Latest Spanish releases: Aalto, Sei Solo and Ossian

Latest Spanish releases: Aalto, Sei Solo and Ossian
The tables at our Spanish tasting last week were heaving with customers eager to taste the fruits of the excellent 2015 and 2016 vintages. In Ribera del Duero and Castilla y Leon, these two harvests have produced some of the finest wines we can remember, which owes much to climactic conditions, but also to the continued investment and changing management at each of the three estates offered below.

Curiously, there is one man who has touched each of these wineries, a man described in recent World of Fine Wine Interview as “a music-loving polymath who wants to find the elegance of a Bach partita in old-vine Tempranillo”; Javier Zacagnini. A true ambassador for the region, Javier was the man to set up Aalto with Mariano Garcia at the end of the ‘90s, who at one point owned 50% of Ossian (helping to bring it to international attention) and now devotes his time to his personal project Sei Solo. He would appear to have the Midas touch and an unimpeachable sense of what makes great wine, in all its guises.

Today Ossian is wholly owned by the wealthy and forward thinking Pago de Carraovejas group and their investments in seriously old vineyards and modern wine-making facilities are taking Ossian to new heights. It was in 2015 that they took a controlling stake in Ossian and it is no surprise that both Ossian ’15 and Capitel ‘15 show more precision and identity than any previous vintage. Incredibly old Verdejo vines are at the heart of all three wines in the Ossian stable and Ruiz family are constantly looking to buy up more and more historic vineyard land in the high elevation phylloxera free sandy soils surrounding the town of Nieva – expect to see a much higher percentage of old vine material in Quintaluna going forwards, with even greater selection for the two top wines. The far greater precision and detail now seen in the winemaking process, and a greater focus on clean winemaking, is allowing the true qualities of these ancient own rooted vines to truly sing. There’s less waxy richness in the 2015s, more minerality, greater focus and truly impressive complexity in both Ossian and Capitel 2015 – Ossian the more immediate, Capitel a wine of somewhat mind-bending dimensions.

Aalto is now under the watchful eye of Eduardo Ferrin and their 2016 marks a wonderful first release under his tenure. With the most gorgeous perfume we can remember from a young Aalto the ’16 sings with notes of sweet clear purple fruits, plums, mulberries and then violets, blueberry and sweet sappy pipe smoke. The tannins this year are as sweet and pliant as we can remember, while a fine seam of acidity keeps this fresh supple and nimble. Aalto PS, from selected parcels is altogether a more brooding, powerful and sultry. Aged entirely in new oak, this will require some patience as it evolves – quantities sadly are very limited.

Last but not least Sei Solo, named after Bach’s six violin solos, now occupies all of Javier’s time. Following a first commercial release in 2011, Javier’s vision for a Ribera of tension, subtlety and elegance has been constantly evolving and there’s now a palpable buzz around his new releases back home in Spain. Based on fruit from the top village of La Horra (home to Pingus and other local luminaries), the second wine Preludio and Sei Solo are some of the most fragrant, high toned and floral wines we’ve tasted from the valley, with real tension and energy to their cores. Ageing takes place in large old oak casks, with very long extended malo-lactic fermentations. In the World of Fine wine Article he describes making a Ribera del Duero with finesse as “taking a bull and making it dance like an Andalusian horse”. Clearly his whip is on cracking form as these are the best yet from Javier – this is undoubtedly an estate with a very bright future.