Sunday, 2 May 2010

Declaration of Ribera '09 vintage at Peñafiel

Told to dress up, on the final night of the conference we were whisked away to a convent in Peñafiel to celebrate the declaration of the 2009 vintage, which we hoped would be 'excelente'.

Stepping out of the coach in my hot pink dress, the paps soon circled our group and started snapping away, while flocks of sharp-suited men hovered around the entrance. It all felt very Fellini.

Up high in the hills stood the Peñafiel fortress; the symbol of Ribera del Duero, whose foundations date back to the 10th century. The name Peñafiel comes from 'peña' 'fiel', the Spanish for faithful rock, having been built to protect the province of Castile. It cuts a fine figure on the hilltop, and I was momentarily hypnotized by its beauty.

We were quickly ushered into the main hall, which was buzzing with animated chatter. Dotted around the room were men in imposing black cloaks and wide-rimmed hats with red scarves tied around their waists. I was informed they were members of a wine brotherhood, sworn in for their work in promoting Ribera wines around the world.

A hush fell upon the crowd as José Trillo, president of the Consejo Regulador, stepped up to the mic. Therein began the speeches. The interminable speeches. In Spanish! The Consejo clearly wanted to milk the moment and eke out the declaration for as long as possible. We had to endure not one, not two, but three speeches before, amid palpable anticipation, the Ribera del Duero 2009 vintage was declared 'excelente'. Cue clinking of glasses and general merriment.

The third 'excelente' vintage in a decade, along with 2001 and 2004, I felt privileged to have witnessed its inception. Trillo was full of good news - consumption of Ribera is up 1.6% on last year, and the region has pumped $1m into a huge marketing push in the US, having just concluded a tasting tour taking in Miami, LA and New York.

After the speeches it was time to party. Legs of jamón were carved to the bone, huge plates of croquetas and chorizo did the rounds and hundreds of bottles of wine emerged. I got chatting to the freshly-crowned World's Best Sommelier Gerard Basset and Texture's Xavier Rousset, both of whom had flown over the night before after judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards.

Xavier told me about his latest venture, a wine 'workshop' and kitchen called 28º-50º, named after the latitude at which vines are grown. ‘All of the wines on the basic list will be under £50 and most will be one-offs, so the list will be constantly changing’. He's also devised a ‘collections’ list of high end wines sourced from private cellars, priced with the smallest mark up possible. 'I can’t afford to do that at Texture, so found a way round it by opening a new place’.

No comments:

Post a Comment