Located in Sardón de Duero, just outside the boundaries of Ribera del Duero (although some areas lie within the appellation), Santa María de Retuerta is one of the historical estates in the region. Its beautiful abbey is a reminder of a winemaking tradition which faded and even disappeared. In 1996, the financial support of Novartis, the pharmaceutical group, helped to launch an ambitious project which now has 210 hectares under vine in the 700-hectare estate.
French winemaker Pascal Debeck, who supervised plantings and production of the first vintages, continues to work for Abadía Retuerta as a consultant. However, the day-to-day work has long been in the hands of Ángel Anocíbar, who has skillfully returned the estate to its old winemaking glory.
Although Tempranillo is the dominant variety, French varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot are also meticulously planted in the slopes beneath the Douro river. As vinification is gravity-led, the winery uses small crane-operated tanks and each pago (parcel) is worked separately. Aging is all done in French oak.
Selección Especial (around €16 in Spain and 16 months' aging) is the flagship wine. Production is just under half a million bottles and is made with around 75% Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and a small percentage of Syrah and/or Merlot. It is one of the leading reds in the area, at times even better than other Riberas in its category. The winery has long given up on its attempts to be part of the appellation. Instead, it has focused on consolidating its brand and get the best out of their location within the so-called "Golden Mile" where illustrious wineries such as Vega Sicilia or Pingus are based.
The single vineyard reds (tintos de pago) all retail around €60 and their production reaches around 5,000 bottles. Tempranillo-based Pago Negralada and Pago Valdebellón, made with Cabernet Sauvignon, are their more famous labels, but Pago Garduña (Syrah) and the Petit Verdot -less than 1,000 bottles and over €100- are both worth trying. Abadía Retuerta are outside the appellation and market their wines as VT Castilla y León which means they can use foreign varieties and ignore the area's restrictions. This freedom allowed them to start producing some years ago Le Domaine (€23, 13,000 bottles), a novel Bordelais style barrel-fermented white blend of Sauvignon Blanc (60%) and Verdejo which is in stark contrast to the wines produced by its expert Rueda neighbours.
The abbey has been completely restored and houses a 12th century Romanesque church and a luxurious five-star hotel called Le Domaine. It belongs to the Relais & Châteaux network and its restaurant is adviced by Andoni Luis Aduriz, the innovative chef at 2-Michelin star Mugaritz in Errenteria (Gipuzkoa). The hotel is at the centre of a comprehensive wine tourism offer which is gradually being widened.
Find the wines in the map below or at the winery's online shop. For inquiries concerning the USA, contact Europvin.