In April I was delighted to be invited to lunch at Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel to meet Miguel Angel Bocos from Pesquera, one of the foremost producers in Spain’s Ribero del Duero. Along with a tasty lunch Miguel took us through five of the Pesquera Group’s current releases. But first, a bit of background to set the scene…
Disclosure: food and wine were covered by generous hosts James Nicholson Wine Merchant; opinions are mine alone.
Origins and Development of Pesquera
Quite simply Pesquera exists due to one man, Alejandro Fernández, and one place, the Ribero del Duero in northern Spain. Raised in a traditional small-holding family, Alejandro had a burning desire to create his own Bodega. He chose the Ribero del Duero region which, at that time, was barely known apart from the very grand Vega Sicilia. After 10 years of hard work, he restored a modest 16th century stone-built bodega in the village of Pesquera and began to bottle his wine.
Compared to the well-established Vega Sicilia, which included Bordeaux grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot in their blends, Alejandro produced wines which were 100% Tinto Fino – the local name for Tempranillo. Whereas some Rioja wines can be on the light side, when it comes to Tempranillo fruit, and so can need beefing up, well grown Tinto Fino vines in the Ribero produce thicker skinned grapes and hence darker, deeper coloured wines. There may well be some clonal differences between the two regions, but essentially it’s the sharper differences between day and night temperatures plus poor soil which turbocharge Ribero’s grapes.
After years of success, Alejandro gradually expanded the group. Firstly, Condado de Haza was also established in the Ribero del Duero, though with a subtly different microclimate and soil profile. Later he expanded further west with Dehesa La Granja and further south in La Mancha with El Vínculo.
Condado De Haza Crianza DO Ribero del Duero 2011 (RRP €23)
100% Tempranillo, 14.0%, 18 months in American oak barrels then 6 months in bottle
Although in the same region as Tinto Pesquera, the climate, aspect and soil are different for this sister winery. The powerful fruit is able to take significant oak, and thus spent 18 months in 100% new 225 litre American oak barrels. Condado de Haza is a south-facing slope along one kilometre of the Duero River, planted from 1989 onwards.
This is the real crowd pleaser of the range; this is the wine that Miguel would open to suit a variety of tastes and dishes. It obviously has structure and opulent fruit so will age for many years, but it’s just so balanced, approachable and lovely to drink right now. Ripe plum, juicy black cherry and blackcurrant compete for your palate’s attention. The oak is very much in evidence but it is well integrated and serves as the custard on a fruits of the forest pudding.
Dehesa La Granja Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León 2007 (RRP €20)
100% Tempranillo, 14.0%, 24 months in American oak barrels then 12 months in bottle
Heading west from Ribero, past Toro, around 50km from the Portuguese border we reach the town of Zamora. Here lies the 800 hectare Dehesa La Granja vineyard, stretching magnificently along the banks of the River Guareña. The climate is quite Continental and the soil is Clay, giving extra power to the wines. The estate is self-sufficiently Organic; they even have the animals on the property to make the natural fertilizer they need
This is still a powerful wine, but it also has elegance. There are layers of fine tannins which add interest when the wine in young, but are entirely in keeping with the fruit. I would be very interested to see how this continues to develop.
El Vínculo Crianza DO La Mancha 2010 (RRP €22)
100% Tempranillo, 14.0%, 18 months in American oak
My Spanish is the remnants of two terms at night school back in the early nineties, but I do remember a couple of important points: the accent on a Spanish word tells you which syllable is to be stressed, and the letter V is pronounced almost the same as a B. These two facts are important when saying the name of this wine to a Spanish speaker as they might otherwise think you are talking about their bottom.
Yields in La Mancha are often twice the national Average of Spain, mainly because of bulk produced grapes which will end up in a distillery for brandy. However, for Pesquera’s vines here the yield is around a quarter of the Spanish average, so this is a different beast from the usual industrial juice. La Mancha is very dry: it is baking hot in summer, yet cold in winter (often below freezing) with low levels of precipitation.
Although quality wine is still a rarity here, Pesquera believe that it has the potential to be the best appellation in Spain. For a group based in Ribero del Duero, that’s quite a bold statement!
This 2010 example showed leather and liquorice plus hints of spice and stewed black fruits. The leather suggests a cooler climate whereas the stewed fruit suggests a warmer climate – quite a conundrum.
Oh yes, the name – it’s the Spanish word for “link”, as the estate represents the link between tradition and innovation.
Tinto Pesquera Crianza DO Ribero del Duero 2012 (RRP €26 to €30)
100% Tempranillo, 13.5%, 18 months in American oak barrels
So now we’re onto the original Pesquera, the real deal. At 1050m it is possibly the highest vineyard in Spain.
Whereas the previous three wines had a certain playful side to them, this is a serious, grown up wine. Although it’s unmistakably Spanish, I hope the folks at Pesquera will excuse me for saying it has a certain French sensibility about it. It’s not trying to ape French wine, but it has a certain polish and class that left bank Bordeaux often brings to the table. It’s ironic that Alejandro declined to use Bordeaux grapes but has created something with a Bordeaux feel that doesn’t need those varieties.
Black cherry and black berries are surrounded by vanilla on the nose, with just a hint of smoke. The fruit expand out into your mouth when tasting, but with a side order of tannin – not big heavy gum-stripping tannins, but fine-grained savoury tannins. It’s lighter in style than the previous three, probably due to the vineyard’s elevation, so perhaps less obvious, but this obviously has the fruit and the structure to age for at least another decade.
Tinto Pesquera Reserva DO Ribero del Duero 2011 (RRP €37 to €42)
100% Tempranillo, 13.5%, 24 months in American oak barrels
The Reserva does all that the Crianza does, but more so. Going from junior to senior is like listening to a favourite song that suddenly switches from mono to stereo – it’s not necessarily louder, it just seems more alive and more real…it makes more sense. The same components are there, just in higher fidelity. The fruit is more intense and rich, there’s more toast and smoke and spicy vanilla from the barrels, but it all hangs together. With a few more years there will be harmony to add to the melody.
I’ll just leave you with the line up: