Due to its high altitude (980-1050 metres), its location close to the limits for wine-growing and the sandy nature of the soils that skipped phylloxera and make for a significant amount of ungrafted vines, the valley of Atauta (on the eastern end of Ribera del Duero and within the province of Soria) is the source of distinctive reds within Ribera del Duero. The existence of an ancient winery district proves the long winemaking tradition in the area although it has sadly and long ago fallen into disrepair. The austere and harsh moorland landscape is the result of an extreme continental climate. It is not uncommon to see vultures flying over the valley and wild boars are among the major threats to the vineyard. Wild grass and aromatic herbs (lavender, thyme) grow among the vines, their scent showing occasionally in the glass. Wines are firm and mineral offering deep and concentrated flavors; bottle time is needed for wines to develop and show their true potential.
Dominio de Atatuta was founded in 2000 with the aim of recovering this great heritage of historic vineyards. In the late 2000s the winery was acquired by Avante Selecta group. Since then, winemaker Almudena Alberca, who is currently studying for her Master of Wine, and head of viticulture Ismael Sanz are in charge of reflecting the spirit of these incredible vines in each new vintage.
Dominio de Atauta owns 15 hectares of vineyards and manages another 30 made up of a mosaic of over 500 pre-phylloxera (120 to 140-year-old) Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) plots. Underneath the sandy soils lie limestone rocks found at different depths but diversity is notable depending on whether the vineyards are located in the valley, the slopes or the moorland, allowing for a large single-vineyard range of wines. With regards to winemaking, fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, cement and wooden vats with capacities ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 litres. The winery is built into the rock, taking advantage of the slope to work by gravity on four different floors.
Five different wines and 100,000 bottles are produced annually, including three single-vineyard selections. The flagship red, Dominio de Atauta (35,000 bottles, €26), comes exclusively from vineyards grown in the valley showing different types of soils. It clearly reflects the strong mineral character of the area. Parada de Atauta (50,000 bottles, €19) is a relatively new label that aims to provide a friendly and immediate approach to the area. It comes from vineyards grown on stony soils around Atauta and shows a marked ripe fruit-driven character.
The three single-vineyard labels rarely exceed 1,000 bottles and prices range between €65 and €90. Llanos del Almendro comes from a plot located in the valley with extremely poor soils and a high sand content; soil in Valdegatiles is deeper and richer in clay adding structure and power; and La Mala has the shallowest soil: sand over a thin clay layer before reaching the limestone rock.
The Avante Selecta group owns other wine ventures in Rioja (Bodegas Óbalo), Rueda (Bodegas Naia), Rías Baixas (Viña Nora) and Tierra de Zamora (Viñas del Cénit), as well as in Monterrei (Galicia), Castilla La Mancha and Jerez. Avante Selecta is the food and wine division of Inveravante, a holding owned by Galician entrepreneur Manuel Jové with investments in real estate, energy and financial affairs.