- Castilla y León, Spain
After 30 years as technical director and world–renown winemaker for Vega Sicilia, Mariano Garcia Fernández founded Aalto Bodegas y Viñedos in 1999. From the beginning, he has been guided by three principles: old-vine, massale selection Tinto Fino, a wide range of terroirs spread over nine villages in Ribera del Duero, and his decades of experience in viticulture and winemaking in the region. Today, Aalto controls and farms 130 hectares of vines scattered among more than 200 separate plots, all situated in the provinces of Valladolid and Burgos. Twenty hectares are young vines propagated from a massale selection of their best old-vine material, while the remaining 110 hectares range from 40 to 100 years old. The soils where Aalto’s vineyards are situated include pale clay-limestone, ferrous clay, sand, sandstone, rocky glacial, loam, and alluvial. This diversity of terruño provides complexity married to power and structure blended with a purity of fruit – the exact characteristics which have earned Aalto Bodegas y Viñedos praise from around the world as the leading proponent of the modern style of Ribera del Duero.
Vineyard work at Aalto is entirely manual, with the primary goal of maintaining low yields. With many of the vines being old, yields are kept low naturally, but Mariano will also green harvest to ensure that the fruit is concentrated and evenly ripe. Harvesting is manual as well, and the grapes are transported to the cellar in small crates where they are sorted, chilled, destemmed, and sorted again before crushing. Fermentations are conducted, by parcel, in stainless steel, cement, or oak vats designed specifically by Mariano. Maceration is gentle with regular pump-overs ensuring a good extraction of fruit without harsh or bitter tannins. Once the fermentation is complete, the wines are racked, by gravity, into French and American oak barrels located in a cool, subterranean cellar. In recent vintages, Mariano has reduced the amount of new oak he uses in the aging of his wines and the time they spend in barrel – small, incremental steps to add more freshness and purity in his wines.
Final blends are decided by how each plot performs in each vintage rather than a barrel selection. The primary cuvée, known as Aalto, sees about 30-70% new oak, with the remainder in second and third fill barrels. In each vintage, a small selection of fruit from the best-performing sites is bottled separately as Aalto PS – Pagos Selectionados. This wine is aged entirely in new French oak and sees a slightly longer elevage.