AALTO and AALTO PS 2020
I was busy writing the 2021 Burgundy review when a notice came from Wine Advocate with the review of 2020 Aalto wines. For the 3rd vintage in a row, we got 94 points from Louis Gutierrez. Not bad for a wine which opens at these prices. This will create a feeding frenzy, I thought, better release it straight away. Burgundy can wait.
And here we go. Regular readers of these missives of mine are aware of my love affair with Aalto which goes all the way back to 2006. I am very happy to admit that the flame is still burning hot, and it is still as exciting to visit and taste as it was the first time some 15 years ago. The real beauty of it is that Mariano and the team manage to produce these highly crafted wines, which drink beautifully immediately after shipment but have capacity to age which is equal to that of great Bordeaux.
As most of you know, the fruit for Aalto and PS comes from over 200 different vineyards (40 - 80 years old) spread over 9 villages in Ribera grown at altitudes of 800 - 1100m. It is this high altitude which provides perfect combination of intense sunny days and cold nights at the final stage of ripening that gives these old wines the capacity to deliver richness balanced by elegance and finesse. You just can't go wrong with Aalto.
2020 started with very cold winter - temperatures dropping down to - 20C in some very high vineyards. Winter was followed by a cold and prolonged spring and the growing season started late. This was fortunate as it saved the plants from late frost which devastated most of Western Europe vineyards. Summer was more or less regular with few storms dotted around but it all settled down in the last few weeks for harvest in mid/late September.
Before I go to the main act of the show, I am happy to announce that we have now received a small allocation of Aalto Blanco de Parcela - white wine made from Verdejo grapes planted in the vineyards around the winery. Production is still tiny so I will have to give priority in allocations to the longstanding supporters of Aalto.
And so, to the wines:
I managed to squeeze 3 trips to Ribera between lockdowns in 2021/22 and have tasted 2020 in barrel and just after bottling in September 2022. Right from the start in barrel, it reminded me of 2010. Deep, inky purple shining out of the glass. Quite restrained on the nose, feels very much like serious Pauillac showing finesse and elegance upfront, but more power and structure on the palate. Don't know at what stage Senor Gutierrez tasted it, but I find the Aalto to be more refined and elegant than his notes would suggest. There is high concentration of small, black forest type of autumn fruit here with some dark chocolate in the back and finely refined tannins. Of course there is good backbone of toasty oak in the back, but all is finely wrapped in highly polished tannins. My 17++ might be quite conservative here. I am certain that this will add layers of complexity in 3-5 years’ time and go on for at least 15 more. Great drop of wine and about as serious of a bargain as you will find within the fine wine world. ZR.
Aalto PS 2020
2020 PS is bigger, rounder version of Aalto with more intensity and spice. Feels like regular Aalto wearing a big cashmere overcoat. 21 months of barrel ageing is evident on the nose much more than in regular Aalto at this early stage, but the palate is dominated by black cherries and confit forest berries. Spicy cedar wood and tannins are there in the background, but you have to look for them through all the compacted fruit. There is a lot here that is hidden in the background which will need about 5 years to come through, but when it does.....this will be a very special drop. Again, I feel that my 18++ is very conservative, but whichever way you look at it this will be pure hedonism. ZR
Aalto Blanco de Parcela
This comes from Verdejo planted on light chalky hillside around the winery and is harvested early to retain the freshness and primary aromatics. The winemaking for this tiny cuvee is very much like top end white Brugundy (think of Philippe Colin and PYCM) - very slow temperature controlled fermentation in 600L barrels with regular batonnage for about 6 - 9 months. It was bottled at only 12% alcohol showing pure, pale lemon/lime colour. Light and elegant on the nose with notes of spiced apples, sesame and toast in the background. Very crisp, light and uplifting, it feels like an exotic blend of a 1er Cru Chablis and Chassagne Montrachet. This will lift your spirits from the moment we ship it later on this spring. I think that it will age very gracefully and increase in complexity over the next 3-5 years. Very unique expression and inspiring version of Verdejo. Around 3,000 bottles have been released on the market and I have only 90 for the UK. ZR
Wishing you all the Best