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Agustín Trapero on Cebreros DOP: when the terruño talks

Published:  13 September, 2019

Head sommelier and consultant Agustín Trapero dips into one of Spain’s most promising new DOPs.

I recently joined a group of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers on a visit to Cebreros, one of the latest DOPs in Spain. Located in the south of Avila, a province belonging to the Castilla y Leon region, only 11 wineries are so far registered under the Cebreros name, which was established in 2017.

However, despite being a very young DOP, its winemaking history is extraordinarily extensive. One of the earliest documents found, dated back to 1275 from the Bishop of Avila, was a manuscript to lease some vineyards in the area.

The characteristics that make this small denomination stand out are a mountainous landscape, high altitudes and very old vines. Some 56% of the vineyards are between 60 and 90 years old, with the highest plot located at Navatalgordo village at 1,200 metres.

The diversity of its sub-zones, the low yield vineyards and the fineness of its wines are some of the characteristics that highlighted the great potential of the terruño (or terroir) of this region for myself and fellow tasters Sarah Jane Evans MW, Fernando Mora MW and Piotr Pietras MS.

Over three intense and exciting days we tasted the main varieties allowed for Cebreros DOP – Garnacha and indigenous white grape Albillo Real.

Grape discovery

We started with a local grape variety that none of us were familiar with, Albillo Real, which is aromatic and open on the nose, with tropical fruit notes, as well as a touch of white flowers and salinity. On the palate it can be creamy, with pleasant notes of white pepper and ginger, which reminded me of Viognier from France’s Rhone Valley.

Cebreros’s Garnacha was the biggest surprise for all. As professional tasters we tend to associate Garnacha/Grenache with full bodied wines – very ripe fruits, high alcohol content, moderate tannins and medium to low acidity, for example those coming from Gigondas in France, Australia’s Barossa Valley or Paso Robles in California.

But this perception changed the moment we tasted wines from the producers. We found those Cebreros Garnachas very aromatic, with fresh touches of strawberry and cherry, as well as violet and rose petals aromas. On the palate, they were fine and elegant, with flavours of herbs and rosemary, finishing with an amazing minerality - crushed rock and pure granite, just awesome.

As we went up in altitude (in term of tasting), all these attributes and characteristics were even more notable. Piotr Pietras best summarised the style, saying: "This Garnacha is so fine."

Part of the reason is that the Cebreros DOP – thankfully - does not oblige producers to categorize their cuvées by time spent in oak. Many use old barrels of more than 225 litres, demi-muid barrels of 600 litres, or even foudre, with a capacity of between 1000 and 1500 litres.

Region reinvented

It is worth mentioning how such as a small region, with only 410 ha under vine, has reinvented itself in such a short time. In the 1980s almost all its wine production was delivered for bulk wine.

On the second day of our visit Marta Burgos, technical director of DOP Cebreros, delivered a detailed masterclass on the history, terroir, climate and vineyards of Cebreros.

This really showed that the path being taken is concise and clear, with Burgos saying: "We want the wine to be produced in the vineyard."

As Sarah Jane Evans MW commented: "Even in more experienced DOPs you don’t really find this type of complete and accurate insight [into the region]."

Undoubtedly perception of the area’s potential is today being driven by the collective work from all producers, but credit must go to the masterminds and early pioneers of the DOP – Rafael Mancebo of Bodegas Siete Navas and Daniel Ramos of Vinos Daniel Ramos, with whom, slowly but surely, winegrowers have joined in this regeneration.

The positive developments - so in evidence in the wines - can only be carried forward through mutual work, persistence and dedication, to continue to develop the wines and the Cebreros DOP brand. It is in the producers hands. The quality is there, the potential without a doubt. The only limits are their own.