Last year, during my Spanish wine classes, we had a very unique opportunity to taste several Tempranillo wines, from different regions of Spain, in the row. As you might know, Tempranillo is one of the best grapes to express its terroire. Although I enjoy classic Tempranillo from Rioja region, I am always excited to taste a difference, coming from variety of soils and elevations. One of my new favorite Tempranillo expressions from this wine tasting was quite special Barco de Piedra 2009 from Ribera del Duero.
Quite special? Here are just few reasons why it stands out:
* As there is a lot of effort these days to create “universally loved” big, bold reds, some of Tempranillo wines coming from Spain suffer from its winemaker’s tendency to fit in that category. How? By adding unnecessarily too much of oak which sometimes results in masking the true, unique style of Tempranillo based wines.
The founders of Bodegas Barco de Piedra – business partners Alberto Orte and Patrick Mata, together with Borja Osborne, decided to go the exact opposite direction.Their goal was to let the grape variety, grown on the hillside of the Quiñón Estate, shine on its own. The partners and its winemaker, Alvaro Trigueros, were well aware of the fact that Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero shows enough tannins and power on its own – so why would you over perfume and over power it with an additional prolonged oak aging?
The weather conditions (the cool nights and hot days) at their vineyard, located in the western area of Ribera del Duero, result in Tempranillo grapes (called here Tinto Fino) with thicker skin, translated into wines with much more intense and concentrated color and flavors, than anywhere else in Spain. No need to put heavy makeup on already beautiful girl!
* Ribera del Duero became a very sought after region lately, and it’s quickly becoming as popular as perhaps Rioja or Priorat. Unfortunately, with that fame usually comes unpopular side effect – higher prices of wines. Here, too, Bodegas Barco de Piedra goes the other way, against the flow. This superb, small production, single vineyard full of organically grown 25 years old vines, seriously over-delivers for its $15 price tag!
* All the effort, invested in the labor intensive vinification of this wine, usually results in much more expensive wine in the bottle. As the winery publishes, only the best bunches from three different sites are selected during the harvest. All clusters are then carefully de-stemmed and crushed. The not yet fermented juice mixes with the skins for 2-3 days and after that, cold fermentation takes an additional 11 days. Extended post-fermentation maceration is carried out for another 8 days.
Fermentation and malolactic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is finally ages for just 5 months (!) in 300-liter 85% French and 15% American oak barrels. All that work for about 5000 cases of wine. There are much more expensive wineries, calling themselves boutique, producing 20+ thousand cases per vintage. But Bodegas Barco de Piedra is truly boutique, organic and pretty much hand made wine!
* All the effort to pay attention to every little detail results in an incredible red wine, a true showcase of the superb Ribera del Duero wine region. Yes, their Tempranillo tastes completely different than the one from Rioja or perhaps from La Mancha. But that’s how it is supposed to be! That’s what I love about it. Despite the short time spent in the oak, Barco de Piedra charms with deep color, beautiful aromas of dark fruit and spices and enough concentrated flavors to satisfy even the “full flavors, big reds” lovers. I appreciate the notes of dark plums, spices and earthy flavors in this wine. The complexity and balance promises an aging potential for another few years.
Now tell me, where you can get all that for 15 bucks?