Dominio del Águila - Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva 'Peñas Aladas' 2016
As a young student of oenology, Jorge Monzón traveled to Burgundy and despite not speaking a word of French nor having any recommendations let alone experience, he convinced Domaine La Romanée-Conti to take him on as an intern. His eagerness and desire to learn led him to shadowing maître de chai, Bernard Noblet, observing all the steps he took to create the famed wines of this historic Domaine.
Returning to Ribera del Duero, and his hometown of La Aguilera, Jorge worked a couple of years at Vega Sicilia before becoming technical director at Arzuaga-Navarro. While working for others, Jorge began purchasing old vineyards around La Aguilera – parcels in danger of being ripped up and replaced with more productive clones of Tempranillo as well as “fashionable” Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. These undesirable vineyards were ancient, unproductive massale selections of Tempranillo mixed with a diverse range of other varieties including a high proportion of white grapes – all “useless” in a region that prized extraction, production and the “ameliorating” contribution made by international varieties.
Together with his wife, Isabel Rodero, Jorge founded Dominio del Águila in 2010. Farming is certified organic and Isabel, who is an architect, supervised the renovation of three ancient cellars dating to the 15th century dug deep into the bedrock under the village. Natural yeast, whole cluster co-fermentations are the first step in the process with pigeage done by foot. After primary fermentation the wines are placed in oak barrels for aging in their cold, subterranean cellars ensure that the evolution of their wines proceeds slowly.
Peña Aladas, or winged stones, refers to a tiny group of small, rocky vineyard plots well over 100 years old in age and surrounded by pine forests. Like old vineyards elsewhere in Spain, there is a mix of grape varieties. About 85% is planted to Tempranillo with the remainder a mix of Cariñena, Bruñal, Bobal, Albillo, Garnacha and others. These sites are picked by hand, and the fruit sees a natural yeast, co-fermentation in tank before racking into French oak barrels for 51 months of aging in the deep and cold cellars of Dominio del Águila.
"The youth, freshness, balance and harmony of the 2016 Peñas Aladas Gran Reserva is gobsmacking. The wine is a little shy, insinuating, reticent and a little closed, and it feels younger than it is. It comes from a collection of small plots of some of the oldest vines in the village of La Aguilera in the lieu-dit, or “paraje,” that names the wine, in a small valley surrounded by pine, holm and juniper trees, where there is a cold draft of air and the temperature is lower than in the rest of the village. The soils are sandy and intermixed with clay on a marl mother rock. The plants are mostly Tempranillo, but as they are very old vines, there’s always a field blend of other varieties—Albillo Mayor, Monastrell, Garnacha, Bobal and Cariñena—all fermented together with full clusters that were foot trodden in concrete vats and indigenous yeasts. Malolactic was in barrel and lasted for 11 months, while the élevage was extended to a total of 55 months (almost five years!). After all this time in barrels, the wine is not oaky at all; it’s floral and perfumed, elegant, nuanced and layered. The texture is silky, and it’s medium-bodied, with moderate ripeness, 14% alcohol and very good freshness denoted by a pH of 3.41. It has fine tannins that make it nicely textured and fine-boned, with subtle minerality. This should be veeeeeery long lived, as it has the stuffing, all the ingredients and the balance between them to make old bones. Amazing juice. 3,591 bottles and 51 magnums were filled in April 2021." - 100 points, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
Producer: Dominio del Águila
Region: Castilla y León
Varietal: Tempranillo, Albillo, Garnacha, Bobal
Appellation: Ribera del Duero
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