Although Beatriz Herranz and Félix Crespo tend the vines and make the wines, the history of Barco del Corneta draws on the vineyards that Beatriz’s grandfather owned in the village of La Seca in Valladolid. There, in an area known as Cantarranas at 700 metres elevation, lie the family’s five and a half hectares of vineyards; they are right next to a pine grove which gives its name to Barco del Corneta and which used to be her family’s meeting point during the harvest fiestas. Dry-farmed and organically grown, Verdejo vines are planted on sandy, pebbly soils with limestone in their deepest layers.
Beatriz’s mother, who helps out in the vineyard ever since she retired from her job as a teacher, explains that vineyards have existed in the area since the 11th century. María Antonia Sanz replanted her family vineyard in 2008, when Beatriz was completing her studies in Agriculture and Winemaking. She learnt the theory here but where she really understood grape growing and winemaking was in Gredos. There she got involved in a project to recover old Garnacha vineyards in Cebreros producing a wine called La Fábula. She also became friends with winemaker Félix Crespo, who joined Barco del Corneta in 2016.
Beatriz returned to La Seca in 2013 but she made her first wine in the region in 2010. Barco del Corneta (15,000 bottles, €17) is a clean, austere Verdejo with a personality of its own, unlike many of the technological wines which are standard in the Rueda region. To make it, Beatriz and Félix harvest by hand in boxes, press the grapes without destemming, use native yeasts and leave the wine in used barrels with the lees in suspension for around eight to nine months. They have not only achieved a wine with great precision and volume but a recent tasting of their 2013 shows the wine is well built for ageing.
Cucú (50,000 bottles, €9.50) is their most accesible wine. Part of the grapes come from La Seca, with more structure, and part are sourced from an organic grower in Segovia, an area to the south-east of Rueda that they favour for its freshness. Half of the wine is fermented and aged for eight months in French oak barrels whereas the other 50% stays in stainless steel deposits.
La Sillería (1,600 bottles, €24) is their third single varietal Verdejo sourced from 0.8Ha of 100-year-old vines in Alcazarén, a sandy area on the edges of the DO Rueda at 750 meters elevation. La Sillería (formerly called Casio), which is fermented in 500-litre barrels for a year and aged for 12 months with its lees, is a wine of great finesse, complex and persistent. It is part of a trilogy of wines called Los Parajes del Infierno, all of them sourced from old vines. It was later joined by Las Envidias (formerly called Bruto, 1,000 bottles, €22), an old vine Palomino fermented under a veil of yeast for 24 months, and by Judas (700 bottles, €22), made from Viura grapes planted on a 0.45Ha plot in Villanueva de Duero which has been organically grown since 1987. It ferments spontaneously in 600-litre barrels and it is aged on its lees for 12 months.
This trio of wines forms part of Barco del Corneta’s recuperation project in the area —they work with local winegrowers and grape varieties which might not be native to the region but have been planted in the area for a long time and have sometimes been abandoned.
Since 2014 they are also present in Arribes del Duero, on the border with Portugal, where they make Prapetisco (2,000 bottles, €14) sourced from 80-year-old Juan García vines which sink their roots in granite and quartz soils at 670 metres elevation. This red is fermented in 1,000-litre deposits with whole clusters and with very little extraction. After malolactic in seasoned barrels, the wine is aged with its lees for a year.
When Barco del Corneta was born, vilification was done in a small garage-like warehouse in Medina del Campo but in 2019 they moved to a traditional winery in La Seca with an underground cellar where the wines are aged. Regardless of the upward move in terms of facilities, Beatriz and Félix still work in an artisanal and very personal hence their preference to work outside of the DO Rueda. Instead, all their wines carry the Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León designation.