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The pre-Phylloxera vines of Dominio de Atauta


Tasting the four wines of Dominio de Atauta for today’s post was not for the feint of heart.  I planned to taste them in pairs over three days but I kept the bottles around for nearly a week.  These wines were shut down and intertwined with significant structure.  Once opened the wines survived unscathed for many days.  I did not bother tasting the youngest vintage until it had been open for three days.

The wines of Dominio de Atauta are made using very old Tinto Fino vines located at a high altitude in the eastern edge of Ribera del Duero.  Due to the sandy soils, the Phylloxera largely bypassed this area leaving ungrafted vines planted as early as the mid-19th century.  I tasted two vintages each from the single sites of Llanos del Almendro and La Mala.  The first site contains 65+ year old vines on a layer of sand over clay.  The second site contains ancient 160 year old vines  on a sand and clay layer over limestone.  For both sites the fruit is hand harvested, undergoes a long 25-35 day maceration, is fermented with indigenous yeasts, then aged in an equal split of new and used French oak barriques.

Founded in 1999 by the Madrid wine merchant Miguel Sanchez, the first vintage came one year later in 2000.  The wines are made by Bertrand Sourdais, a Frenchman who interned at Mouton Rothschild, Leoville Las Cases, and with Alvaro Palacios.  The presence of very fine and very drying tannins is common amongst all four wines with the notes of oak distracting at this age.  The 2004 Dominio de Atauta, La Mala, Ribera del Duero was the one wine which stood up to such structure with deep, fine flavors.  This savory wine showed the best balance and should be allowed to develop for another five years.   My second favorite wine came from the second drought year in a row.  The 2005 Dominio de Atauta, La Mala, Ribera del Duero does not have the depth to match its powerful structure but the nose is interesting with its red berries and gingerbread mix.  The nose of the 2001 Dominio de Atauta, Llanos del Almendro, Ribera del Duero mixed floral aromas, red fruit, and maturity.  It does not share the complexity of the 2004 but the tannins are of a grippier, therefore more accepting nature.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2001 Dominio de Atauta, Llanos del Almendro, Ribera del Duero –
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%.  The floral nose bore aromas of brighter red fruit and hints of maturity.  In the mouth were brighter and tart red fruit flavors.  Though lighter in nature the wine still had good body which fleshed out and integrated over time.  There were cherry flavors, polished wood at the end, and tannins which took on grip.  *** Now – 2020.

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2004 Dominio de Atauta, La Mala, Ribera del Duero –
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. This wine is 100% Tinto Fino sourced from 160 year old vines.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak barriques.  Alcohol 14.3%.  The subtle nose bore maturing aromas of wood box.  The fruitier start quickly made way to mature flavors and resolving tannins but the wine itself boasts impressive power.  The exciting flavors are deep with watering acidity and complex hints of bitters.  This savory wine is undeniably fine in flavor.  ***(*) 2020-2035.

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2005 Dominio de Atauta, La Mala, Ribera del Duero –
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  This wine is 100% Tinto Fino sourced from 160 year old vines.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak barriques.  Alcohol 14.9%.  The nose was complex with aromas of red berries and cherries underlaid by gingerbread.  The flavors in the mouth were similar though powerful and blacker.  The very fine and very drying tannins coated the entire mouth.  A powerful wine in need of age.  *** 2020-2030.

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2006 Dominio de Atauta, Llanos del Almendro, Ribera del Duero –
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%.  This wine is 100% Tinto Fino sourced from 65+ year old vines.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak barriques.  This took several days to become aromatic.  In the mouth this wine remained very clamped down.  There were focused flavors of red fruit accented by black fruit, polished wood, along with texture and extract in the middle. **(*) 2020-2030.

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