Jesús Soto is a professional with ample experience in both selling and producing wine in Castilla y León. A co-founder of Leda Viñas Viejas, his wine store and distribution company Pecados Originales was a key player in Valladolid in the 1990s.
In 2013 he set up his own family wine business and started producing two wines with grapes grown in the Duero valley. His first wine, Tinita, is a white Verdejo made by blending different batches of wines and aged for five months in stainless steel tanks and barrels (€9.5, 25,000 bottles). It was released under the DO Rueda but since the 2018 vintage it displays the VT Castilla y León seal. The second is a Garnacha rosé called Naranjas Azules (“blue oranges”, €9.90, 100,000 bottles). It is his most widely available wine and it sparked a radical change in the project.
His search of Garnacha across Castilla y León took him to Cebreros in Ávila, a picturesque village in Sierra de Gredos where he eventually relocated. “It is not common to find a wine-producing area dominated by old, head-pruned vineyards planted on different types of soils at an elevation ranging from 700 to 1,000 metres,” Soto explains. Despite having some vineyards on slate, he highlights the distinctive character of Garnacha grown on granite soils.
Soto Manrique currently manages the cooperative of Cebreros and is in charge of producing its wines. Grapes are sourced from 240Ha owned by its members and Jesús himself owns 20Ha which are in the process of being organically certified.
He makes three different ranges: a market-driven, commercial set of wines, a second one featuring the cooperative’s classic wines and his own Soto Manrique wines of which he produces 300,000 bottles. He works with his own grapes and brings in half of those owned by cooperative members. Except for the Verdejo, all Soto Manrique wines are labelled as DO Cebreros, the newest appellation in Sierra de Gredos.
Naranjas Azules is a vibrant, mineral, directly pressed DO Cebreros rosé made with early ripening grapes grown at low elevation. The floral, evocative keenly priced entry-level red La Viña de Ayer (80,000 bottles, €8.50 in Spain) captures the distinctive minerality of the area. Partially fermented with whole bunches, the wine displays a fresh, almost wild herbal character. There is a white version made with Albillo Real (€10 in Spain). It is fermented in concrete and aged in stainless steel tanks.
Next up are two reds that reflect two very different landscapes in the area. Both are made in small quantities (13,000 bottles each) and are sold for around €15 in Spain. Grapes for Camino de la Cruz Verde (13,000 bottles, €15) are sourced from a silt-granitic area at 700m above sea level. Despite the low elevation by Cebreros standards, these are usually the latest grapes to be picked and the wine is delicate and fresh with floral (talcum powder) and citrus notes. At 900m, Las Violetas, sourced from poor, shallow granite soils, feels more concentrated and mineral.
Two single-vineyard reds are set to be released in the last quarter of 2020 and show contrasting features. Alto de la Estrella (2,000 bottles) comes from their highest vineyard grown at 1,100 metres on slate soils with some quartz (“a hot soil in a cold area,” says Jesús Soto). Meanwhile, Las Loberas (1,500 bottles) is sourced from one of the less elevated plots located at 700 metres on pink granite soils (“a cold soil in the warmest area”). Prices for these wines are not yet known.