Spain US Media Tour Day 2: Our team assembled on our coach around 9 a.m. Some had decided to mingle with the hip local scene on the hotel roof top bar, others had gone to bed at an 'early' 1 a.m, a few later still. Despite jet lag and limited sleep, for the most part we were bright, energetic, and excited to get to our first stop.
The two hour bus ride served as a chance for some to sleep, but most of us took the time to watch the scenery, and get to know more about the other journalists we would be spending the next 5 days and nights with.
Valdubón is in a part of Ribera del Duero, and is a bit isolated from some of the other known wineries of the region. Whether that was for a specific reason such as land price special terroir, etc we were never able to ascertain.
The winery was founded over 8 years ago, and acquired by Freixenet early in operation. Freixenet had retained the original team and winemaker, and let it run operations with what appears to be a great degree of autonomy, a model we would discover repeatedly the next few days.
We were warmly greeted by winemaker Javier Aladro, who had been with Valdubón from the start. As we started our walking tour, he illuminated us on the challenges of this region.
Ribera Del Duero is the land of Tempranillo, and presents a very challenging, low yield, wine growing environment. The soils are poor with low yield, making vines struggle. Rainfall is a meager 400 milliliters per year, on average. Low grape yield isn’t great for accountants, but for winemakers means the grapes are more concentrated and expressive. The summer here is very short, rarely over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees F), with a large temperature swing in evenings. Threat of hail can start a full month before harvest, right after August crop thinning, making each year a nail biting experience.
Given my recent experiences with Paul Dolan in Mendocino, I have organic & biodynamics on the brain, so I enquired about organic farming practices. I received a bit of a blank look and a shrug back, so I let it go. Many old world, European vineyards are farmed in organic like practices by default, chemicals didn’t exist or later weren’t affordable. Pressure from mildew and other challenges was low in this area, and this is no know viticulture practice to prevent hail or short summers.
An Undiscovered Red Style – Cosecha
I promised in the initial article I would try and illuminate readers on something new each article – today’s lesson is about Cosecha, pronounced ko-say-cha.
Today was the first many of the group (and myself only recently) would discover Cosecha. Cosecha is a style of Tempranillo (which is also referred to as Tinta del Pais) similar to Crianza, and Reserva.
A Cosecha is made from Tempranillo, and is designed to be a light, fruity, aromatic, quaffable red. All of the vinification is intended to capture the fruit and aromatics. It's fermented in stainless tanks, at a controlled lower temperature, and stays on the skins generally for 7-10 days. It is then racked to another stainless tank, put through secondary malolactic fermentation, and then racked one more time in the spring and bottled. A Cosecha is meant to be lighter in color, bright, young, fruity, and easy to drink.
2010 Valdubón Cosecha
This 2010 Cosecha didn’t disappoint, and indeed was a crowd pleaser of the day, ranked as 2nd favorite by many in the group. Color was medium red, darker than some others we would have. The nose was full of strawberry & violet, bright red fruits in the mouth. There was a slight presence of tannins, again unlike some other Cosechas we would try later. This wine was domestic (Spain only, and sells for $5-6 euros. Drink this alone. Pizza. Pasta. Burger.
Valdubon Roble 2009
This wine was made in a similar method to the Cosecha, but then spends 4 months in new oak, 25% French, 75% American. This wine is distributed in the US, for $12 retai
l. The oak shows on the nose, with vanilla notes. The color is darker red, with bolder red fruit and blackberry tones. It’s a nice stepping stone between Cosecha and a Crianza, and most US wine drinkers would enjoy this wine, especially at $12. Personally I preferred the lighter style.
By regulation, to be declared a Crianza, the wine must be aged for 2 years, with at least 6 months in oak barrel. Two-thirds of the barrels for this vintage were American, 1/3 French, all barrels 0-2 years old. The vines the grapes were picked from average 40 years in age, producing a more concentrated flavor.
The wine was clearer than the previous two, and deeper red. The nose shows blackberry, spice, vanilla, red and black fruit in mouth, with moderate tannins on the finish. It drinks well now, with plenty of structure that would allow it to age, and improve in bottle.
2006 Valdubón Reserva
Again from 100% Tempranillo, a Reserva by law must age for at least three years, and spend at least 12 months in oak barrels, this vintage being 19-21 months, 50% French Oak, 50% American, 0-2 years old, and is racked every 4 months. The wine is very dark, intense red, with black cherry and spice on the nose, excellent red fruit, acidity, hint of minerality in mouth, with an excellent finish. The extra time in bottle has allowed this wine to mature nicely.
The King – Valdubón Honoris 2006
Almost without exception, this elegant wine was the favorite of the day, and is a highly decorated wine, including the 2010 Repsol Guide award, naming it a top 6 Spanish wine.
The fruit for this wine comes from very low yield, 60+ year old vineyards. The fruit is hand picked into small containers and transported for meticulous sorting, then crushing. Cold soaked for 6 days, it is then fermented in 7500 kilo large French oak vats. Once primary fermentation is complete it is racked into new French barrels for 20 months.
The nose is incredible, complex, with the fruit still bright, a mix of red and black fruits, elegant in the mouth, incredibly well balanced, with a lingering finish. A stunning wine.
Lunch was (of course!) another 5 course affair, featuring ‘baby lamb.’ Aren’t all lambs babies by default, aka not full grown? These are really babies, six weeks old on average, and only ever fed milk. It cuts with a fork. The amazing meal was paired with several of the wines. As a special touch, we got to sample the Spanish equivalent of Grappa, distilled from the 3rd pressing of grapes. Not as harsh as true grappa, (made from pressed skins with water added) but fiery nonetheless.
Back onto the coach for a 90 minute ride to the medium city of Logrono, and to a famous street full of Tapas bars. You’d think we’d grab sleep, but most were busy. I edited and uploaded a photo album, and met in the lobby with my peers for a quick beer and off to dinner at 9.
We only made it to 3 stops, each with great wine lists, and a wide variety of Tapas, ranging from squid to suckling pig. Of course, accompanied with wine.
The spirit of adventure and exploration called to a group of us, and instead of returning back to try to get 6-8 hours sleep, we explored a few of the local establishments, and continued our bonding. Luckily Day 3 had a 1045 a.m. start and less transport time.