Notes from a Masterclass tasting with Tim Atkin MW of Three Wine Men interviewing three Spanish winemakers
Covering the northern half of the central Spanish plain known as the ‘meseta’, Castilla y León is among the most diverse wine regions of the country, encompassing 9 DOs, the most famous of which are red-wine areas - Ribera del Duero and Toro.
However, this area also produces some 40% of Spain's white wine, notably in Rueda, due to altitude and diurnal variation giving a longer, cooler growing season.
Climate is varied here, with influences from both the Mediterranean (warm and dry) and the Atlantic (cool and wet). An "Atlantic" year is not a good one for local winemakers. The grape varieties grown are a mixture of Spanish classics, international varieties and a some vary rare grapes.
The three wines, some of Tim's highest rated, included a unique white Rioja, a high-altitude Rufete Blanco and a Rueda from vines over 100 years old; each one was introduced by the winemaker and all three showed excellent winemaking from superb fruit with a deft elegance and poised precision.
Cuatro Rayas Viñedos Centenarios 2019 (£10, 93 Atkin Points, Bibendum)
The winery dates back to 1935 and is a co-operative with over 300 members. The vines are 80 - 100 years old. The wine is 50% barrel-fermented and 50% SS with 5 months on the lees. Made from varietal Verdejo, an ancient grape native to this part of Spain.
White peach and orchard fruit with pink grapefruit and wild herbs; concentrated, savoury and fresh. Very pure and poised.
A versatile food wine, match with roast pork and meaty white fish.
Hacienda El Ternero Barrel Fermented White 2017 (£16.95, 90 Atkin Points, Ellis Of Richmond)
High-altitude grapes from a cool site, hand-picked and barrel-fermented in new French oak with 6 months on the lees. The wine is a Rioja, even though the winery is located in Burgos
Bruised apple fruit and a sherry-esque tang with citrus, white stone fruits and oaky-leesy savouriness; fresh acidity and a long, savoury finish.
Match with pork dishes or mushrooms and cream with pasta.
Cámbrico Rufete Blanco Granito 2017 (£29, 94 Atkin Points, Berkmann Wine Cellars)
Based in a high-altitude natural park with granite soils that give structure; the Rufete Blanco grape is extremely rare, almost unique to this winery. With thick skins and pips, it produces a textured, almost tannic wine with the concentration of 100 year-old vines. The grapes are picked early for freshness and alcohol is only 12.5%. Fermentation is in SS for freshness with lees aging for savouriness.
Textured, focused and saline-mineral with leesiness; white peach and conference pear fruit with linear acidity; textured, substantial and fresh.
Match with lighter game, such as partridge, salmon or scallops.