Wine About It: Alfredo Maestro

Looking for The Beer Drop? Don’t worry – Sean and his henleys will be back in full force next week. Starting today, we’re debuting a new series – Wine About It – where we’ll spotlight a notable or unique wine (or wines…the more the merrier, right?) the first Wednesday of every month. Similar to The Beer Drop, we’ll have a limited number of bottles in stock, so once they’re sold out, they’re out – but we’ll be back the first week of every month with another great bottle.

Let’s pop those corks! We’re excited to kick things off and get to know two bottles from organic Spanish winemaker Alfredo Maestro, including our first orange wine (yep, you read that correctly):

Wine made with only grapes, well-kept vineyards, and healthy land.

– Alfredo Maestro

The Region

Before we get to the juice, here are a few good-to-knows about Ribera del Duero, the place these wines call home:

  • One of the most famous regions in Spain for Tempranillo a.k.a. Tinto Fino (the major component of Rioja blends)
  • Wine has been made there for 2000 years, but wasn’t very well-known until the 1980s
  • Reds are a BIG deal – vineyards are almost exclusively all red grapes, and the only white variety you might find is the Albillo
  • Extreme temperature swings (sometimes 50+ degrees) from AM to PM create optimal ripening conditions for the wine’s distinctive character, depth and balance
  • French Oak > American Oak. You’ll typically notice more vanilla, cinnamon and clove flavors here

The Winemaker

Now that you’ve got a lay of the land, let’s meet Alfredo Maestro! In a region that sometimes gets a bad rap for over-manipulated wine (adding this and that to Frankenstein together a specific bold flavor or purple hue), Alfredo does just the opposite. Growing up in the vines, he started making his own wine in 1998 – doing it all by the book, teaching himself enology (the study of wine) and trying every trick there was to achieve the ‘typical’ opulent Ribera del Duero wine…yeasts, acid, enzymes, tannins, color-enhancers, you name it. However, he’d always farmed his vineyards organically, and after all the experimentation it dawned on him that to “better tell the story of the land,” and have a product that was as natural and pure in the bottle as it was on the vine, the entire process needed to be organic. Often, ‘organic’ wines are farmed organically, but multiple additives, like sulfites, are added later in the process. 

These days, not only is his winemaking process natural from beginning to end, he also seeks out areas of land with older vines that were once popular, but became neglected once everyone became infatuated with making the the ‘perfect’ Tinto Fino. Thanks to his unique approach, these grapes (Garnacha and Albillo, among others) are getting a new life.

The Wine

While Alfredo makes a variety of different wines, we wanted to highlight two to show off the breadth of his organic winemaking style. Both unique, the Maestro El Rey del Glam is a bit more familiar Old World style, while the Lovamor is unexpected, and a rare sight in a region dominated by red wines.

Maestro El Rey del Glam is made of 100% Garnacha sourced from two different vineyard areas, and this simple, fruity wine tastes best now – no need to get fancy trying to cellar it. Enjoy it sliiightly chilled with grilled meats and veggies.

The Lovamor is far from your typical bottle, and probably one of the most interesting wines we’ve ever tried. An orange wine (also referred to as ‘skin fermented’), is a ‘white’ wine made like a red wine – white Albillo grapes from 100+ year old vines are mashed, and the skin and seeds are left to macerate with the juices, rather than removing them. This natural process, plus the lack of additives, gives the final product a slight sour bite and nuttiness from the oxidization. And the orange hue? Thank the lignin in the grape seeds for that.

We could tell you we thought the Lovamor had a cider-y quality with some apple aromas, and a funkiness that reminded us more of a farmhouse ale than any wine we’ve had, but to be cliché…this is one you just have to try for yourself.