Day two Freixenet 2011 Spain
Wednesday, July 13 — Even though we arrived in Madrid on Monday and now it’s Wednesday, most of the 13 of us on this trip (most of whom are Freixenet employees getting a feel for the home company) consider Monday a day lost to travel, jet lag and a whirlwind introduction to Spain.
A little more about yesterday’s post on Valdubon and winemaker Javier Aladra, who on Tuesday tasted us on his Tempranillo, including the Cosecha, Crianza and his 2006 Riserva. I’ll try not to repeat this several times in these posts but Tempranillo has four styles: Cosecha (or Joven) – young wines ready in their first or second years; Crianza – required by the D.O rules to have two years aging, at least one in oak; Riserva – 3 years aging with at least one in oak; Gran Riserva – exceptional vintages with 5 years aging, minimum 2 years in oak.
Tempranillo, like Sangiovese, is a grape of many faces. Also known locally as Tinto del Pais and Tinto Fino, it can be a light-red, cherry-rich quaffer, a picnic table sort of wine, or it can be rich, deep and highly structured, a serious wine in anyone’s book.
Aladra everyday faces vineyards of near-barren soil; soil he describes as “very poor” and “with very little organic material.” That doesn’t mean it won’t produce fantastic wines but it does mean the winemaker has to work a bit harder at his art and have, perhaps,some knowledge of grape growing and wine-development not required of other growers in more benign climates and richer soils.
What really surprised most of us was when Aladra, a quiet, unassuming type more at home in the winery than speaking to tour groups, told us he finds it harder to make the young Cosecha wines rather than the bigger, richer and more-defined Crianza and Riserva.
“In the (Ribera del) Duero a young wine is the most difficult wine,” Aladra said, listing the hot growing conditions that lead to fast-ripening, and if you’re not careful, too much ripening. “We use the youngest grapes for our Cosecha.”
It’s all stainless fermentation – no oak on this wine – no more than a week long and soon it’s in the bottle and ready for the consumer.
Aladra grows 50 percent of his grapes, the rest coming from 150 smaller growers with long-term contracts to ensure stability in the supply and quality of grapes. He said Valdubon has 114 hectares (about 281 acres) of grapes and there’s only 23,000 hectares of vines in the entire Ribera del Duero. However, a press kit on Valdubon said there’s 13,500 hectares of vines there, which would be more than 33,300 acres, a big discrepancy and not something I could get immediately answered. But it LOOKED like 114 hectares.
The region is remindful of the wine areas in the Grand Valley of western Colorado. In fact most of the areas we visited in northeast Spain, except for the Mediterranean Sea, reminded me of home. High altitude (Ribera is around 800 meters, about 2,400 feet), cold winters, hot days/cool summer nights and a short growing season. Aladra joked there area has but two seasons – winter and two months of summer. Our group, by the way is comprised of several writers and some of the Freixenet regional reps from the U.S., none of whom had previously visited this part of Spain so it was an education for all us.
Now, back in the bus and off to Logroño in the Rioja.