2012 in Ribera del Duero was a vintage that had to deal with ‘off the scale’ heat (40ºC and more) and yet it has produced interesting wines. Geoffrey Dean attended Tim Atkin’s master class at the annual Ribera del Duero tasting in London and saw Atkin contrast the 2012 with the far cooler 2014 vintage with some spectacular results.
No Pingus at the tasting but there was Dominio de Atauta’s 2014, a “belter” of a wine made from 90-150 year old grapes grown 1000m on poor soil – you just know that’s going to be good!
Tim Atkin’s masterclasses on his favourite regions are always good value, for the old fox invariably slips in a googly or curve-ball, to borrow a sporting analogy (this is cricket for our international readers – Ed.). His Ribera del Duero selections in London earlier this month were a thoroughly interesting dozen, all wines coming from the 2012 and 2014 vintages. Eleven of them were single varietal Tempranillo, with the odd one out being 88% of that grape.
The former year was a formidably hot one, even for a region like Ribera where growing season temperatures can hit 40ºC. “2012 was off the charts when it came to heat,” Atkin mused, adding that 2014 made a good contrast, with cooler conditions making the production of balanced wines all the more feasible.
Kicking off with a crianza, named Tinto Figuera 12 Meses, from the Garcia Figuero family bodega (UK distributor: Connoisseur Estates), this was a very drinkable wine. Attractive fruit from 40-50 year-old vines, vibrancy and well-integrated tannins all combined to persuade you this 14% offering should be bought. No price was given though.
SWiG stocks the second wine tasted, a Pascual Buro Vendimia Seleccionada (£16.95). Like the first, it was 14% abv, but from older vines (60 years) at 900m. A significant amount of chalk in the site led to notable freshness in this appealing wine.
The third 2014, Dominio de Basconcillos’ 12 Meses en Barrica (12 months in barrel) was even fresher, lighter and higher in acidity on account of some of the highest vineyards in Ribera del Duero (1,000m). A remarkable, very windy site, as Atkin described it, it is an ex-cereal area that is farmed organically. Vintage Roots distributes the wine.
Another cracker was the Aster, Finca El Otero 2014 (Armit Wines, £30) from Burgos, the central chunk of Ribera where most of the best wines comes from. This big wine (14.5% above but well-balanced) was notably complex with well-meshed tannins and a long finish. Clearly, it will age well.
What was particularly interesting about the Aalto 2014 was that it came from as many as 200 different plots, none bigger than a hectare, in nine different villages. Vine age varied from 40 to 80 years in the main, although some grapes came from young vineyards outside Valladolid. The wine had real intensity of flavour, and good length, but needs time to evolve after 16 months in new oak (both French and American).
A wine from even older vines came in the form of Dominio de Atauta’s 2014 (Boutinot). The youngest of the vines were a mere 90 years old, with the most ancient being 150 years. From a stunning spot, with poor soils 1000m above sea level in the extreme east of the DO, this was a belter – complex, long and lovely with garriguey notes. French oak (40%) was used for 16 months of maturation.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there was no Pingus in the tasting, but another wine from Peter Sisseck’s stable, showed beautifully. His PSI 2014 (88% Tempranillo and 12% Garnacha) is available from Corney & Barrow at £185 per 12-bottle case, which represents fair value. Grapes sourced from 150 sites at 800-990m were harvested for this wine, whose spice and higher acidity was evident thanks to the Garnacha.
The last of the 2014s, Bodegas PIngon’s Altamimbre, was more forward than the others. The oak (French) appears to have been very well handled, allowing some appealing fruit from 45-year old vines to show through.
Moving on to the 2012s, from that super-hot vintage, one wine in particular stood out. The Perez Pascuas Vina Pedrosa Reserva (Bancroft Wines), which comes mainly from old bush vines, had excellent length, freshness and complexity, being superbly balanced. Picked early, the alcohol was kept to 14%.
Also excellent was El Lagar de Isilla, Reserva 2012 (Stone, Vine and Sun; £22.95). Vines that were at least 60 years old supplied fruit that produced really neatly integrated tannins, a very long finish and notable freshness. Even with 15% abv, the wine was well-balanced.
Bodegas la Horra’s Corimbo 2012 was an impressive offering from much younger bush vines (20 years on average). Its tannins were more overt, but the wine (14% abv) exhibited some savoury, balsamic complexity. The final 2012, a Trus Reserva, was likewise ‘starting to move into that balsamic world’ as Atkin put it. Already well-evolved, it is available from Georges Barbier.