At the end of the nineteen sixties, the Spanish wine with the highest reputation was Vega Sicilia, from a village on the southern bank on the River Duero or Douro. This wine was made from a blend of Bordeaux grape varieties and the local Tinto del País, a clone of the Tempranillo. In the village of Pesquera, on the other bank of the river, there was an agricultural engineer, Alejandro Fernandez, who dreamt of making an equally great wine from just the local variety. However, at that time, he lacked the finance to establish a winery.
However, he made a small fortune from a machine he designed to pick potatoes and he invested this in creating the wine that he named after his home village. The first vintage of this was in 1972. This wine soon became a worldwide sensation, aided by the fact that the American wine critic Robert Parker described it as Spain’s Château Pétrus.
Since then, he and his family, have broadened their outlook. Also in the D.O. Ribera del Duero, they have their own château property, Condado de Haza, who vineyards, on alluvial soils, produce a lighter style of wine that those of Pesquera, whose vineyards mainly lie on a stony plateau.
Further afield, just outside the boundaries of the Toro D.O. is the vast agricultural estate of Dehesa la Granja, whose vineyards, again solely planted in Tempranillo give a vino de la tierra de Castilla y León.
South of Madrid, in the La Mancha region, yet another great wine is made from the Tempranillo grape, El Vínculo. However, here, for the first time he has produced a white wine from the despised Airen grape. Though its name is virtually unknown, there are more acres of this planted than any other wine grape variety in the world. Until know, it has almost entirely been used for distillation into brandy. Here with careful vinification and judicious use of oak, a great wine, Alejairen, has been created.
Alejandro Fernandez is now one of the most respected names in Spanish winemaking, By marrying together the Tempranillo grape and barrel aging, he has created a succession of great wines.
Author: Christopher Fielden
Christopher Fielden started in the wine trade, in the late fifties, with the agency in the North of England for Gonzalez Byass sherries. He has been involved in the drinks trade for more than half a century and can claim to be the first to have imported wines from Albania and Uruguay into Britain and the first to have sold Irish whiskey in Tahiti, Paraguay and Sierra Leone. His travels have taken him to more than one hundred countries.
On the British market, he launched such diverse wines as Jacob’s creek, Sutter Home, Marques de Caceres and Felton Road. He is passionately interested in trade education and is the longest-standing lecturer for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.
He is currently the columnist for The Church Times, had a column in Decanter for more than ten years, and has written for The Wine Spectator, Wine, Wine & Spirit, Good Housekeeping etc., as well as journals in Holland, France and Austria. His previous books include A Travellers Wine Guide to France, Is this the Wine you ordered, Sir?, and The Wines of Argentina, Chile and Latin America.
He now spends his time as a rural clergy spouse, meddling in village affairs and playing the occasional game of cricket.