For all its reputation as a rising star on the Spanish scene over the past decade or two, the landscape of Ribera del Duero is suffused in centuries of wine heritage, from gnarled Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) vines of venerable age to the labyrinthine wine cellars that wind beneath the streets of the town of Aranda de Duero.
Pago de los Capellanes has a recently expanded vineyard and a stunning modern winery, but the name itself shares its long history, dating back to the 14th century, when the God-fearing populace of nearby Pedrosa de Duero donated parcels of land to the local chaplains in recognition of their religious administrations.
The Church lost the land centuries ago, but the name lingers on in the five-strong line-up of wines crafted by oenologist Paco Casas. It's proof that great wines can have a straightforward philosophy: a Joven, Crianza and Reserva, plus two single parcel wines, all 100% Tinto Fino.
Beneath this apparent simplicity, however, lies a ceaseless quest for improvement, exemplified by an experimental approach to maturation, with Casas trying out as many as 22 different types of French oak, seasoned for anything from two to five years and using varying levels of toasting.
The winery has been expanded, but here too there is respect for the past: from the outset, the architecture has been deliberately designed to showcase the remarkable 800-year-old walnut trees at the buildings' centre.
The grapes are brought into the winery, and after a brief period of chilled pre-fermentation, spontaneous alcoholic fermentation (with no added yeast) is initiated. During the barrelling period, which lasts 22 days, the wine is crushed and pumped over daily, all the while controlling the density, temperature and evolution of the yeast. At the end of this fermentation, the tanks are emptied and malolactic fermentation begins. The malolactic fermentation begins without the addition of bacteria. The temperature is held steady at 20 ºC for a period of 24 days, during which we monitor the levels of malic and lactic acids. When the malic acid content is less than 0.1 grams per litre, the wine is decanted to separate the lees and is transferred directly to the barrels without undergoing any type of filtration, clarification or cold treatment. The wine is aged for five months in new French oak barrels. At the end of this period, it is taken to the tank, homogenised by light filtration through cartridges and then bottled.
Visually, the wine has a clean, bright cherry colour. It has an intense floral and red forest fruit bouquet with a mild lactic note and hints of vanilla left by its exposure to the oak (150 days). In the mouth, the texture is full, elegant, long lasting and velvety, without losing any of the intensity of young wines from the Ribera del Duero region.