Several years ago I was stumbling my way through Ribera del Duero when I ventured upon Bodegas Arzuaga. Despite the rather grandiose nature of the place, added to which I recall some bizarre eccentricities (I was encouraged to hug a lucky tree) it displayed some great potential. Whilst many of the wines were marked by oak, what really impressed was the fellow making the stuff - Jorge Monzon. A young man with an impressive CV; DRC, Vega Sicilia etc... however, that could all be irrelevant. Like one of those pretenders on a vapid reality cooking show who has The Fat Duck on his CV only for it to be discovered that all he did for The Fat Duck was to polish Heston's enormous, shiny, planet-like noggin. I do not know what Jorge did for either of his previous employers, but I do know this. He is a charming chap who made terrific wine and now he is making utterly spellbinding wine, the kind of wine that can lift an entire region and grape to another level. There are some old tricks employed (the adding of white grapes to the ubiquitous Tinto Fino to add acidity) but the wines are vibrant and modern, but not in a big, thick, inky, okay sort of way - does that make them post-modern? Added to which I recently learned that Jorge also operates a microbrewery using only local ingredients. Perhaps he also once hugged a lucky tree.
Dominio del Aguila Picaro del Aguila 2013 Ribera del Duero, Spain This , I suggest, and hope, may well be the benchmark for new-wave Ribera. Classic blackberry fruit, with liquorice but so creamy, so pure, so precise. Impeccably balanced. Almost too perfect, but there is an edge that gives this wine genuine character. If you enjoy the wines of Ribera then I implore you to track this beauty down. September 2015