If you have time for only one winery in Ribera del Duero and have no access to Vega Sicilia or Pingus, make sure you visit Hacienda Monasterios.
The undulating 113 hectare estate is situated between the celebrated vineyards of Vega Sicilia and Pesquera. 70 hectares are cultivated, most of it with Tempranillo, called Tinto Fino in Ribera, and the rest with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. The ultra modern winery is situated on a small hill overlooking the vines. The wines are made with meticulous attention to detail under the supervision of Peter Sisseck, the cult Danish winemaker of Pingus. Grapes are rigorously selected, only indigenous yeasts are used and the wine is aged in Allier oak for eighteen months.
I arrived at Hacienda Monasterios one cold wet morning in May. Ribera del Duero is at a higher altitude than Rioja and is cooler and wetter. Carlos Fuentes, the winemaker greeted me at the winery entrance. We stood on a balcony overlooking the vineyard and he explained his winemaking philosophy. In the barrel cellar, we stood on the steel walkway and talked about acidity and malolactic fermentation watching two men racking wine on the cellar floor. We walked among the barrels and tasted from them, a woman in black siphoning samples in to our tasting glasses.
The elegant tasting room
They keep 600 bottles of each vintage in a ‘library ‘ which is a dark corner of the cellar with steel bottle racks. “What old vintage would you like to taste” Carlos asked me. I was debating whether to ask for the 1995 or 1994. ” We’ll taste both” Carlos said, carefully removing the two bottles of Reservas from the rack. He decanted the wines in the elegant tasting room and tasted them together with Cocheta 2009, Reserva 2008 and Reserva Special 2009.
They all had abundant fruit, silky tannins and wonderful length and balance. The spittoons were not used.
They were some of the best wines I had tasted anywhere.