Spain’s Ribera del Duero: An Emerging Wine Region Ripens: Spain’s Château Pétrus
Aalejandro Fernández is a myth in Spanish winemaking. Clive Coates has written that the finest wines display the same personality as the winemakers who make them. Fernández, a proud, straightforward, self-made man, was a successful agricultural engineer who designed farm machinery. At 17, he drove plow mules and helped prune vines with his parents. At 40, Fernández and his wife purchased their first bodega, Pesquera, in Ribera del Duero in 1972, confident that their new vineyards could produce “full-bodied wines with lots of extract” that would honor those made by his parents and grandparents. At that time, most old vines were being pulled up. When Robert M. Parker proclaimed Fernández’s 1982 Pesquera “Spain’s Château Pétrus,” perceptions of the region changed forever.
Today, Fernández’s company, Grupo Pesquera, operates two bodegas in Ribera, Pesquera and Condado de Haza, which produce exceptional and distinctive wines of the highest caliber. The 1996 Pesquera Millennium and the 1995 Pesquera Gran Reserva Janus are both quiet monsters aged for 26 months in French oak and 36 months in Fernández’s favorite American oak, respectively. Both wines exhibit massive fruit and complex, mineral-laden structures that are at once rustic and elegant, exhibiting secondary and tertiary aromas of dried mushroom, truffle, and leather. These are impressive, seriously extracted wines not for the faint of heart.