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Part 8 of the Spanish Series – Vizcarra from Ribera del Duero

logoWe’ll stay in the Ribera del Duero for this review, and visit what is considered a “garage winery”, or “garagiste”.  Started in the early 1990s in Bordeaux, the garagiste movement was, and is, about small batches, high quality, lots of hand labor and wines which showcased the fruit rather than harsh tannins.  Chateau Valandraud became a cult wine in Bordeaux and fetched hundreds of dollars a bottle doing this.  Its rise was certainly fueled by the well known wine critic Robert Parker, who rated it higher than legendary Chateau Petrus in 1995.  Some loved the garage wines, some did not (Mr. Parker apparently did).  Whichever way you feel, there is no denying the influence of the movement, or the fact that it is still going on.  In this article we’ll take a look at a Spanish version of the garagiste movement, one of the first in Spain.  This is Vizcarra.

vizcarra_historia_06In the eighties, before the Ribera del Duero became a fashionable winemaking area, José Manuel Vizcarra Aguado was a pioneer in planting new vineyards.  In 1991 his son  Juan Carlos Vizcarra Ramos followed in his father´s footsteps and started making young wines, and later aged wines.

In 2007, they started making wine in new facilities,  where gravity is used in the entire process (pump over, wine press, run off and rack and return).  This helps to achieve intense aromas and soft tannins.

Immersed in the area known as “Ribera del Duero’s Heart”, they have 35 hectares of Tinto Fino (the local name for Tempranillo), either grown in bush vines or trained on wired vines.  There is also one hectare of Merlot and some other plots holding additional foreign varieties.

reg_17131231081231oVizcarra produces several wines from their estate vineyards.  They have a 100% Tempranillo which is aged in untitledFrench and American oak for 7 months, another which is aged for 15 months, and a series of premium wines.  Also included are two blends, the Celia, which has 5% Garnacha and see 16 months in mostly French barrels, and the Inés, having 10% Merlot and aged for 16 months in half French and half American oak.  Lastly there is a premium, 100% Tempranillo from old vines that is aged for 18 months in French oak.  This is the Torralvo, and that is the wine we have to review.  Lucky us!  From the 15 month aged Tempranillo, across the blends and the Torralvo, these wines get lots of high scores from the international wine press.

When I asked Juan Carlos about his approach, the garagiste perspective, and whether he believes his wines reflect traditional, or classic, Ribera del Duero wines, this was his answer:

“I produce a very personal wine because we always produce from the same vineyards and with our concept of respect and selection. When you talk about “the traditional essence of Ribera del Duero”, are you referring to the wines that were produced within the first years after creating the Denomination de Origen, filled with color, reductions and often maderized? Or the Ribera today, with vegetable notes of the vineyards, most of them young, of Tempranillo clones from Rioja harvested with machines and with high doses of alternative woods or chips?
Well, let’s say that our wines are traditional, because they’re made with 100% Tinto Fino clones and with a particular expression of

Gravity fed production facility

Gravity fed production facility

our own vineyards (so different and with such a special care). That makes our wines fresh and elegant.
In Ribera, typicality is being lost. Nowdays, you have to talk more about VITICULTURE-WINERY.”

This was a great answer, and I’ll paraphrase by simply saying Juan Carlos is making the best wines he can from the special vineyards he cares for.  Sometimes “traditional” is not the best approach.  Sometimes it is.  Making great wines is always the best approach, however.

Here is our review:

2011 Vizcarra Torralvo – from older Tempranillo wines, organically grown, and high altitude vineyards ranging from 2,690 to IMG_11142,755 feet above sea level, this wine is handled exclusively by gravity feed.  The wine spends 18 months in a combination of 50% French and 50% American oak barrels.  Our impressions:

The wine is a dark, ruby red.  A big nose of dark berry fruit is accompanied by tobacco and lots of roasted meat aromas.  This is savory.  On the palate it is full bodied, with vibrant fruit and earthy undertones.  The acid is fresh and the wine is lively.  Tannins are solid but very smooth.  Quite rich, the wine finishes very long.  This is very impressive juice, which we could drink everyday.  Actually we can’t really do that, as the wine has a suggested retail of $80, but we certainly would like to.  This is a good splurge bottle, and leaves us very much wanting to try the rest of the Vizcarra line.

This is truly a wonderful wine.  We suspect the rest of Juan Carlos’ line are equally impressive.  If you are looking for a great bottle keep an eye out for this, or one of the other Vizcarra wines.  You can learn more about them at the Vizcarra website:

The wines of Vizcarra are imported by our friends at Olé Imports.  You can see their impressive lineup of Spanish wineries at

You can see the previous installment in the Spanish Series by clicking here.

We’ll stay in Ribera del Duero for at least one more producer in the next article in the Spanish Series.

A votre santé!

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