Bodegas Ismael Arroyo "Val Sotillo" Ribera del Duero Reserva 2012
Tempranillo｜Ribera del Duero, Spain
The bodega at Val Sotillo begins in the modern day with Ismael Arroyo’s first vintage in 1979, in Burgos, part of the Castilla Y León region. This was also a monumental period in Spain’s history: just the year prior the Constitution of 1978 was ratified, paving the way for the modern Republic era following the fall of Franco’s nationalist regime.
Arroyo’s family story, however, goes back another 400 years of making wine in this historic region. He settled in the small village of Sotillo de Ribera, considered the heart of the Ribera del Duero region. His foresight was rewarded, as Sotillo is part of a strip of land now considered the “Rodeo Drive” of the region. Just three years after his first vintage he would become one of the most influential figures in advocating for the region’s official recognition in 1982.
All the vineyards are farmed to exacting standards – bush-trained vines of Tinta del País (the local name for Tempranillo) of up to 90+ years old are tended by hand, harvested by hand in small baskets, and gently transferred to tank for fermentation. The wines age for two years in barrel and aged at least another year in bottle before release.
The result is a strapping Reserva with classic Ribera del Duero personality. Mocha, graphite, and dusty cocoa intermingle with blackberry, tobacco smoke, and savory dried herbs. The chocolate-dipped black fruit profile continues to emerge with air and drinks even better the second day. A burnished but still earthy finish, mocha-inflected to the end. At nine years bottle age it’s still a baby, with promise to continue developing gorgeously in bottle.
Above ground, Ribera del Duero looks like an unassuming, pastoral landscape in Castilla Y León. The region’s secrets, however, lie beneath: kilometers of underground tunnels and caves dating back to the 16th century snake underneath Arroyo’s estate, carved into the hillside. Ismael expanded and reinforced the caves, where he ferments and ages the wines in these cool, dark cellars.
If you enjoy the wines of Ribera, you have Ismael Arroyo to thank for his pioneering work. This wonderfully aged 2012 Reserva represents a darker, more brooding manifestation of the grape, framed by old-vine intensity and a beautiful marriage of oak and fruit. Drink or hold; either choice will reward – this is a wine sure to appreciate for another decade at least!