A Wine Journey: The Ribera del Duero

Spain Gourmetour  Madrid, 1999, 3,800 words; extract  


Since then, growers have been swept along by critical and commercial success as winelovers have taken to Tinta's explosive intensity of flavour and character.

It is Tinta del PaŪs, probably planted by medieval monks from the same rootstock as Tempranillo, which gives Riberaís reds today their place on the world wine map.


The modern winemakers are also a vital part of the story in Ribera del Duero. Their strength of character underlies not only that of the wines, but also the regionís renaissance as a primier growing area.

One man stands out in the modern story: Alejandro FernŠndez, a small grower and originally a lorry-driver, who learned how to make wine with his father, treading the grapes by foot and pressing them with a wooden beam-press. The wines sold well and in 1982 he built himself a functional hangar-like modern bodega next to the old one.

A few years later, somewhat out of the blue, independent American wine critic Robert Parker discovered Pesquera and declared it as one of Europeís best wines.


Pesquera is still made in the bodega that FernŠndez put together on a shoestring budget, improvising his own engineering and design. You can see the artesanal welding of the steel fermentation vats and in the storage warehouse, ingeniously, an overhead crane system eliminates lost aisle space. Today, Alejandro FernŠndez's daughters help him run the bodega, but he remains a hands-on maker, buying his own grapes. The wine deposits at Pesquera are still manually operated. I ask who operates them.

"Me, of course," comments FernŠndez, with a wry grin. "Otherwise I would make wine like everybody else."  

Is it a lot more difficult, I ask? He grins again and, by way of an answer, shakes his head and points to his nose and eyes. 

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