The dirt track climbs in to the shrub covered hills and in to a small valley planted with vines which stand dark and leafless on bare, brown earth. The winery stands on a mound, its stark frame battered by cold winds from snow capped mountains in the distance. A slim, smiling girl in a red jacket leads the way into the inner sanctum. She talks about conical fermentation tanks, carbon dioxide and pumping over.
Aalto is a creation of Mariano Garcia – Vega Sicilia’s winemaking director for 30 years and Javier Zaccagnini – former head of Ribera del Duero’s Consejo in 1999. They cultivate 90 ha of 40 to 100 year old Tinto Fino in seven villages in the Burgos area of Ribera del Duero – Roa, La Horra, La Aguilera, Fresnillo, Moradillo, Hontoria, and Banos de Valderados. The grapes are vinified in their state of the art winery in Quintanilla de Arriba.
Aalto is made in most years and the top wine – Aalto PS (Pagos Seleccionados) in exceptional vintages.
I tasted both wines from the 2011 and 2010 vintages in May this year. The vintages are rated as ‘Excellent’ by the Ribera del Duero Consejo Regulador. The 100% Tinto Fino wines are very dark, fragrant, have lovely texture and silky tannins and are perfectly poised. The 15% alcohol is not perceived. Aalto is aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak and PS for 22 months in 100% new French oak. PS costs twice as much as the ordinary Aalto but undoubtedly has twice the quality. It is an absolute delight and Aalto is a winery to be kept firmly in focus.