years, improving all stages of production. Now, its 1,000 ha of Tempranillo are producing wines approaching world-class status—though for the most part, still at co-op prices. Gran Bajoz is a stunning, elegant, powerful, structured example.

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