Rioja gets most of the attention for the softer-style of age-worthy Tempranillo. Ribera became infected with over-extraction in the 1990’s and 2000’s that undid much of the regions’ potential for more interesting, ageworthy wines. Now that Parker’s influence is declining in Spain, more interesting wines from the Duero valley are being made. Back in the 1990’s Vega Sicilia was one of the only stalwarts of a more traditional, elegant style, but there wines were so unaffordable that almost no-one could access the style. Enter Alion, created in 1991. It is a great wine in its own right, but one that was admittedly made in a more modern style. Its success actually heralded a revolution in Ribera del Duero that led to the over-extracted style. However, Alion is a wine that is easily misunderstood and it lacks nuance to simply call it “modern”. In youth the wine can seem awkward and too big. As this 1998 demonstrates, with age the wine finds its true self.
Unlike Vega Sicilia, Alion is a wine of the entire Ribera del Duero – a blend of vineyards from across the region. It is intended to be a reflection of the region as a whole, one with a wine-making tradition dating back to the 13th century. Alion derives from 130 hectares – 70 of which are located on the Vega Sicilia Estate, 30 in Padilla del Duero and 30 in Pesquera del Duero.
This 1998 was totally unlike the community notes in Cellar Tracker – likely due to provenance and storage. I sourced and drank this in Spain. It offered soft black and red berries, pencil lead, herbs, and game notes on the nose. An elegant wine, fruity but not aggressive, structured but resolved, and perfect with freshly ground sirloin burgers.
80 euros at Vila Viniteca, Barcelona