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  • Mauro paves the way for its expansion into Ribera
  • Mauro paves the way for its expansion into Ribera
  • Mauro paves the way for its expansion into Ribera
  • Mauro paves the way for its expansion into Ribera
  • Mauro paves the way for its expansion into Ribera
1. Mariano, Alberto and Eduardo in front of 2,39, their favourite restaurant in the area. 2. Terreus. 3. San Román. 4. Eduardo pours wine from barrel. 5. Godello vines in Bierzo. Photo credits: Amaya Cervera and courtesy of the winery.

Wineries to watch

Mauro paves the way for its expansion into Ribera

Amaya Cervera | February 1st, 2016

Mariano García and his two sons Alberto and Eduardo García Montaña form a winning team. After 30 years (1968-1998) as winemaker at Vega Sicilia, Mariano brings his longtime experience as well as his particular wisdom in terms of wine aging. His two sons have their areas of responsibility clearly defined: Alberto is in charge of management and sales while Eduardo takes care of the vineyards and winemaking.

Eduardo is seldom away from the winery and the vineyards. “I’m exclusively focused on vines and wine,” says the youngest member of this wine saga who was born in 1977. After training at Bordeaux’s Cos d’Estournel or California’s Ridge Vineyards, Eduardo joined the family business in 2001. Once back, he quietly converted both their vineyards and those of their long-term purveyors (around 10-20% of the total surface under vine) into organic farming. All their grapes are now certified as organic even if they don’t state this fact on their labels.

Wine as part of family life 

Other important changes over the past years include reducing maceration times and pumping overs in order to temper extraction and keep as much fruit and acidity as possible. Despite this shift, Eduardo is convinced that “the most important work needs to be done in the vineyards”. In Toro, where alcohol is a key issue, grapes are harvested relatively early: “We won’t sacrifice everything for phenolic ripeness”, he assures. Blending varieties during alcoholic fermentation helps to make up for shortfalls in hot vintages. The vegetative cycle in the Duero area (Mauro wines fall outside the boundaries of DO Ribera del Duero) is very short, hence if flowering is delayed, Mauro trims and thins out vines to help their ripening.

“Our aim is not to be the coolest or the smartest; we just want to keep our identity”, both siblings agree. The proof comes in some of their latest vintages like Terreus 2012, Mauro VS 2010 and 2012, which will be released in a few weeks. Beyond offering a refined, balanced approach to the Duero reds, they manage to dodge some classic pitfalls in the area like high alcohol, excess of oak (definitively more restrained than in the past) and Tempranillo’s (or Tinto Fino as is locally called) massive power.

After the arduous path in the 1980s to position Mauro, a red wine without an appellation behind it, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that such passionate Duero specialists are back with a vengeance. Precious experience has been gained throughout the years thanks to well-known projects such as Aalto where they partnered with Javier Zaccagnini and producers Enate and Masaveu; or Astrales, where Eduardo was winemaker from 2001 to 2012. 

What will their Ribera be like?

It certainly won’t be big. With roughly 60,000 bottles due to be released next autumn, Garmón —a name which joins the family’s García and Montaña surnames— is expected to retail in Spain at around €38.

The new premises in the village of Olivares de Duero (Valladolid), barely 20 kilometres away from Mauro, are planned to be up and running for the 2016 vintage. Grapes are sourced from old vine plots scattered across various villages further east, in the province of Burgos. Moradillo de Roa on Duero’s left bank boasts high-altitude vineyards (up to 1,000 metres) with clay soils topped by sand. On the right bank, in the vicinity of Aranda de Duero, the García Family is very fond both of the finesse and balance found at La Aguilera, where they work with long-established purveyors, and the small patches of vines found around the villages of Tubilla del Lago, Baños and Hontoria de Valdearados, an area unaffected by land consolidation. Here, most vineyards are grown on slopes up to almost 900 metres with predominance of chalky soils. The family also envisages acquiring some vineyards around Peñafiel-Valbuena-Olivares (Valladolid) in the near future.

The 2014 Garmón I tasted directly from barrel (it is expected to be bottled in May) showed good quality fruit (plum jam), liquorice notes, good concentration and wrapped up tannins. It was nicely balanced with some noticeable oak that should get integrated in the coming months. Even if 2104 and 2015 were early harvests in the area, Eduardo García thinks that alcohol is reasonably moderate. From his point of view, “keeping extraction under control” is the key.

Breaking clichés

It may appear that the family wines are blessed with some sort of formula for success devised by Mariano García, beyond his longstanding experience and vision, but it is not the case. In fact, winemaking and wine growing decisions have been in the hands of Eduardo for several years now while Alberto deals with issues concerning prices and release dates.

“Much has been said about wood in our wines”, Eduardo points out, “but we only started using new oak with Mauro in 2006 and even now it only accounts for 25%”. He is considering a reduction of aging times for Mauro VS —with about 32 months for the 2012 vintage, it might be the longest oak-aged red in the area after Vega Sicilia. But Eduardo is cautious and won’t take the final step until he is convinced that the wine will improve without losing its aging capacity. “In order to pass the test of time, all great reds must go through an oxidative aging process in the barrel”, concludes Mariano.

Nothing is taken for granted at Mauro. Their top red Terreus, which used to be sourced from very old vines in the Cueva Baja vineyard, changed after the 2012 vintage. Around 40% of the wine now comes from 15- to 16-year old vines from the same area but these have been planted on chalky soils compared to the former clay-dominant plots. The 2012 Terreus has certainly gained in finesse and complexity. It’s worth noting that all new plantings at Mauro are made with cuttings selected from their best vines; they even used to graft them on the vineyard until 2001.

Nobody in the family seems to worry about the shift towards lighter, Burgundy-inspired reds. They know very well where they are, their feet firmly set on the ground. The brothers’ personal tastes lean towards fresh, Atlantic whites from cool areas like Loire or Mosel and full-bodied reds like those from Médoc, Rhône or Barolo.

Toro and the new Cartago

The family winery in Toro called Maurodos is set to launch the new, top-of-the-range red Cartago with the 2012 vintage. It comes from a specific setting called El Pozo (literally “the well”, pictured above) planted with 40 to 45-year old Tinta de Toro vines. Retail prices are expected to be high and only 1,920 bottles have been produced. The 2013 barrel sample I tasted showed a good combination of dark fruit and mineral notes and it felt slightly less earthy than the standard in the area; a powerful but not overwhelming red.

Eduardo García believes that Iberian grapes with crisp acidity and aromatic intensity such as Bruñal, Touriga Nacional or Baga could make a great addition to Toro reds. 

From his point of view, finesse in the area is strongly linked to the amount of sand covering the clay base with layers ranging from 20 centimetres in the village of San Román to 40-50 in Villaester. The thicker the layer of sand, the finer the wines. According to this quality standard, the worst terrains are “barros”, where clay comes to the surface.

Maurodos currently owns 90 hectares in Toro, many of which are ungrafted given the low incidence of phylloxera on sandy soils which allowed winegrowers to plant directly on the soil until the mid-1990s. 

Cartago may not be within everybody’s reach but San Román is one of Toro’s best values. Suitable for cellaring, the 2012 vintage is a great buy for any wine lover who enjoys structured reds. A major plus with San Román is its rich, enveloping texture that makes it so enjoyable from the start. It’s almost impossible to find anything better at this price level.

White Mauro goes Atlantic in style

The long friendship between the García and the Luna families, which in the past led to the creation of Paixar, one of Bierzo’s most distinguished reds, has helped Mauro to make a wine that suits the García brothers’ taste. They have rented two vineyards from the Luna family in Villafranca del Bierzo in the DO Bierzo where they have planted a specific clone of Godello from Valdeorras. While Los Músicos has schist soils, El Rosal is mostly stony. Both plots are on a mountainous area where clay and schist merge with the stony soils of the river basin thus adding character to the wine despite the young age of the vines. 

Only 1,200 bottles were produced in the first 2013 vintage, but up to 4,000 were released in 2014. Atlantic in style and with pH levels around 3, the wine doesn’t undergo the malolactic fermentation. After macerating for about 12 hours, the grapes are pressed and the must racked at Luna’s premises, but fermentation and aging takes place in Mauro’s facilities in Tudela. That’s the reason why it is sold under the VT Castilla y León category instead of DO Bierzo.

Godello from Bierzo tends to be lighter and nondescript than in Valdeorras. Mauro’s white has less volume than other Godellos from Valdeorras, but boasts great acidity that adds definition and potential for cellaring plus some complex sunflower seeds and dry stone notes. The main drawback is its high price —slightly above €40. 

The García family feels at ease in the Duero region. From Ribera down other wine regions stretching along the river both in Spain and Portugal, they firmly believe this is one of the world’s most privileged areas for wine production. And family ties are really strong. When I asked Mariano if there was a secret for this, he smiled and answered: “I’ve let my sons make their own mistakes”. “And so have we”, Alberto and Eduardo replied in unison. Balance seems to be the key both at home and with the wines. 

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