The SOMM Journal

October / November 2016

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Page 34 of 132

34 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2016 { steven spurrier's letter from london } THE HISTORY OF THE ABADÍA RETUERTA estate at Sardón del Duero goes back to 1146 when, in an endeavour to establish Christianity in Castile following the expul- sion from Spain of the Moors, the Count of Castile commissioned the construction of a series of convent-fortresses, of which Santa María de Retuerta, in a beautiful enclave on the banks of the Duero River, was perhaps the most significant. The monks of the order of Saint Norbert were given land, and the second Abbot brought the first French grape varieties from his Cistercian cousins in Burgundy and dedicated the estate to "the vine, to silence and to devotion." Fast forward to 1988, when the 700 hectares and abandoned religious buildings passed into the hands of the Swiss pharma - ceutical research company Sandoz—and not a single vine remained. The renaissance of its viticultural tradition was due to the advice of Barcelona-based lawyer Juan José Abó, a wine broker and Secretary of L'Académie Internationale du Vin, who had studied at the Oenology Faculty of Bordeaux in the mid-1970s under Professors Emile Peynaud and Jean-Noël Boidron, where on a visit to Châteaux Ausone and Belair, he met and struck up a friendship with their winemaker, Pascal Delbeck. After convincing Marc Moret, then President of Sandoz Spain, Abo turned to Delbeck for advice on the replanting programme. An in-depth study was undertaken, different potential parcels established to suit different vines at differ - ent altitudes up to 850 metres, in order not just to make good wines, but wines with a character and sense of place looking back to the 12th century. Between 1991 and 1994 a total of 180 from the estate's 700 hectares were planted, the first wines to be commer - cialised coming from the 1996 vintage. The current U.S. importer is Europvin USA. Key to the development of the wines has been Angel Anocibar, who joined Pascal Delbeck after a stint at Château Calon-Ségur in 1996 at just 29 years old and who has been both vineyard and cellar manager ever since. The winery, conceived by Delbeck and consolidated by Anocibar, is one of the most innovative and at the time technologically advanced in Europe. The movement in the cellar is purely by grav - ity, with no pumping, the bulk wines being A Tribute to Terroir at Spain's Abadía Retuerta by Steven Spurrier Abadía Retuerta was built as a convent-fortress in the 12th century. (inset) Angel Anocibar (left) with Pascal Delbeck in the cellar. The Respect and Tradition of Terroir symposium was held at Abadía Retuerta in mid-June.

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