My appointment with Francisco Barona sounded like something out of a Graham Greene novel. ‘Meet me in front of the bullring in Roa,’ he’d told me on the phone. I was intrigued. Did he want to share his love of the corrida before we talked and tasted? Would he arrive dressed as a matador? The answer was more prosaic.
Barona is in the process of building a bodega nearby and, for the time being, he presents his wines in a modest ground floor room in the centre of town. The bullring is the nearest landmark.
Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for two Francisco Barona wines
The tasting itself was considerably more eventful.
It wasn’t just that Barona turned up with an armful of vine cuttings, harvested that morning to show me the varieties that make up his field blends. It was also the remarkable quality of his wines, as good as anything I’ve sampled in Ribera del Duero. But more than anything, it was Barona’s life story that inspired and enchanted me.
This young winemaker – he’s still only 37 – has packed more adventure into his three and a half decades than most of his contemporaries will manage in twice the time. Sit down and pour yourself a glass of red while I share the details.