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2008 Reserva, Bodegas Hacienda Monasterio, Ribera del Duero
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Hacienda Monasterio is one of the great names in Ribera del Duero. Located close to the villages of Pesquera de Valbuena del Duero on the so-called Golden Mile, the estate covers 170 hectares, its vines all north facing, with plots of Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec complementing the Tinto Fino. Peter Sisseck, who actually lives on the estate, is consultant winemaker here and it should therefore come as no huge surprise that the quality of the wines is of the highest rank. The wines (only crianza and reserva wines are produced) are matured in one-year old Bordeaux casks and are consistently amongst the region’s finest.
A high quality red wine grape that is grown all over Spain except in the hot South - it is known as Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero, Cencibel in La Mancha and Valdepenas and Ull de Llebre in Catalonia. Its spiritual home is in Rioja and Navarra where it constitutes around 70% of most red blends.
Tempranillo-based wines tend to have a spicy, herbal, tobacco-like character accompanied by ripe strawberry and red cherry fruits. It produces fresh, vibrantly fruit driven "jovenes" meant for drinking young. However Tempranillo really comes into its own when oak aged, as with the top Riojas where its flavours seem to harmonise perfectly with both French and American oak, producing rich, powerful and concentrated wines which can be extraordinarily long-lived.
In Ribera del Duero it generally sees less oak - the exception being Vega Sicilia where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and then aged for an astonishing 7 years in oak and is unquestionably one of the world`s greatest wines.
In the last 30 years, Ribera del Duero has emerged from almost nowhere to challenge Rioja for the crown of Spain's greatest wine region. Once known only as the home of Vega Sicilia it now boasts numerous bodegas of outstanding quality like Pesquera, Alion and Condado de Haza. Ribera del Duero was granted its DO status in 1982, at a time when only nine bodegas were operating there, yet today it has over 170 wineries and more than 18,000 hectares of vines. Most of Ribera del Duero's production is red, with only a modest quantity of rosado produced. No white wines are allowed under the DO.
Ribera del Duero owes its success to a combination of factors: firstly, its terroir of schistous sub-soil bears remarkable similarity to other famous winemaking regions such as the Douro and Prioratot. Secondly, its microclimate, with its high altitude, hot days and cool nights (a phenomenon known as ‘diurnal variation’), ensures ripeness while preserving the vivacity of the fruit, aromatic flavours and refreshing acidity.
Thirdly, it has been blessed with an exceptional native grape, Tempranillo (also known as Tinto del País or Tinto Fino). This yields superb, complex red wines that are delicious when young but which also have the capacity to age into magnificent Gran Reservas. Finally, the immense influence of its winemakers has been key – historically, of course, Vega Sicilia, but more recently Alejandro Fernández, the founder of Pesquera.
Fernández has been at the forefront of the viticultural and winemaking revolution here since his arrival in the late 1970s. The initial breakthrough of his wine Pesquera, so lauded by Robert Parker, saw Tempranillo blended with a little Cabernet Sauvignon, thus injecting further zest and structure into this already fruity wine. Even if most winemakers now use the traditional 100 percent Tempranillo, Fernández's determination to experiment and question has been an inspiration to all.
The same DO rules govern Ribera's barrel-aged styles as for Rioja: Crianzas are aged for two years before release with at least a year in oak barrels; Reservas must be three years old with at least a year spent in oak; and, finally, Gran Reservas must be five years old before going on sale, with two years spent in barrel. The young (joven) unoaked red wines, called Roble, tend to boast a moreish, vibrant, bramble fruit while the best oak-aged styles of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva show intense, generous fruit, overlaid with notes of vanilla and sweet spice, and wrapped up in polished, elegant tannins.
Recommended producers: Vega Sicilia (including Alion), Alejandro Fernández (Pesquera, Condado de Haza), Pago de los Capellanes, Pingus