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Part 7 of the Spanish Series – Ribera del Duero and the Wines of Tinto Figuero

winery logoClearly, one if the great wine making regions of Spain is the Ribera del Duero.  Located high in the continental plateau, in north central Spain, and straddling the Duero River, this region is home to some of the iconic names in Spanish wine.  Most wine lovers will recognize Vega Sicilia and Pingus, expensive and world class wines to be sure.  There is so much more, however, and wines which will delight the palate and range in price from everyday to the special occasion bottle.  Here, the Tempranillo grape is king, and accounts for the vast majority of production.  International varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Garnacha and Malbec are also grown, and up to 25% of these can be blended with Tempranillo, but the majority are 100%  Tinto Fino, as the grape is known locally.

The region was designated as a D.O. region (Denominaciones de Origen) formally in 1982.  Production methods have improved over the ensuing decades, and the quality of the wines is excellent.  Historically, wine has been made here since Roman times, so viticulture is nothing new.  This is an extreme continental climate, at around 2500 feet in elevation, and the winters can be bitterly cold followed ribero local area mapby hot summers.  Temperatures can exceed 100 degree F in the warmer months.  Large diurnal temperature swings daily provide the perfect climate for ripening Tempranillo.

Tinto Figuero, as an established and formal winery, began in 2001.  It is the result of an enduring relationship and dream of two people who grew up in La Horra, in the vineyard business, and who oversee the 80 hectares of estate vineyards and winemaking.  Jose Maria Garcia, Milagros Figuero, their three children and the respective spouses are the family behind the wine.

harvestThe Tempranillo clone in the García Figuero family vines comes from cuttings taken from pre-phylloxera vines, thanks to the French religious order which arrived in La Horra in 1908. They concentrated their efforts between 1912 and 1920, after the terrible  phylloxera plague, to replanting the vines in La Horra with the best vines that were already perfectly adapted to the rigorous climate of the area.
Later on, José María selected plots which produced the best grapes and thanks to the fruit of a lifetimes work, today we can enjoy the selection of grapes from 21 plots of old vines that are over 60 years old.

You can learn much more about the family and the wines of Tinto Figuero on their website: http://tintofiguero.com/en/#.

We have five wines from Figuero to taste and review, and they are designated based on the amount of time each aged in barrel.  We’ll go from four months to 21 months, and have a great opportunity here to see what extended barrel aging adds to a wine.  It would be perfect if they were all the same vintage and we had a chance to try them every year or two to chart their respective evolution, but nothing’s perfect.  This is close though!

2014 Figuero 4 (Roble) – made with grapes from 15 to 25 year old vines, this sees hand harvesting and cluster selection in the IMG_1083vineyards.  Everything is de-stemmed.  A 5-6 day cold skin maceration happens prior to fermentation.  The fermentation occurs over the ensuing two months, including malolactic fermentation, and then the wine spends four months in new oak barrels (75% American and 25% French).  It then sees an additional four months aging in bottle before it leaves the cellar.  The wine is filtered.  Our thoughts?

This is a deep ruby with purple highlights.  On the nose there is a big wave of ripe fruit, including cherry and blueberry.  Oak, vanilla and spice notes add to the complexity.  It is a fresh wine, with good acid.  The tannins are brisk on the palate, and some orange peel, anise and other herbal notes join the party.  The finish is long.  If you let this sit in the glass for twenty minutes it smooths out a little, and is overall quite delicious.  This is a good value at the recommended retail of $21.99.

2014 Tinto Figuero 12 (Crianza) – the Tempranillo grapes for this wine come from vines with an average age over 40 years.  They 2014 -12are handled much the same as the first wine, with the same careful selection, 5-6 day cold soak and two month maturation.  Then this goes into more neutral barrels (2+ years) for 12 months.  The oak here is half French and half Amrican.  It will spend an additional year aging in the bottle before it see the light of day.  What did we think?

Another deep, ruby red wine with purple flashes, this has a nose rich with dark fruits, coffee, vanilla, caramel and oak.  There is some spice as well.  This is complex, and just from the nose you know it is excellent.  On the palate it is rich and full bodied, with luxurious dark fruits, lots of complexity and smooth tannins.  It stays full and round throughout, with the mid-palate holding up beautifully.  The rich fruits carry into a very long and lingering finish.  This is, quite simply, great.  They say 2014 was a very good year in Ribero del Duero, and this is proof.  We love this wine, and think it is a steal at the retail of $31.99.  Wow!  This just might be the best Crianza level Spanish wine we have ever tried.

2012 Figuero 12 (Crianza) – the same wine as the previous one, except two years earlier.  This is a great chance to compare and IMG_1086contrast.  The grapes were from the same vineyard, but slightly different locations.  The aging regimen was very similar, except this time it saw 70% American barrels and 30% French.  It also saw an additional two years aging in the bottle before release.  The 2012 vintage was climatically harsh, with low yields.  The winery considers this vintage as being special.  Did we agree?

Again, this wine is a dark, rich ruby red with purple highlights.  The nose is very reminiscent of the 2014, and presents dark fruit and complex notes aplenty.  This wine has more acid however, and the tannins are more brisk.  It is also just a touch lighter in body.  If you didn’t know the vintages this would probably strike you as the younger wine, which is opposite of the truth.  The biggest difference in the flavor profile is the presence of more wood here (despite the older barrels) and a little savory quality.  It is profound and excellent, and also a great value at $31.99.  If I was buying a bottle to drink now it would be the 2014.  For the cellar it would be the 2012.  You absolutely can’t go wrong either way.  One of the best Crianzas we have had (see previous wine!).

2011 Tinto Figuero 15 (Reserva) – now we step up another level, to a wine from older vines (>60 years) and longer barrel aging (15IMG_1097 months).   New oak is used (half French and half American).  Two years of aging in bottle follows. The vintage in 2011 had a medium yield following a cold winter and hotter than average spring and summer.  The vintage is considered excellent.  What we found:

This is dark, rich red with a purple rim.  Long legs cascade down the glass. The nose is full and rich, with dark berries including currants, and some plum.  Coffee and caramel also make an appearance.  It is full bodied.  I think the word luxurious applies here.  It is very, very long, carries the tannin well and drinks like the big brother of the previous two wines, which it is of course.  This has a touch more brawn lurking beneath the surface, and it will likely last for a very long time.  Simply another killer wine.  $65.99, and another wine which makes our Value List, even at that price. 

2010 Figuero NOBLE (21 Months in Barrel) – here we have the big gun, a wine which comes from 70+ year old Tempranillo IMG_1104bush vines.  This time the cold soak is only two days, but the wine does see the same two month maturation.  Then it is into 100% new French oak barrels for 21 months.  Following that it spends another 18 months aging in bottle.  The 2010 vintage saw warmer than normal temperatures, and smaller yields.  Our opinion?

The color is dark ruby to purple.  There are savory notes and dark fruit on the nose, along with leather.  Some cherry also pops up.  It is very complex.  On the palate it starts with a mouth coating burst of fruit, and then leather and spice intermix with the dark fruit waves.  It goes on and on.  The tannins are still brisk, it is still fresh, and this will probably last forever.  It is a prodigious wine.  Alas, it comes with a prodigious price tag as well as suggested retail is $161.99.  A price like that would be a major splurge for us, but is is a major league wine.  Truly great.

Wow!  Did I say that already?  This was an amazing line up of beautiful Tempranillos.  The quality is off the charts.  The first four I consider value wines, they are that good.  The last wine gets into the price range where it is hard to talk about value, but if you’re going to spend that kind of money you can do much worse.  Wow!

After tasting these wines I am left wondering how Ribera del Duero has not yet received the highest designation in Spanish wine of DOCa, (Denominaciones de Origen Calificada), which its brothers Rioja and Priorat enjoy.  There were rumors it was about to, some 8-10 years ago.  Some theorize that they simply don’t want another layer of regulation, and they certainly don’t need it.  This is as good as it gets.

The wines from Tinto Figuero are imported by our friends at Quintessential Wines, and you can visit their website at www.quintessentialwines.com.

You can learn more about Tinto Figuero at http://tintofiguero.com/.

To see the previous installment in the Spanish series click here.

To go to the beginning of the series click here.

There is much more to explore in Ribera del Duero, but what a way to start!

A votre santé!

2 comments to Part 7 of the Spanish Series – Ribera del Duero and the Wines of Tinto Figuero

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