Who says that summer is all about the beach and beating sun? Sometimes as the temperatures rise, so do we—lacing up our hiking boots in search of higher ground, fresher air, and cooler climes. . . not to mention old vines and finesse-driven wines.
Enter Sierra de Gredos, one of the fascinating “new” developments in Spanish viticulture. Both impossibly ancient, with vineyards planted here for longer than anyone can recall—and surprisingly new, in recent years making an auspicious debut on American wine lists and retail shelves despite not yet receiving its own appellation—Sierra de Gredos is known as much for its treacherous terrain as it is for its century-old vines of native red grape Garnacha.
Situated due west of capital city Madrid, this region’s dizzying altitude and multifarious soils and mountainous exposures make for an array of unique microterroirs. Understood to have been formed hundreds of millions of years ago as the Paleozoic period shaped Spain’s complex geology, Sierra de Gredos is considered part of three different provinces: the northern part of Toledo, where the wines are labeled under the DO Méntrida designation; in Avila, where the wines are bottled as DO Cerberos; and west of Madrid, where the wines carry the DO Vinos de Madrid designation and are yet altogether distinct from other subregions in that larger appellation.
First brought to widespread attention in the 1990’s, Sierra de Gredos has been seemingly under the radar as a producer of world-glass Garnacha—until now, thankfully. Intrepid young vignerons have moved back to this challenging terrain, in some cases reclaiming nearly-abandoned sites which boast vineyards twice or three times the age of the vignerons, causing a wave of new interest, investment, and, of course, imbibement.
Want to learn more about this vanguard region of Spanish wine? Check out these producers to taste the revolution that’s bringing one of Spain’s lesser-known regions to the global forefront:
Las Moradas de San Martín
Founded in 1999 on the Madrid side of the region, Las Moradas’ vineyards have been cultivating Garnacha since as far back as the 12th century. The contemporary expression of the variety found here is elegant, aromatic, and well-structured.
Summoned to the Sierra de Gredos range by the promise of small, nearly-forgotten old vineyards, Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia have been crafting an elegant style of old vine Garnacha since 2008 that is to this terroir what Syrah is to the Rhône and what Pinot Noir is to Burgundy.
Producing wines from 15 hectares in the Sierra de Gredos since 2010, Daniel Ramos crafts Garnacha from 50-100 year old vines on steep slopes of decomposed granite and slate schist under the labels Zerberos Finca, which are site-specific expressions, and Kpi, which utilizes traditional Spanish winemaking techniques like clay amphorae and American oak.
Situated at the foot of the Gredos mountains, Bernabeleva literally translates to “the path of the bear.” Producing mostly Garnacha from 35 hectares of old vines, this estate works the land manually in a low intervention style, producing a range of single vineyard expressions of Garnacha