Bodegas Marañones – Sierra Gredos
De Spaanse ‘Armada’ wordt deze zomer versterkt met een wijnhuis dat ik al een aantal jaar volg, maar waarvan ik nog niet de kans heb gehad het te mogen kopen. Officieel bevinden we ons in DO Mentrida, een uitgestrekt heuvelachtig gebied op zo’n 75 kilometer ten westen van Madrid. De mannen hier spreken over Sierra Gredos, het land van Garnacha!
Fernando Garcia studeerde wijnbouwkunde in Madrid en raakt daar bevriend met twee streekgenoten: Marc Isart (Bernabeleva) en Daniel Gomez Landi (Dani Landi Viticultor). Niemand had toen kunnen bedenken dat deze drie talenten tien jaar later samen met Raul Perez en hun leermeester Telmo Rodriguez de wijnen uit Sierre Gredos op de internationale wijnkaart gingen plaatsen. Omdat zij als eerste de potentie zagen van Sierra Gredos, hebben ze in het begin vrij eenvoudig de beste wijngaarden kunnen selecteren en vervolgens gekocht of gepacht van de lokale bewoners.
Fernando start zijn bodega Maranones in het centrale deel van Sierrea Gredos genaamd San Martin de Valdeiglesias. Een uitgestrekt gebied gelegen op zo’n 1100 meter hoogte met een rijke bodem voor landbouw. Een enorme biodiversiteit vinden we hier, met planten, bloemen, bossen, verschillende soorten olijfbomen, vijgen, amandelen en andere soorten noten. De naam Marañones is dan ook heel toepasselijk ontleend aan het Spaanse woord ‘cashewnoten’. Al met al een ideale plek voor natuurlijke wijnbouw.
Fernando werkt in de 20 hectare tellende wijngaard uitsluitend met lokale druivenrassen. Voor wit is dat de Albillo Blanco en voor rood de Garnacha en daarnaast een klein beetje Syrah. Veel oude stokken, de gemiddelde leeftijd is zo’n 50 jaar en de biologische wijngaarden worden met een ezel geploegd. In de kelder laat Fernando de natuur zijn werk doen, minimale interventie om maximale expressie van de druif en wijngaard te etaleren.
Albillo blanco | graniet terroir met zand | 30-70 jaar oude stokken| geplukt in augustus | koude inweking met de schillen van 10-20 uur | vergist sur lie op eikenhout, deels nieuw, voor 10 maanden
Treintamil Maravidies 2015
Garnacha Tinto | assemblage van 6 wijngaarden gelegen op 600-800 meter hoogte | 30-70 jaar oude stokken vergisting in tank | rijping voor 8 maanden op eikenhout, deels nieuw
Peña Caballera 2012
Garnacha Tinto | single vineyard 50-70 jaar oude stokken | met de voet getreden | vergisting in een open vat en de rijping voor 12 maanden op een 500 liter eikenhout vat | niet gefilterd!
Review door Spanish Wine Lover:
J. Fernando Cornejo is a lawyer, sociologist and businessman. He is also the owner of one of most highly recommended wineries for those in search of a memorable experience with the Sierra de Gredos Garnachas. This mountainous area lies at the northernmost end of the Denomination of Origin Vinos de Madrid. The progress made by these wines since their launch in the 2000 decade has been remarkable thanks to the efforts of winemaker Fernando García.
The high altitude vineyards are mostly spread in plots around the villages of San Martín de Valdeiglesias and Pelayos de la Presa. All Marañones wines, from the Garnacha-based reds to the Albillo Real whites, share this character. The presence of Syrah has been reduced to avoid the heavy candied fruit notes that seemed to mask the floral, red fruit, earthy and mineral aromas present in most of the wines. Old vines from the delicately fragrant Morenillo variety are being recuperated. A grape mostly found in the Terra Alta region of Cataluña, its presence in the region is a mistery.
The winery farms 20 hectares of 50-year old bush vines that lie on granite hillsides and slopes (650 to 800 metres). The four non-irrigated steep plots are planted in narrow spaces so mules are used to plow the land. Vinification is done separately, with indigenous yeasts and whole bunches including stems for the reds and wines are aged on used French oak barrels and large casks (500 to 700 litres).
All the wines are produced in very small quantities. The two whites, Picarana and the single vineyard Pies Descalzos, are made from Albillo Real and aged in oak. Both ooze personality and show well-defined fruit and a pronounced saline finish. Pies Descalzos exhibits greater acidity and has the potential to develop further in the bottle. The Albillo variety “likes to ripen quickly”, according to Fernando García, and reacts well on dry years such as 2009 and 2012. This last vintage is highly recommended for both whites.
Treinta mil maravedíes, Marañones’ entry level red, is an excellent introduction to the Garnachas from San Martín de Valdeiglesias on the €10 price range. Floral, spicy and perfumed aromas give way to fluid, deep and aromatic flavours with a saline aftertaste which adds length. Terroir and the unique character of the Gredos Garnacha (very different from those found in Aragón, Navarra, Rioja and Cataluña) are evident in a range of wines that includes Marañones (two 50-70 year-old plots on hillsides); Labros (70-year old vineyards at 650 metres above sea level facing west) and Peña Caballera (850 metres, northern aspect and granite and schist soils).
This last wine shows a particularly strong personality, with sloe and pomegranate notes and a linear acidity that builds a clean, very long palate seasoned with earthy and balsamic flavours.
With the exception of the area just discussed in Ávila, Gredos’ soils offer a fairly homogeneous granitic profile, more degraded in the lower areas of the Alberche Valley as we move towards Madrid, much less in the higher areas known as Alto Alberche. If we continue with the Pegaso example, the “Granite” version is more aromatic, less structured and dominated by forest and herbal nuances rather than fruit. The palate is well-delineated and juicy, flavourful and with a marked minerality on the finish. Although Rodríguez doesn’t ferment with whole bunches and stems like Marañones, Comando G, Dani Landi, Alfredo Maestro and others in the area, there’s undoubtedly a common pattern among wines coming from granitic soils.
For Fernando García, winemaker at Bodega Marañones and co-founder of Comando G along with Dani Landi, the granite-degraded environment around San Martín de Valdeiglesias provides distinctive salty notes. Other differences among the main valleys in Gredos (Alto Alberche in Ávila, Alberche in Ávila and Madrid and Tiétar mainly in Toledo except for a small area in Madrid) are mainly due to variations in altitude and climate, as the highest areas in Ávila have a clear continental and mountain influence, while the central area is characteristically dry Mediterranean and humidity is notably higher in the Tiétar Valley.
Jancis Robinson over de wijnen van Maranones & Dani Landi:
Sierra de Gredos is a wine region that has been attracting the attention of many wine professionals and wine lovers recently. Some of the reasons for the increased interest are its proximity to Madrid, the emergence of newcomer producers in a region traditionally dominated by co-operatives, the quality potential of the old vines, and the stylistic profile of their delicate Garnachas, a world away from the concentrated, broad and dark Garnachas from Aragon or Priorat.
The region does not have its own appellation yet as it is part of three different provinces. In the south of Avila province, wines are labelled as Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León. In the north of Toledo province is small area within the Méntrida appellation. And west of Madrid the wines are labelled Vinos de Madrid but are very different from other areas within that denomination such as Navalcarnedo and Arganda.
As Luis Gutierrez reported in 2011 in Offbeat Spain – Gredos Garnacha, under the three different appellations there is a single geographical unit where Garnacha has ruled peacefully for decades together with the local white grape Albillo Real (see this wine of the week, for instance). That is the main reason for the emergence of the Garnacha de Gredos association formed in 2013 by 14 producers, a breath of fresh air in Spain, most of them using a Garnacha de Gredos guarantee seal on their labels.
Gredos has already received recognition as a unique wine region, but I hope they will be given their own appellation as nothing looks more like a real geographical unit than the Sierra de Gredos.
It is a mountainous region, flooded with old Garnacha vines planted at an elevation of between 600 and 1,200 m (1,970-3,940 ft). The soils are mainly granitic and sandy with some areas including slate around the village of Cebreros in Avila province. The climate is certainly continental but the topography is extremely varied and there are many different mesoclimates within the region.
Sierra de Gredos might be divided into three different valleys, which guided me in planning this tasting of 42 Gredos Garnachas.
Firstly I present the wines of the Valle de Alberche, which is slightly hotter and drier than most of the Gredos region. The renowned village of Cebreros is here and Alberche is home to some of the finest producers, as you can deduce from the remarkable scores I gave Arrayán, Marañones, Rubén Díaz and 4 Monos.
Next are the wines from the Valle Alto Alberche, which is extremely continental and really cold at nights. It is the latest to be harvested and is higher in elevation peaking at 1,200 m. Some of the wines from Alfredo Maestro and Comando G are noteworthy in terms of quality and style.
Finally come the wines from the Valle del Tiétar, which is much rainier. Elevations are up to 1,000 m (3,280 ft) and the climate is Mediterranean with producers such as Canopy and Daniel Landi achieving some of the higher scores of the tasting.
Gredos wines taste very burgundian, less extracted, more ethereal and lighter than the majority of Spanish Garnachas. The alcohol perception might be high but the wines manage to retain some lightness, generating a unique and recognisable style.
However, treating Grenache like a Pinot Noir requires great skill, knowledge and experience, which is not a possibility open to every winery. Some wines showed an excess of oak and premature evolution while others displayed great finesse, delicacy and ethereal expression.
The younger versions and wines made by semi-carbonic maceration are also remarkable; El Rey del Glam from Alfredo Maestro is a great example of this.
The winemaking concept practised in general is also significant: Very limited production, lots of producers using wild yeast, little sulphur, long and gentle skin contact during maceration, up to 60 days for wines such as Tumba del Rey Moro, a fascinating bottle achieving 17.5. It seems that producers intensely search for authenticity over perfection, taking risks in the winemaking process so that I detected advanced oxidation and farmyard aromas in some wines. I am not sure Garnacha, with its limited acidity, is the best grape to take such risks with. On the other hand, when accurate winemaking is practised, it can be magnificent, as in the case of Daniel Landi’s Las Iruelas, which displayed great elegance and depth.
There is no doubting the potential of this new style of Garnacha from Spain, although I think there is still a long way to go. Most of the wines are priced ambitiously at a level that requires a high standard, ageing potential and the assurance that quality will remain over the years – factors that only the best wine regions can assure in the majority of their wines. Time will tell if this is the case in Gredos.
The labelling merits a comment. Most Gredos labels are very lively and trendy. They don’t look classical at all and the name of the vine grower tends to dominate the name of the winery, as in Burgundy in a very terroir-driven approach. You will also find lots of single-vineyard wines from superb hidden plots retrieved and re-evaluated by Sierra de Gredos producers.
A little white wine is produced in a rich, creamy, broad style. I particularly liked the superbly burgundian Pies Descalzos Albillo. I would also like to highlight an astonishing Albillo produced in an old solera system. Tone 7 by Rubén Díaz merits a rating of 18 and can be compared to a great Amontillado – although it is not fortified.
Finally I have selected a few sentences from two remarkable producers, as they perfectly encapsulate what is happening today in Sierra de Gredos.
Fernando Garcia from Bodega Marañones and Comando G points out, ‘It is not so long ago that our region was producing just bulk wine’ and continues, ‘The Gredos wines express clearly their location and origin; they are wines that listen to their terroir.’
José Benavides Jimenez Landi says, ‘The wines from Gredos are the finest and more elegant expression of Garnacha in Spain’.
I am very thankful to all the producers who sent samples for me to taste in relaxed circumstances in my office. The majority of the wines are complex and far from facile so they really deserve time and effort to be correctly assessed.
The 45 wines are grouped by valley, and within each group the wines are in alphabetical order by producer (sur)name. However, you can now use our brand new tasting-note sorting feature to rearrange the order within groups. If you do change the order, you can get back to the original version by choosing ‘default’.
Albillo Real. 50-year-old single vineyard planted on granitic soils at 750 m. Very restrained yields of 15 hl/ha. Hand-harvested and wild -fermented in used French barrels. Neither cold stabilised nor filtered. Aged for 12 months in 700-litre used French casks. Limited production of 1.900 bottles.
Very expressive and great nose showing ripe peach, creamy sensation and mineral notes. It is very rounded on the palate, body and fruit supported by balancing acidity. Big and deep. Superbly made and in good shape. (FC)
Garnacha from 50- to 70-year-old vines. Granitic soils and elevation of 750-850 m. Low yields of 20 hl/ha. Whole bunch, cold maceration and fermentation in 33-hl French oak casks. 12 months’ ageing in 500-litre barrels.
Very delicate, burgundy style on the aromatics with spirity accent. It shows ripe sweet cherries, spiciness and touch of wet leaves. I particularly like the style, unctuous and ripe palate, very ripe-fruit sensation but still keeping superb balance. The oak is very well integrated. Clean, well delineated and trend-setting in terms of style. (FC)
Garnacha. High elevation and sloped single vineyard planted in San Martin de Valdeiglesias area at 850 m. 50- to 70-year-old vines in granitic soils. Very low yields 15hl/ha. The grapes are not destalked; cold maceration and fermented in 33-hl French oak casks. Neither clarified nor filtered. 12 months’ ageing in 500-litre French oak barrels. Limited production of 2,500 bottles.
It shows a very open nose, sweet herbs with hints of earthiness and sweet fruit underneath. The palate is ethereal and silky although the tannins are slightly bitter. Harmonious but not particularly concentrated. (FC)
Garnacha. 70-year-old single vineyard planted on slate and red clay soils. 1,000 m elevation and extremely limited yields of 15 hl/ha. Whole cluster and very long maceration of 60 days. The wine is aged in 500-litre barrels for 12 months. Not clarified or filtered.
The wine has a developed light garnet colour. The nose is very open and shows lots of different aromas such as ripe red fruits, floral, herbaceous notes and herbal character. The wine is light but flavourful, very polished and soft textured. It has a burgundian style, completely looking towards elegance. (FC)
Daniel Gómez Jiménez-Landi, El Reventón Cebreros Sierra de Gredos 2013 Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León
Garnacha. Single vineyard and 70-year-old vines planted on slate and red clay soils. Wild yeast and very long fermentation for 60 days. The wine is aged in 50-litre oak barrels for 12 months. Not clarified or filtered.
The nose seems slightly closed, showing a mushroom character, very ripe red fruit, leathery sensation and ash. Very pleasurable now but not sure if the leathery sensation will overshadow the fruit over time. The palate is ethereal and soft but the overall expression of the wine is already mature. (FC)