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Editor at large Harvey Steiman joined Wine Spectator in 1983; his tasting beats are Australia, Oregon and Washington.
Harvey Steiman

A Spanish Red Delivers Power and Grace

Aalto Ribera del Duero 2005

Harvey Steiman
Posted: May 11, 2010

At Julian Serrano’s new tapas bar and paella restaurant at Aria in Las Vegas, a bunch of us left it up to sommelier Desmond Echevvarie to pick a red wine that would surprise and delight us. He succeeded on both counts with Aalto Ribera del Duero 2005. The Spanish red struck a deft balance, enhancing the richness and boldness of the modern style with a wonderful sense of refinement. It delivered power without the smack of too much oak or alcohol.

Aalto is the partnership of Mariano García, who made the wines at Vega Sicilia until 1998, and Javier Zaccagnini, former president of the Ribera del Duero wine governing body.

The wine—made entirely from the Tinto Fino variety, generally believed to be an older clone of Tempranillo—wears its pedigree well. The flavors teem with ripe blueberry, dark plum, chocolate and a tantalizing hint of smoky bacon. The structure has muscle but uses its power to support rather than hammer home the flavors. The tannins are beautifully integrated. 93 points, non-blind. No doubt the 2005 Aalto will continue to develop in the bottle for a decade or longer.

The red wine satisfied on its own and blended flawlessly with a classic paella of chicken, rabbit and chorizo, as well as with a paella-like dish called “rosellat” (which substitutes angel hair pasta for rice) with tomato-bathed shrimp and rockfish.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more Top Values among Spanish reds.

Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  May 11, 2010 1:21pm ET
An insanely great bottle of wine! The 2005 Aalto PS is even better - and worth the extra $$$ IMHO. Personally, I'm stocking up on the 2005 vintage versions of all my favorite Spanish reds, since neither the 2006s or 2007s seem to pack the same punch. And I'm getting excited for the 2008s, which promise to be even better than the 2005s :)
Gerald Ledford
Redondo Beach, CA —  May 11, 2010 10:21pm ET
The 2004s from Rioja and Duero are even better than the 2005s - 2004 was one of those years where finding a great Spanish red is like shooting fish in a barrel. I agree that the '06s and '07s are not in the same league.

Brian, you're a Pinot guy - did you realize that Tempranillo is, genetically speaking, a warm weather Pinot Noir? You can taste the similarities if you look for them.
Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  May 12, 2010 1:02pm ET
Gerald - maybe that's why I'm starting to like Tempranillo based wines so much! I'm a bit of a contrarian when it comes to 2004 vs 2005 in Spain. I seem to prefer the 2005s, while most gravitate towards the 2004s. But then again I've always been a bit odd :) But keep on the lookout for the 2008s....
Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil —  May 12, 2010 5:34pm ET
Hi there, in my opinion 2004 and 2005 were both very good years in Rebera del Duero. I couldn't say wich one was better than the other.
I suggest you to try Terreus, a very impressive wine, also made by Mariano Garcia.
Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  May 13, 2010 2:06am ET
I love Mauro (Terreus) as well! I visited there a couple of years ago and got the impression that Mariano's sons were in charge of the day to day stuff. But the legacy and hand of Mariano definitely shows! Amazing wines - worth seeking out :)
Joshua Martin
Austin, TX —  May 13, 2010 10:47am ET
What does a bottle of this cost? Is it readily available, or a small lot wine?
Gerald Ledford
Redondo Beach, CA —  May 13, 2010 1:57pm ET
Two of my favorites from Ribera del Duero are Pago de Capellanes (Crianza or Reserva) and Finca Villacreces. The Capellanes Reserva and the Villacreces both are about 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, which probably is not traditional, but both are beautiful wines in good years. The prices are very good ($25 - $40) for the quality. Villacreces is literally right next door to Vega Sicilia, so you get the same terroir at a fraction of the price.
Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  May 13, 2010 7:03pm ET
There's still some 05 Aalto out there - and you should be able to find it for about $50 a bottle. The PS is approx twice that.

The basic bottling from Mauro is also about $50 a bottle, but the Terreus will set you back about $150.

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