In Ribera del Duero: Áster

This is the Ribera del Duero property of La Rioja Alta, one of Rioja’s top wineries.

La Rioja Alta planted 76 hectares of vineyards in Ribera del Duero in 1991 on an estate that they’d purchased the previous year. After a lot of research, they had identified Anguix (in the Burgos subzone) as the ideal location for this new venture, with an altitude of 780-830 m. They sold the grapes for the first few years, and then in 1999 made the first wine of their own from these vineyards. They weren’t convinced, and sold it off in bulk, and so the first proper vintage of Áster was 2000.

Winemaker Julio Saenz explaining the layout of the 95 hectare vineyard

The current winery was built in 2002, and is very similar inside to their flagship winery in Rioja. There’s extensive use of gravity, and rather than just a walkway around the top of the fermentation tanks there’s a beautiful polished wooden floor.

The winery: bottom layer, where the fermentation tanks can be emptied directly into the basket press

The vinification is quite typical for the region, with everything being aged in small oak barrels, a mix of French and American. The barrel hall has 2700 barrels in it.

Julio Saenz, group winemaker for La Rioja Alta’s properties

We visited with Julio Saenz, who heads up the group’s winemaking. As with the La Rioja Alta wines, these are very impressive efforts in their style, which is polished and modern, but not overdone.

Basket presses in action

The vineyard area has since been expanded to 95 hectares, and one plot in particular stands out. This is the 4 ha Finca El Otero, and a special bottling is made from these vines.


Áster Crianza 2014 Ribera del Duero, Spain
14.5% alcohol. 60% new oak, all French, 22 months. This has nice concentration of sweet, supple cherry and plum fruit with a warm, mellow, fine herbal notes, a touch of olive and some firm tannins, too. Fresh and structured with a savoury dimension. Layers of flavour. 92/100

Áster Crianza 2015 Ribera del Duero, Spain
Not released yet. This is deeply coloured and really fresh with ripe blackberry fruit and some floral black cherry notes. There’s a compact, spicy structure under the bold, rich fruit. Concentrated and fruit driven with some cocoa and cedar notes. Modern yet still retaining freshness. Lots of fruit here. 93/100

Áster Finca El Otero 2014 Ribera del Duero, Spain
First vintage of this was 2006, and this was the fifth release as it’s not made every year. 14.5% alcohol. This has a high pH of 4. It’s a terroir wine from a particular plot on the property. Has a sweet aroma of blackberries, spice, bonfire smoke and lush jammy berry fruits. The palate shows nice concentration with a soft structure to the sweet, lush berry fruits. Sweet and spicy on the finish with some stewed black fruits. Very soft and seductive, with the firm tannins masked by the fruit and high pH. 94/100

Áster Finca El Otero 2016 Riberal del Diero, Spain
Concentrated, rich and vivid with tannic blackberry and black cherry fruit. Rich and a bit jammy with a chocolatey edge to the sweet berry fruits. Has some grip on the finish. Modern, ripe and sweetly fruited. This has lots of potential. 94/100

Find these wines with

See also:

Ribera del Duero: Pago de Los Capellanes

Ribera del Duero: introduction to this important Spanish wine region