AAlto and Alonso del Yerro were founded in 1999 and 2002, respectively, so they are not yet legendary properties (emphasis on “yet”). With Alonso del Yerro relying on the expertise of renowned Bordeaux consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt since its inception, its Tinto Fino-based wines—the eponymous Alonso del Yerro and the concentrated and powerful Maria—are statuesque, tannic reds with precision as well as potency.
Ditto AAlto, a joint venture between Mariano García, owner along with his sons of Mauro, and Javier Zaccagnini, formerly head of the Ribera del Duero Consejo Regulador, which oversees and regulates the region. Both AAlto and AAlto PS (Pagos Seleccionados) are bold examples of Ribera del Duero at its finest. Barely more than 20,000 cases of AAlto are made per year, while the inky, downright delicious and supple PS sees annual production of around 1,000 cases.
Until now I’ve talked only about the sensational red wines from Abadía Retuerta, Alonso del Yerro and AAlto, but the esteemed García, a dead ringer for Dos Equis beer’s “Most Interesting Man in the World” and the former longtime winemaker at Vega Sicilia, has recently added a Godello from Bierzo to the stable of brawny reds he makes at Mauro with sons Alberto and Eduardo.
For an unwavering champion of world-class Spanish white wines, look no further than Didier Belondrade, originally from Bordeaux. With colorful threads, flying eyebrows and an unbridled desire to show the best that Rueda’s Verdejo grapes have to offer, his Belondrade y Lurton flagship white, made in the commune of La Seca from parcel-grown Verdejo, is fermented in large oak barrels, with winemaker Marta Baquerizo blending fermented-and-aged lots much like a chef blends ingredients and spices. The lightly oaked result is elegant and ranks as the most complex wine made in Rueda.
There you have it, introductions to five of Spain’s elite wine producers. Remember, it’s Grandes Pagos de España, not Pagos Grandes. Size matters; and in this case, small is best.