Montebaco is located between two of the most famous towns in the region: Valbuena de Duero and Pesquera de Duero. A road runs through the property that separates the two administrative regions. Until the mid-1980s this was a farm focusing on livestock and agriculture. In 1987, owner Manuel Esteban planted 20 hectares of Tinto Fino. This vineyard has now grown to 45 hectares. The first wines from the property were made in 1994 – before this the grapes were sold off. Things have progressed, and now Montebaco buys a small quantity of grapes too.
I visited with current general manager/owner Manuel Esteban, the son of the founder with whom he shares a namer. We took a tour of the vineyards – under the moody late October skies they had a beauty to them. The limestone content of the soils is clearly evident, and it shows in the wines, which have a freshness and a poise to them.
Since 1997 the winemaker has been Cesar Muñoz, and he’s doing a really good job. Elevage is, as with most wineries in the region, in small oak, but the barrel component doesn’t intrude.
In the vineyards they haven’t used herbicide for the last five years, and some of the plots are organically farmed. 80% of sales are to the domestic market, which might explain why these wines aren’t as well known internationally as they deserve to be: this is one of the star properties of Ribera del Duero.
Montebaco Semele 2016 Ribera del Duero, Spain
14% alcohol. 200 000 bottles. This is named after the mother of Bacchus, and the small part of Merlot goes in here (5-10%), and it’s a sort of second label. 12 months in used oak. Really fresh and vital with raspberries and red cherries, showing lovely focus and fruit purity. Has bright acidity. Lovely chalky undertones here. Has lovely freshness. 92/100
Montebaco De Finca 2016 Ribera del Duero, Spain
One-third new oak, 80% French, 20% American, for 13 months. Very fresh and direct with lovely supple, sweet red cherry and berry fruits, with some spicy overtones. Nice brightness with good acidity and a slight chalky edge. Lovely tension here with the oak in the background adding a bit of support but not getting in the way. Supple, bright and elegant. 93/100
Montebaco Parcela Cara Norte 2016 Ribera del Duero, Spain
A slope, facing north, with strong limestone soil. First made as a single parcel in 2016 (this vintage), and its organically certified. Rich, vivid and sweetly fruited with some olive and vanilla hints. Has some herb and meaty notes, showing lovely freshness and well integrated oak. Has some meaty, herby richness, with some hints of olive. Fresh and floral, but also with generous sweet fruit. 95/100
Montebaco Parcela Cara Norte 2018 Ribera del Duero, Spain
14.5% alcohol. This is from a north-facing slope with strong limestone soil. First made as a single parcel in 2016, and its organically certified. This has a sweetly aromatic nose with some blackberry and black cherry fruit as well as fine herbs, cedar spice, wood smoke and hints of cured meat. The palate has freshness, good acidity and a lovely supple fruity character, with black fruits to the fore and well integrated spicy oak. It’s a really striking, well balanced wine with a lovely freshness and mouthfeel, offering plenty of potential for development. Very serious. 95/100
Montebaco Selección Especial 2015 Ribera del Duero, Spain
Only made in the best vintage. Around 5000 bottles. Fermented in wooden vats, and some do malolactic in new oak. This is concentrated and complex with spice and earth, showing sweet cherry and plum fruit with nice grippy structure. Has freshness and depth: a savoury, structured wine with real impact. Quite firm on the palate. 93/100
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