For those unfamiliar with the Vino de Pago qualification, it was created in Spain in 2003 to certify singular estates (pagos) as Protected Denominations of Origin. While not a requisite, it’s generally implemented by individual wineries looking to gain protected status for a single vineyard site within their domain.
This is the case for Abadía Retuerta which is an estate of 700ha, of which 180ha is planted to vine. While located within the Duero Valley, the site resides within the borders of Sardón de Duero, just to the west of Quintanilla de Onésimo, the municipality forming one of DO Ribera del Duero’s borders. As such, Abadía Retuerta is just outside the DO and has been producing its wines under the very expansive Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León that covers a territory larger than all of neighbouring Portugal.
In talking with Abadía Retuerta’s CEO Enrique Valero, he told Decanter, ‘While we started the process of registering the Vino de Pago eight years ago, it actually started 25 years earlier in how we’ve aligned our philosophy to work the land in order to recuperate what had been here nine centuries ago.’
Their unique site was originally the Monastery of Santa María de Retuerta which was established in 1146. As was the case with Christian monastic orders in the Iberian Peninsula, there was winemaking by the monks and since taking over the site in 1988, the modern owners have worked to rebuild based upon the past with the monastery now being a destination hotel accompanied by several restaurants.
The history was a keen part to establishing unique singularity for the PDO. The other part was the geography with the region sitting between two higher, 850m plains as well as old forests that regulate the humidity. Combining these elements, Abadía Retuerta has its own, cooler climate as compared to bordering municipalities. This is why, despite 75% of their vines being the Ribera del Duero stalwart of Tempranillo, they also have extensive plantings of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Additionally, the PDO documents have been set up to allow for 16 different varieties in total as Valero explains that, ‘We’re experimenting with varieties to account for the future of climate change.’
As to why they worked to certify their estate in a manner that only 22 others in all of Spain have done, Valero said, ‘I’ll be honest in that we’ve really complicated our lives here by doing this but you need to have your own model in this industry. Ultimately, I want us to be defined by site of Abadía Retuerta which is why we sought out and have now achieved the Vino de Pago qualification.’