In 1927, 11 childhood friends whose adult life had led along different paths, reunited, bound by their shared love for the landscape and traditions of Peñafiel. Wanting to celebrate their shared connection to their home village and the viticultural roots of their families, the friends started ‘Bodega Ribera Duero’, a project born at the intersection of passion and entrepreneurship. A visionary and groundbreaking decision that opened the path for Ribera del Duero, then unknown and largely underestimated, to become the iconic region it is today.
An icon is born
Built upon a clear, pioneering vision, the winery forged its own iconic status from the very beginning. In 1929, wines from its first two vintages won Gold Medals at the Barcelona Universal Exhibition, quickly earning the winery’s reputation for quality and character.
In 1982, following the creation of the eponymous DO, the winery altruistically ceded its name to the newly-established appellation. As a tribute to the pioneering spirit of its founders, it was renamed Protos, the Greek word for ‘the first’’, the brand already in use for the estate’s wines. The change served as a reiteration of the project’s founding motto – Being First – and as affirmation of an ethos of constant research and innovation. Protos was not only the first winery in a now highly regarded DO but also the project that paved the way for the many other renowned producers that followed, creating a lineage of quality and style.
In Greek ‘Protos’ can also mean ‘Essence’ or ‘Origin’, suitably denoting the deep connection to the land that informed the winery’s creation. And indeed, today, as at its inception, it remains a guardian of the essence of Ribera del Duero and its winemaking traditions.
Protos has since expanded its reach to three different DOs; the whites of Rueda and the roses of Cigales are now part of the winery’s collection alongside Ribera del Duero’s reds. The growth has been driven by the same belief in the quality potential of those regions and their yet untapped potential for excellence. The sister projects are already gaining praise and recognition – in 2019, the Protos Verdejo (Rueda DO) stood out as ‘Best young wine in Spain’ in Spain’s Guía Vinos Gourmets.
To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Protos project, the winery embarked on a research project to develop a tribute wine, Protos’27, released in 2017 and all vintages since. The celebratory bottle bears the same label of the first released by Bodega Ribera Duero in its first vintage. The original design features Penafiel’s coat of arms, the winery’s founding name, the official bottling registry (a very low 42nd!) and the medal won at the Barcelona exhibition in 1929. The elements give some perspective to the dimension and dare that animated the project at the time, and which inspire its team today. ‘Our main objective is to safeguard and improve the legacy of our predecessors,’ says Carlos Villar, General Manager at Protos.
‘Protos’27 has been bringing us great satisfaction since its launch because it celebrates the new path in our winemaking approach while paying tribute to our origins,’ Villar continues. ‘It represents the most forward-thinking and elegant Ribera del Duero, without losing the unique character that has always characterised our winery. Its image also makes it special, as it is our first label from 1927. Pure Protos history.’
A single-varietal Tinta del País (Ribera del Duero’s own phenotypic expression of Tempranillo) hailing from 50 years old vines, Protos’27 spends 16 months in new French oak and one year in bottle prior to release. Balanced and round, the fine acid line balances the power and concentration, driving the long filigreed finish. A true meeting of modern and traditional Ribera del Duero from the appellation’s founding fathers and prodigal sons.