VdT Castilla y León wines, for when DO doesn’t do it
Perhaps you’ve never heard of it but the Spanish Autonomous Community of Castilla y León is the country’s largest. And no, it’s not Castilla y La Mancha of Don Quixote fame as that’s another region to the south that also happens to be massive. The immediate lesson here is: Central Spain has a lot of space.
Castilla y León, at 94,000 sq km, is bigger than nearly half of all the countries in the world including Portugal which it borders. It’s also one of Spain’s largest wine-producing regions and holds the Vino de la Tierra – Castilla y León that spans its entirety. What is a ‘Vino de la Tierra’ or ‘VdT’? It’s Spain’s version of the IGT (Indication of Geographic Typicity) which is to say a much more generic, kitchen sink-ish classification for wine that’s not as strict as the higher-level IGP which takes the form of a DO or Denomination of Origin in Spain.
You may or may not be thinking, “But, if this is such a big region and Spain is such a big producer of wine, why haven’t I heard of it?” The truth is, you’ve probably had wines from this region before but classified as the DO wines of Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Bierzo, or possibly Toro. These are all within this Autonomous Region and produce their fair share of wines and good wines at that which show that overall, it’s an amenable place to make fine wines.
There hasn’t been the immediate uptake of Vino de la Tierra or even Vino de España in Spain like the Vin de France in well, France. Spain doesn’t suffer from the incredibly stringent regulation of France’s appellation system so flexibility within individual DOs has been a lot easier. But, Spain is definitely lacking in having enough DOs as shown by the fact the southern bit of Castilla y León should be part of a greater DO Gredos as the quality of wines from those mountains is simply splendid.
But, this discussion could get ridiculously long as I’m a strong believer in Spanish wine and Spain should really have VdTs for every Autonomous Region just like what was very wisely done in Portugal. Suffice to say, there are many high-quality producers now making use of this regional Castilla y León certification due to its flexibility for them to experiment, spread their wings, and have access to a great wealth of old vines as well as unique grapes that lie outside any other “known” region.
Following as some suggestions to try if you’ve not encountered them before:
A classic producer established in 1978, they lay claim to 80ha of vineyards around Tudela de Duero and focus a great deal upon Tempranillo and Syrah. One of their flagship wines, Mauro VS has been highly-regarded for several vintages now, scoring in the mid-90s from many critics. They’re looking to the future as well and are working to gain approval for their proposed 3ha Vino de Pago of “Cueva Baja”. From this, they produce their top wine, Terreus, a 100% Tempranillo wine aged in French oak for 32 months.
Bodegas Prieto Pariente
Brother and sister, Ignacio and Martina have lent their family name, Prieto Pariente, to this very personal project founded in 2012. They’re the children of the winemaking family behind José Pariente in DO Rueda (currently run by their mother, Victoria) and they decided to create their own project to take advantage of and recuperate the old vineyards they find around them in Valladolid. While wines such as their Viognier makes use of a promising newcomer to the region, others such as La Provincia or El Origen focus on the classic purity of blending Tempranillo and Grenache.
Alfredo Maestro Tejero
Based in Peñafiel, Alfredo has made excellent use of the regional brand of Castilla y León in order to make wines from all over the region and express specific soils. Sometimes this is old-vine Grenache, sometimes it’s the white, Albillo Real, and others it’s simply Merlot or the local Tempranillo, except planted at 1,000m in altitude. Despite being initially picked up on by natural wine advocates this project of his has garnered many enthusiasts in greater wine circles as well.
Fuentes del Silencio
Owners, María José Galera and Miguel Ángel Alonso have put together a diverse team to get this project off the ground. Starting with Marta Ramas who worked in Bordeaux, Hawkes Bay, Napa Valley, and South Africa, they’re blending her worldwide knowledge with local expertise from Alberto Aldonza heads up vineyard management. They’ve been working to recover pre-phylloxera and 100-year-old vines of Mencía and Prieto Picudo along with Alicante Bouschet which form the core of their wines.
This is the sister project to Dominio de Tares in Bierzo where they’ve established themselves in 2000 as champions of the Mencía grape. With the Dostares project, which was founded in 2004, the idea was to showcase the quality of grapes that could be found in Castilla y León region and for this, they work heavily with the native variety, Prieto Picudo. They’re fortunate to lay claim to old vines of 80 and 100 years old (the largest such tracks in the Los Oteros region) that they use to make their flagship Cumal label which has been growing in terms of stature and respect in recent vintages.