Don’t forget Spain’s blending heritage, says Pingus owner
Pingus creator Peter Sisseck has implored fellow winemakers in Spain to remember the ‘art of blending’ grapes from different locations alongside a more recent trend for single vineyard recognition.
Spain has a great heritage of blending grapes from a variety of vineyards and it would be a shame it that was lost, Peter Sisseck told an audience at the Decanter Spain & Portugal Fine Wine Encounter last weekend.
Sisseck did not criticise moves to give individual vineyard sites greater recognition, such as the Rioja single vineyard classification that was agreed last year.
But he said, ‘When we talk about Spain and Rioja, even though we are understanding more about single vineyards, we should not throw the baby out with the bath water. We should not forget what was done really well in the past as well.’
He referenced the Rioja Gran Reserva wines of the 1940s and 1950s as a particular high-point of that region’s blending prowess.
It was hard to guess the precise sites used for those wines, but the cellarmasters of this era ‘knew exactly where the grapes came from and [this method] was a fantastic way of blending things together’, Sisseck said.
Pingus Psi is produced by blend several terroirs in Ribera del Duero, whereas flagship wine Pingus comes from Tempranillo vines aged more than 60 years in the sub-region of La Horra.
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Sisseck also spoke to Encounter guests about his belief in preserving ‘old vines’, where possible.
‘When I arrived in Ribera there were only 9,000 hectares of vineyards and 6,000 were more than 50 years old.’
Things have changed since then as Ribera has expanded and modernised. Ribera del Duero now has 22,552 hectares of vines, according to its DO body. Sisseck told Decanter.com that he believed there were around 2,000ha of vines left over 50 years old.
‘Some would call it the success of Ribera, but I call it the horror of the Ribera, which is that everybody forgot about old vines and pulled them out and planted new ones.’
Debate around the extent to which older vineyards should be preserved is common across the wine world.
Yields generally drop off as vines pass their peak age, and older vineyards have been replanted for financial reasons – albeit old vines are prized by some winemakers for conveying extra complexity and concentration in the wines, and a sheer sense of place and history.
There is no legal definition of what constitutes an old vine. In Bordeaux, it is common for vines to be replanted after around 35 years.
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