The Spanish national soccer team is nicknamed “La furia rioja”. The red fury, matching the red home jerseys. The same passion for the color red is lived out at the Familia Fernández Rivera winery. So yes: there is a white wine and a rosé, but actually the winemakers do it like in the casino and put everything on red. Viña Alta is the name of the first vineyard that Familia Fernández Rivera planted in Spain in the 1970s. This was also the starting point for a Tempranillo tour through the vineyards of what are now four family wineries in the wine-growing regions of Ribera del Duero, La Mancha and Castilla y Leon. Game plan: To explore the question of what influence soil, climate and aging in wood have on the style of the Tempranillo grape variety. The tactic remains unchanged: “Our family is a pioneer in Ribera del Duero and was already producing Tempranillo wines before the appellation was created. Tempranillo is part of our DNA and we are so strongly attached to this grape variety that to this day we do not grow any other red variety.”
What makes each of the four wineries, you will read afterwards, including the presentation of four really excellent red wines. But before that I was allowed to ask Familie Fernández Rivera a few questions to give me and you an impression of who is actually behind the liquid patronage. Wine is and remains a craft product, and this craft should not only be looked at with curiosity, but then also appreciated. Because having a clear awareness of where things of pleasure come from and how they are made helps to experience precisely these moments of pleasure even more consciously.
In 2019, the granddaughters of Esperanza and Alejandro, the third generation, will take over the management of the winery group, which is adapting to the times and looking ahead.
What fascinates you about your profession?
Viticulture: taking care of the vineyards, living there, observing the passing of the seasons and the changes in the plants. That’s amazing. And making the cuvée is also a very exciting part of the job. The alchemy of wine.
What should a wine novice look for when tasting your wines?
Color says a lot about a wine. But as a beginner, it’s easiest to find the aromas/tastes you like/dislike: fruit, oak, and also how thick (body) and tannic the wine is.
How do beginners recognize the flavor profiles of the 4 wines I received, what notes should you look for?
Normally in Tempranillo you can find notes of red/black fruit, which can be fresher/more mature depending on the area and vintage. But also vanilla, smoke, baked goods, toffee and other notes that come from the oak and aging in the bottle.
Which wines from the winery should beginners generally start with?
Dehesa la Granja 2016, because it is probably our most versatile wine!
Can you briefly explain to beginners what is meant by crianza, reserva and gran reserva?
It is about aging and time in oak (according to the law). Crianza means 12 months in oak, Reserva 24 and Gran Reserva 36, but in our case we also use the best grapes for the Reservas and Gran Reservas.
What is the fascinating thing about red wine for you? How does the terroir affect the grape and thus the wine? What is particularly important to note?
We work with a living raw material that can change from one year to the next. Therefore, there is no exact recipe. We have to adapt the viticulture and winemaking techniques to the terroir.
What role do the soil and the region or the weather play in the wine of the region?
Ribera de Duero means high altitude, continental climate and river influence. This leads to temperature differences between day and night during the ripening of the grapes, which is the key to freshness, slow ripening and the production of complex and balanced wines.
What is the influence of the Tempranillo grape?
It is a thick-skinned grape variety, which means color and tannin. But the grape adapts well to different places with different climates and therefore allows us to produce different wines depending on the terroir. This is amazing and makes Tempranillo a variety with a lot of character. It is also very linked to traditional Spain.
Do you remember your first encounter with wine – the first emotional moment?
When I was 6 years old, my grandfather gave me the habit of smelling wine and tasting it a little (even with bread). At first I liked it, but then I found it a little astringent. At the age of 14-15 I began to appreciate wines in a more complex context.
Check in and taste wine in the evening without a guilty conscience: The family also runs an elegant hotel.
What is it like at Fernandes Rivera to pass it on to the next generation? Do you sometimes have to break old habits in order to move forward with new ideas?
We have been very respectful of traditions because we want to remain traditional, we have only adapted new working methods to increase quality and be more efficient. We have also equipped the wineries with new technologies that allow us to obtain more information without losing our traditional spirit. This also applies to the vineyards, which we have improved with the help of new technologies. And, of course, human resources. We have a larger and more efficient I+D department and an administrative department that keep us up to date without losing our roots and origins.
What role does social media play in attracting new customers?
Social media is becoming more and more important nowadays, also to reach new customers, but it is also true that a visit to the winery and a tour of the vineyards are very helpful to better understand the wines.
Which of their wines should newcomers definitely try? And if they had to compare it to an Italian footballer or fashion designer, which would it be and why?
20 Aldeas. He is rustic and elegant like Buffon, the eternal young footballer, but also like Buffon he just ages very well and gets better with time.
Which of your wines would go well with a father-son evening?
Tinto Pesquera 2019. This is the wine for special occasions, and a father-son evening is always very special.
And what wine goes well with a romantic dinner?
El Vinculo crianza, a powerful, fruity wine that breaks down any barrier between people and helps open the heart and mind.
Condado de Haza
Familia Fernández Rivera planted the first vines in 1987, on the banks of the Rio Duero, in a location that already forms a myth. Currently, Condado de Haza has 200 hectares of sites with 100% Tempranillo, the typical variety for the four wineries of Familia Fernández Rivera. In order to perfect their wines, all made with Tempranillo, a hill would be removed for the planning of this winery. A bottle cellar is also located in a tunnel at a depth of almost 30 meters.
Despite or perhaps because of the dry conditions, intense, elegant wines are produced.
Looking at the imposing vines, you can imagine the flavor that the soil brings to the glass.
Condado de Haza Crianza 2019
The family’s red wine DNA can also be felt in this prime example of a Tempranillo price/performance winner.
Externally, the label of the Condado de Haza is pleasantly restrained, but the content shines with stylish power. 14.5 percent already a good board, but for about 13.60 euros transfer cost a price / performance board par excellence. Even the purple dress code wants to be worn as a John Wick suit, and the aromas arrive unerringly on the nose. Moving as if in a smooth zigzag course, one picks up the trail of black fruits like blackberries and black currants. Fine floral notes such as violets and licorice, typical of the Tempranillo grape variety, emerge. In addition: a dash of typical toasted aromas of barrel aging with light vanilla notes. In the end, however, it is always the taste that decides, and it meets my sense of style as precisely as Keanu Reeve’s movie character meets every opponent. The Condado de Haza Crianza is not a ponderous wine, although it brings quite a bit of flavor ammunition.
The label of the Condado de Haza is pleasantly restrained, but the content shines with stylish power.
The dark fruits move forward very fresh, fruity and subtle, the acidity pulls along without overdoing it, the finish pulls you smooth with a slight creamy vanilla note thanks to the barrel aging (14 months in American oak barrels and then another 6 months in bottle). For reference: these are not end-stage devices that first overtax until you understand them – is not even wanted. But rather: A nice Tempranillo conversation material at an extremely fair price, which is best shared – and so together still uncovered one or the other hidden flavor note.
Condado de Haza Crianza 2019, Price: around 13,60 Euro, via vinos.de
Dehesa La Granja
The estate was launched as a new project in the province of Zamora more than 15 years ago and is considered one of the most beautiful in the province. Tempranillo vines from Condado de Haza were then planted there. The particularity of the wines from the Dehesa de la Granja comes from the storage of an underground cave of 3,000 square meters dating back to 1750. Familia Fernández Rivera uses part of this estate for agriculture and livestock. The group also commercializes chickpeas, cheese and extremely high quality oil.
The gateway to exciting wine: Dehesa La Granja
The view of the vineyards makes you want to do a practical test in the cellar.
Dehesa La Granja Crianza 2018
Silky structure that elegantly invites aromas to cuddle: the Dehesa La Granja
So what does this wine region taste like? First of all, the ruby red color and the glow of light violet makes one thing clear: it’s really fun. I love curiosity about wine, and that’s exactly what wine should do. The desire to try out, to discover. At the first sniff, there’s a really solid punch of Dehesa La Granja, as in the boxing ring, with intense notes of fresh red fruits, currants, black cherries and raspberries, a light roast to it – makes a mood. The passage over the tongue carpet is elegant and silky, very fine, but already punchy. The red wine reminds me of a clean, clear and precisely cut suit, which allows the wearer but with sensitivity enough air to breathe and move. Nice structure, not too soft, firm to the touch, nice dry humor. Dark fruits begin to dance, light acidity, never too heavy, plus the notes of toast and vanilla typical of aging in American oak.
I celebrate typo labels when it’s done as charmingly and stylishly as this. After all, grape harvest and reading somehow belong together.
Tip for beginners: get a little involved, then comes real conversation mood. The Dehesa La Granja is a wine without airs and graces, but with a good, honest draw, which can bring its strengths both solo and to the food date. Especially – for this really fair price.
Dehesa La Granja, Price: around 12 Euro, etwa über hawesko.de
El Vínculo is located in Campo de Criptana, represents the union of both Castile and honors the winery of the current leaders of Familia Fernández Rivera. El Vínculo is the only winery of the group that processes more than one grape variety for its wines. In addition to the Tempranillo variety, a white grape variety grows in the Airén wine region. This Familia Fernández Rivera was able to develop into one of the best white wines in Spain.
Vines can also look like this. Grapes and soil have a very close relationship, accordingly you can expect a lot of flavor.
With such an architecturally dignified adventure playground, one immediately wants to beam to the tasting.
El Vinculo Crianza 2018
Airy buoyant like a flower, but then also shows its exciting, pithy side: the El Vinculo Crianza.
Aged 18 months in American oak barrels and 6 months in bottle, El Vinculo Crianza comes in a very charming dandelion dress code. Such labels I feel hard, there was really thought. From the flower one further towards cherry it goes then in the color, again beautiful to look at, there every red wine mood applauds immediately. Keyword applause: this is ensured by fine notes of dark fruits such as blackberries and blueberries, which pull elegantly and unobtrusively in the nose, plus a pinch of licorice, characteristic of the variety Tempranillo. The same goes for the notes of vanilla, which indicate its 18 months of slumber in American oak. Rather awakening is the drinking entry – but not suddenly turning on the light, but gently nudging, and sensitively pulling towards the sun.
Already the label says through the beautiful flower: We two will have elegant fun.
A beautiful red wine with volume, without overshooting the mark. Very round, a mature appearance, the dark fruits lose nothing of condition, in combination with memories of spices and vanilla a really animating combination. Again, not a wine that wants to challenge you to interpret a poem, but fun to be drunk.
El Vinculo Crianza 2018, Price: around 14 Euro, via www.bremer-weinkolleg.de
The Motherhouse. A natural stone winery dating back to the 14th century, in 1975 is the cradle for the preparation of red wines that have provided and continue to provide recognition beyond the country’s borders. Tinto Pesquera is a pioneer in the production of the Tempranillo variety. The wine was named in honor of Pesquera de Duero, the town where the winery is located and where Alejandro and Esperanza were born. Tinto Pesquera sets standards.
Open a barrel: At Tinto Pesquera winery I would like to follow the proverb
Beautiful perspective: Down-to-earth but with vision are also the wines of Tinto Pesquera.
Tinto Pesquera Crianza 2019
Tinto Pesquera: Red wine fun like a good series. One wants a sequel.
The Tinto Pesquera was served for Christmas dinner with the family. A goose with red cabbage and dumplings is a nice test object for red wines. And there is nothing like a practical test if you want to write honestly about wines. The elegant garnet red color definitely whets the appetite, and the character that comes out of the bottle definitely has self-confidence – even if the wine doesn’t immediately gallop towards the goose with gorilla attitude. But: absolutely good that way. I like elegance! The Tinto Pesquera takes the ball in its hands and first hits the nose with hints of red fruits like raspberries and balsamic aromas. With fine pressure, but more like the professor from “House of Money” shaking your hands. Serious, but you know: there’s still an exciting plan hiding behind it. For 14 months in American oak barrels and 6 months in bottle, the classy red wine was allowed to slumber, and this apprenticeship has turned the Tempranillo grapes into a complex and serious wine that opts for multiple solutions on the palate. It reminded me of raspberries and a bit of balsamic, notes of dark fruit, licorice, a flash of currant, nice filigree acidity, light spices, but despite all the power very finely dressed and tuned.
The gate of the winery adorns the label. Also an ornament: the intense dark red color of the contents.
A wine like a good streaming series – you want to know that a sequel is coming, then you want to talk about it, but above all: shut up and enjoy the thing. For the price of around 20 euros, it’s nothing for a quick snack, but certainly a good tip if you want to discover something new with all the time in the world.
Tinto Pesquera Crianza 2019, Price: around 19,90 Euro, via hawesko.de
*The article was created with product samples of the winery, but as always always corresponds to my honest and objective opinion