Spanish Wine Review: Montecastro 2008

by mary on September 5, 2013

Montecastro 2008: Spanish wine from the Ribera del Duero region

One of the best parts of judging the Zarcillos 2013 was talking with lots of young Ribera del Duero winemakers. For years I’ve been put off by many Ribera wines; with their aggressive oak and extraction, they became my least favorite Spanish wines. They can be exhausting to drink. Despite this, there is no denying the style’s commercial success, it appeals to many wine drinkers. Talking to some of the younger new guard, I was excited to see some trends changing, a more moderate approach to oak, a lighter winemaking hand. It’s exciting to see the result of that new approach in the Montecastro 2008. This popular wine was never my cup of tea and though it remains distinctly Ribera, the “new” Montecastro, has an elegance and balance that makes it much more drinkable.

It was a pleasure to talk about Ribera wines with Bertrand Erhard, who has been the winemaker and technical director at Montecastro since 2007. Bertrand in a very Spanish Frenchman who has a wonderfully balanced approach towards Ribera wines.

Montecastro first came out in 2002 and quickly rose to popularity for great quality and value in an increasingly expensive region. I tried it frequently, but found it so extracted that it was almost furry in the mouth. It didn’t sin as much as some Ribera wineries with excessive oak, but there was a definite lack of balance. It was not a pleasurable wine for me.

So Montecastro fell off my radar. Talking to Betrand in May about his winemaking philosophy inspired me to seek it out. I was only able to get it in Madrid in the 2008 vintage, not a fantastic vintage. But I could definitely see a changed wine.

Montecastro 2008: Good black fruit and fine oak spice on the nose. In the mouth, nice fruit and oak balance, with an elegant, lighter fruit. The lightness of the fruit and the touch of green aromas is typical of the vintage, but was well in check and added a freshness to the wine. A long finish with fine, elegant tannins. No furriness at any time! A fresh, balanced wine, enjoyable to drink, even from a difficult vintage.

Montecastro 2008 is all Tinto Fino, the local name for Tempranillo, and has 17 months in 50% new French and American oak.

I’ll be looking for the next vintage when I return to Madrid. Montecastro remains amazing value for Ribera at about 19€ in Spain. It’s a quite a bit pricier here in the US with Internet prices from 30-45$, but still a lot less expensive than many California cabs. They also have a second wine, Alconte, which I have not tried and would like to. It’s only 13€ in Spain and around 20$ in the US.


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