Sometimes the fates smile on us. On returning from a recent visit to Jerez de la Frontera, I had a far too long layover at Madrid airport, so took a taxi into town to visit one of the wine shops I frequent in that city there to find myself entering to the onset of a vertical tasting of each of the wines released to date by Aalto. For those not in the know, this winery was established in 1999 by the former winemaker of Vega Sicilia.
Summarizing the similarities and differences between this wine and the wines of Vega Sicila is simple enough - both are distinctly Ribera del Duero in their almost impenetrable color and both are full bodied and concentrated but whereas Vega is distinctly Old World, the Aalto releases hover somewhere between New and Old World in style. Another difference – as of today the Aalto wines represent among the very best value for money you will find. Vega Sicilia may be worth every hard earned Euro we pay for it, but it is very nice to find excellence at a still moderate price.
My tasting notes from the entire tasting follow.
Aalto, Ribera del Duero, 1999: The first wine released by the winery and showing as beautifully now as during its youth. My earlier tasting note holds firmly with the single exception that the drinking window has been considerably expanded. Full bodied, with a dark and intense purple color and huge fruits that include among others plums and black currants as well as an array of wood inspired herbs, vanilla, mint and licorice, this is a very well balanced wine, its earlier firm tannins now integrating beautifully. Drink now-2015. Score 94. (Aalto Vertical, Re-tasted 29 May 2008)
Aalto, Ribera del Duero, 2000: The 1999 edition of this wine, the first to be released from this still young winery set a hard act to follow but this one does very nicely indeed. Deep ruby towards garnet in color, full bodied and with generous but soft and already well integrated tannins, and a tempting array of aromas and flavors that include berry and currant fruits, spring flowers, chocolate and,on the finish hints of earthiness and espresso coffee. Generous oak here but in fine balance with other elements, the wine will drink nicely now-2014. Score 92. (Aalto Vertical, Re-tasted 29 May 2008)
Aalto, Ribera del Duero, 2001: A close runner-up in quality and style to the 1999 release. Deep royal purple towards garnet in color, full-bodied, and with softly mouth-coating tannins integrating nicely with wood and fruits. Opens with black cherries and purple plums, those going on to reveal currants, minerals and fresh herbs, all leading to a long and generous finish on which one will find hints of red licorice and vanilla. Drinking nicely now but best 2009-2016. Score 93. (Aalto Vertical, 29 May 2008)
Aalto, Ribera del Duero, 2002: Taste this one and you might think that Ribera del Duero is a suburb of the Napa Valley. Don't hold that against the wine though, for although this full-bodied, richly tannic wine shows a generous dose of vanilla flavored oak, that is set off nicely by a rich earthy-mineral note that opens to reveal blackcurrants, black cherries and purple plums, all leading to a long, complex and spicy finish. Not one for the ages but drinking very nicely now-2011. Score 90. (Aalto Vertical, Re-tasted 29 May 2008)
Aalto, Ribera del Duero, 2003: Full-bodied, with generous chunkier than usual tannins than one is accustomed to in this wine, that giving it a generous and elegant country-style personality. Lots of near-sweet red fruits here, those parting as the wine develops in the glass to show blackberry and black cherry fruits. On the long finish the tannins and a note of vanilla rise. Drink now-2013. Score 93. (Aalto Vertical, Tasted 29 May 2008)
Aalto, Ribera del Duero, 2004: Dark royal purple in color, with firm tannins and generous oak integrating nicely. Remarkably similar to the 2003 – opening with notes of raspberry confiture and bitter-orange marmalade, those yielding in the glass to blackcurrant and blackberry fruits. An interesting combination of muscles and elegance. Try this one with a traditional cassoulet. Drink now-2014. Score 92. (Aalto Vertical, Re-tasted 29 May 2008)
Aalto, Ribera del Duero, 2005: Even better than the memorable 1999 wine! Full-bodied, with firm tannins and judicious wood notes integrating nicely now, the wine opening slowly to reveal blackberry and blackcurrant fruits, those backed up generous hints of smoked meat, Oriental spices and, on the long finish hints of chocolate and licorice. Approachable now but best 2012-2025. Score 95. (Aalto Vertical, Tasted 29 May 2008)