J. Fernando Cornejo is a lawyer, sociologist and businessman. He is also the owner of one of most highly recommended wineries for those in search of a memorable experience with the Sierra de Gredos Garnachas. This mountainous area lies at the northernmost end of the Denomination of Origin Vinos de Madrid. The progress made by these wines since their launch in the 2000 decade has been remarkable thanks to the efforts of winemaker Fernando García.
The high altitude vineyards are mostly spread in plots around the villages of San Martín de Valdeiglesias and Pelayos de la Presa. All Marañones wines, from the Garnacha-based reds to the Albillo Real whites, share this character. The presence of Syrah has been reduced to avoid the heavy candied fruit notes that seemed to mask the floral, red fruit, earthy and mineral aromas present in most of the wines. Old vines from the delicately fragrant Morenillo variety are being recuperated. A grape mostly found in the Terra Alta region of Cataluña, its presence in the region is a mistery.
The winery farms 20 hectares of 50-year old bush vines that lie on granite hillsides and slopes (650 to 800 metres). The four non-irrigated steep plots are planted in narrow spaces so mules are used to plow the land. Vinification is done separately, with indigenous yeasts and whole bunches including stems for the reds and wines are aged on used French oak barrels and large casks (500 to 700 litres).
All the wines are produced in very small quantities. The two whites, Picarana and the single vineyard Pies Descalzos, are made from Albillo Real and aged in oak. Both ooze personality and show well-defined fruit and a pronounced saline finish. Pies Descalzos exhibits greater acidity and has the potential to develop further in the bottle. The Albillo variety “likes to ripen quickly”, according to Fernando García, and reacts well on dry years such as 2009 and 2012. This last vintage is highly recommended for both whites.
Treinta mil maravedíes, Marañones' entry level red, is an excellent introduction to the Garnachas from San Martín de Valdeiglesias on the €10 price range. Floral, spicy and perfumed aromas give way to fluid, deep and aromatic flavours with a saline aftertaste which adds length. Terroir and the unique character of the Gredos Garnacha (very different from those found in Aragón, Navarra, Rioja and Cataluña) are evident in a range of wines that includes Marañones (two 50-70 year-old plots on hillsides); Labros (70-year old vineyards at 650 metres above sea level facing west) and Peña Caballera (850 metres, northern aspect and granite and schist soils).
This last wine shows a particularly strong personality, with sloe and pomegranate notes and a linear acidity that builds a clean, very long palate seasoned with earthy and balsamic flavours.