With vineyards at 2,500 ft above sea level, a relatively short growing season, extremely varied soils – and the constant threat of spring frost – Ribera del Duero, in northwestern Spain, might not look like the easiest place to grow grapes. Yet this region turns out some beautifully concentrated, savory, intensely colored red wines.
The great temperature variation between hot summer days and cool nights and the high-altitude sunlight and dryness are in fact ideal conditions for growing grapes.
A handful of wineries, like the iconic Vega Sicilia, have been making stellar wines in Ribera del Duero for decades, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the region exploded with new vineyards, and became known as “the modern red wine miracle of northern Spain,” according to The World Atlas of Wine.
The grape that established the region’s fame is Tinto Fino (also called Tinta del Pais), a local variant of Rioja’s Tempranillo.
Dominio de Pingus was founded in the mid-1990s by the visionary Danish winemaker Peter Sisseck. Shortly after arriving in the region in 1993, he saw the potential for the old bush-vines that were still farmed in Ribera del Duero. Within a few years Peter was producing wines that became some of the most coveted in the world.
In 2006 Peter embarked on a new venture, one of co-operation with some of the region’s oldest growers. He helped them convert their vineyards to organic and biodynamic farming, lower their yields and grow better fruit. The result is his Ψ PSI (named after the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet), a wine with Ribera del Duero in its DNA.
Dominio de Pingus, Ribera del Duero – PSI 2009
Producer: Bodegas y Viñedos Alnardo SL, for Dominio de Pingus
Region: Ribera del Duero
Grapes: 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo)
Serving: Decant for 1 to 2 hours
Vibrant, deep ruby, with powerful aromatics, the Ψ PSI 2009 draws you in at first sniff. Dark cherry, plum and mineral notes fill your nostrils and open the palate.
When swirling the wine in your mouth, a lively acidity and strong-but-supple tannins instantly make a stand. They provide a great structure to the concentrated fruit flavors that explode in the mouth.
The dark fruit and minerality that you picked up on the nose intensify and are followed by notes of violet and vanilla and a hint of tobacco. The wine is bright, lively, fresh. The mouth tingles.
These grapes benefited from long, gentle macerations before resting in a mix of large and small oak casks and cement tanks, with virtually no new wood exposure. It’s no wonder the Ψ PSI has such great complexity and depth of flavor, while holding on to its medium-plus weight.
Food-wise, versatility is the PSI’s hallmark. You can serve this wine with almost anything. But to honor its origins, I’ve paired it here with orecchiette with wilted spinach, chickpeas and pimentón – a dish filled with Spain’s exotic and fiery flavors.
Peter Sisseck has said that his goal when creating the Ψ PSI was to express the region’s soul in his wine. Clearly he has succeeded. He offers us a wine of remarkable purity, depth and complexity – a wine that once tasted, will demand a permanent spot in your cellar.
Where to buy
Englewood Wine Merchants in New Jersey have a meticulously chosen wine selection and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff. They not only carry the Ψ PSI 2009, but they also have several other terrific wines from Ribera del Duero – all well worth trying if you want to get a feel for the region. You can also order through their website.