APR 12, 2018 @ 12:36 PM 128 The Little Black Book of Billionaire Secrets
Spain’s Abadia Retuerta Wine Wins Renown Without a Regional Appellation
John Mariani , CONTRIBUTORI cover the world’s best hotels, restaurants and wine. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Spain’s Abadia Retuerta Winery has a new hotel and spa within a 12th century abbey.
The Iberian Peninsula has produced wine since prehistoric times and its Port and Sherry were long valued in the British trade market, after centuries of being made in bulk. But it was not until the 1970s that Spanish table wines took on much interest outside of sangria, and only after Spain’s entrance into the European Union in 1986 were the country’s wine regions classified into 17 autonomous appellations by the Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origin.
And that was something of a problem for the estate of Abadia Retuerta, which built its winery in 1996, twenty miles from the city of Valladolid. The problem was that all of its 1,750 acres—500 planted as vineyards—lie outside the official Ribera del Duero appellation and therefore the estate cannot print that appellation on its label.
Enrique Valero, general manager, oversees both the wine estate and the new LeDomaine hotel and spa.
“It was a little bit frustrating at the very beginning,in the 90’s because we did not have an appellation to facilitate our international distribution,” says General Manager Enrique Valero. “Vega Sicilia is 5 miles away from us and belongs to the Ribera del Duero appellation and we were Vino de la Tierra. Now almost 30 years later we have developed our own Pago (terroir) wines and we are very proud of the personality they have and the international recognition they have gained thanks to a very consistent way of working that respects the Duero soils and the climate conditions in one of the best parts of
Spain to produce top wines. Time has demonstrated we were right.”
Over dinner in New York, Valera explained that “even though we’re on what is called the Golden Mile, we have had to distinguish ourselves wholly on the quality of our wine, not our location. We’ve only been planting since 1996 and can only call ourselves a Vino de la Tierra; but in 2005 our Selección Especial 2001 won the International Wine Challenge in London as the world’s best red wine.” That deserved a toast.
The wines include grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon not usually found in Spanish bottling.
If not quite so soon, it might have been expected that Abadia Ruerta would compete well in the European market, for when the Swiss multinational pharmaceutical giant Novartis purchased the property, it brought in consulting enologist Pascal Delbeck, proprietor of the illustrious Premier Grand Cru Bordeaux Château Ausone, who was given the money and technological carte blanche to create a completely modern facility, which uses a state-of-the-art gravity flow irrigation system. The vineyards are planted with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot, and the wines are aged in combinations of stainless steel, French and American oak.
The wine caves at Abadía Retuerta are within the underground of a former abbey.
“The good thing about being outside the Ribero del Duero DO,” said Valero, “is that we can use drip irrigation if needed.” He went on to say that climate change and global warming have affected the way the grapes are grown and harvested. “We’ve also thought about starting to grow other grapes, which we can do outside the DO. So there are several advantages to our location.”
The hotel and spa LeDomaine uses the abbey’s Gothic arches as part of the modern design throughout.
Indeed, the location has allowed the estate to build a deluxe hotel and spa called LeDomaine, which is contained within an abbey founded in 1146 by Premonstratensian monks, who were originally from France. Swiss-Italian architect Marco Serra did a total renovation of monk’s cells into intimate bedrooms, with the hotel opening in 2012, retaining much of the abbey’s decorative features and sculpture. The Sanctuario Spa covers 10,000 square feet and offers “oenotherapy treatments” recommended by a “spa sommelier.”
The Yoga Room at the Sanctuario Spa at LeDomaine enjoys the serenity of silence at what was a former abbey.
Over a dinner of Italian pastas, I tasted the current Selección Especial from a 2014 vintage (bottles dating back to the first vintage are still available for sale) and found it a remarkable Spanish wine with Bordeaux levels of flavor, soft tannins and, even so young, very pleasing to drink and only likely to get better over the next five years. At about $26 to $30 a bottle it is justly a contender against the rest of the best Spain has to offer right now.
Sorry to say, most of Abadia Retuerta’s wines are sold directly to restaurants, but a check of winesearcher.com pulled up a good number of wine stores around the U.S. that carry the wine. One of these days I’d like to drink the wine with dinner after a oenotherapy treatment at LeDomaine, but for now it’s good to know I can find the wine on American soil.