Cebreros, the key to the Gredos garnacha map

3 February 2022

Barely five years have passed since the creation of Cebreros as a Denominación de Origen and this growing area, where 94% of its vineyards are over 50 years old, is already showing great determination and agility in incorporating many of the qualitative variables that other appellations have either not added or have taken decades to incorporate. Advantages of being a newcomer. The truth is that Cebreros, although still young as a Denominación de Origen, has a long history of winemaking, although it has not always been linked to the excellence of its wines.

Its legal birth was surrounded by a certain amount of controversy when some sectors called for this growing region to form part of a supra-community Designation of Origin that would bring together the eastern and southern parts of the Sierra de Gredos, that is to say, with vineyards belonging to other appellations such as Méntrida and Vinos de Madrid. Argumentatively, there was a plausible criterion for this, to create a wine-producing region in accordance with the soil and climatic limits, authentic exponents of the identity of the Garnacha grapes of Gredos. However, it was clear that none of the areas concerned was going to do without part of its protected area, so the debate was dead before it was even born. Although this idea was positive, the closed-mindedness that always surrounds our political leaders and the negative logic of the affected areas did not allow any of this to happen.

The Avila-based wine producer front of the Alberche, Alto Alberche and Tiétar Valley, responsible for the area with the highest quality vineyards in terms of soil type, altitude and number of hectares, continued to make its way with the aim of protecting its origin. Its aim was to put an end to the gradual abandonment of the villages and their vineyards, partly linked to the derisory prices paid for Garnacha, which meant that many vines were uprooted and that there was no generational replacement. Moreover, by protecting their origin, they could abandon the generic category of VT Castilla y León, an indication of origin that allowed their grapes to end up in any corner of the autonomous region.

The birth of the Cebreros PDO was backed by important producers, and Chuchi Soto (Bodegas Soto Manrique) played an important role in this process as a unifier of the most relevant local will.

Since the creation of this PDO, the prices of vineyards and grapes have increased exponentially, which has had a positive effect on the dynamism of the region, allowing the winegrower to regain the dignity of a job well done. The best symptom of the success of this move is that new vines are starting to be planted, whereas only five years ago they were abandoned or grubbed up.

Building identity

There are several events that allowed the appellation to start in the most effective way. On the one hand, the arrival of Telmo Rodríguez in 1997 served to make it clear that the area was worthwhile. It is not every day that a leading exponent of quality wines and a true wine treasure hunter enters a hitherto discredited wine-producing area. In their first vintages, the wines of the Telmo Rodriguez wine company brought quality to an area that had coexisted with low cut wines, designed to be the colour and alcoholic content of wines from other regions. Telmo then put forward a vision of the place centred on the main variety, the Garnacha, but from a different point of view to what we can see today, that is to say with powerful wines, with greater maturity and extraction. After drawing attention to this place, the second great event took place, the arrival of Dani Landi with the brilliant oenologist Raúl Pérez, who brought to the area his less extractive and balsamic vision that he had already been developing in his projects in Bierzo and other corners of Spain. Subsequently, the Comando G project (Daniel Landi, Fernando García and Marc Isaart) was responsible for popularising this Burgundian style of Garnacha from Gredos with wines such as Bruja Avería, with an excellent quality-price ratio and capable of reaching all audiences.

There is also a figure who, although he has gone unnoticed by Gredos Garnacha lovers, has had a special relevance in the birth of this place. We are talking about Rafael Mancebo, today president of the DO and owner for many years of the 7 Navas winery. His figure was essential to make the area known, as they were the first to produce wines with identifying features at a good price. Cebreros is nowadays a place with great potential thanks to the work of some of its own names.

Chuchi Soto, the catalyst that got a whole cooperative involved

The arrival of Chuchi Soto on the scene in 2016 was a turning point for Cebreros, as he took over the Santiago Apóstol cooperative with the commitment of preserving the vineyards and paying the vine growers a decent price for the grapes. It was quite a challenge for someone who came from a background of marketing quality Spanish wines. Chuchi Soto's work at Soto Manrique focuses mainly on the search for the identity of certain places or environments. Wines such as Las Violetas or La Mira represent the identity of specific areas such as Valverde in Cebreros or Los Galayos, and are a way of giving identity to the multiple realities of the Cebreros vineyard. The winery is committed to bottling wines where the environment is appreciated through non-intrusive, low-extraction winemaking processes, without excessive ripening and also with little contact with oxygen.

Dani Ramos, looking towards minimum production units

The wine growing areas are only understood when one approaches the figures who have most contributed to a place. The ways of enriching this narrative generally comes through individual work, that is to say, through blind faith in what one is doing regardless of external voices. This is how Daniel Ramos operates, an Australian by birth, but with more Madrilenian parents than San Isidro. This winemaker settled in the Tiemblo cooperative after working with Telmo Rodríguez, bringing a personal approach and disregarding the styles and fashions of the market.

This winemaker's vision focuses on building the identity of a place by putting together the small pieces of the puzzle of the countryside, vinifying each of his vineyards separately so that they speak of the place, a kind of blockchain of wine and vineyard. This restless winegrower likes his wines to have depth of flavour. With this approach, he works with ripe grapes but not very extractive winemaking processes. The idea is to bring out the taste that he likes so much, but without over-extraction which could interfere with the connection with the vineyard from which each of his wines originates.

In his quest for purity in his winemaking, he works with low doses of sulphur, in what could be called a natural and, to a certain extent, oxidative winemaking. For him, oxygen plays an important part in his winemaking, which is why he lets it work as an ally in the different winemaking processes. As he tells us, this relationship with oxygen means that his wines require a certain amount of time to faithfully express their origin. It is exciting to see how the wines he makes express the environment from which they are born, as is the case of the Chorrancos, whose 2015 vintage we recently tasted and which shows with extraordinary precision the herbal and floral nuances of its surroundings, with all the sapidity and restrained structure provided by his way of interpreting the wines from the left bank of the Alberche River.

Daniel Ramos

Rubén Díaz, the necessary touch of madness and creativity

In this sketch of the different sensibilities that coexist in the DO, we come across the personal project of Rubén Díaz, a terroir winemaker who seeks to make wines in a wide range of styles in his family vineyards, from traditional local wines to unconventional creations. He gets as much satisfaction from making a traditional, ripe, alcoholic, oxidative wine as he does from making wines that are sous-voile and aged in sherry casks.

This model of producer is of great importance in each appellation, as it allows new paths to be explored and new winemaking perspectives to be offered. It is not surprising that he was responsible for one of the last wines to be nominated as a revelation wine, "Toneles del Patio" La Sorpresa Solera. Rubén is one of the living figures of the new Cebreros, who draws wines in his mind with unconventional profiles, bringing an open-minded and creative way of working to the environment.

New batches of producers coming up with fresh ideas

Little by little Cebreros is building an identity backed by the work not only of the area's historic winemakers, but also by young people who are trying to do their bit with artisanal work such as Las Pedreras de Bárbara Requejo and Guzmán Sánchez.

Located in the municipality of Cebreros, he offers us a look at the diversity of soils and orientations of the area, where altitude is not always synonymous with coolness. With him we had the opportunity to visit one of the few slate vineyards that exist in the area, specifically in Los Galayos, where grapes grow that offer a more structured and sapid wine.

A profound connoisseur of the oenological history of the area, his work seeks to offer different visions and interpretations of the place, sometimes subtle and fresh and other times more mature and structured. In terms of white wines, as well as working with the local albillo real, he incorporates small quantities of the white grape chaselas, also known as doré, with which he achieves electric and very expressive levels of acidity.

Rubén Díaz

Juanan Martín Pérez

En la misma línea de trabajo encontramos el joven proyecto Rico Nuevo, creado por Juanan Martín Pérez que aun siendo tardío en esto de la vocación bodeguera ha hecho combo con Julio Prieto, enólogo y experto técnico en el arte de la poda. Se trata de una combinación perfecta que desde Burgohondo se ha afanado por recuperar y mantener vivas antiguas viñas familiares, donde la repercusión económica es mas bien baja y donde la pasión es el ingrediente indispensable para que el proyecto siga creciendo y ganando peso en el lugar. Sus vinos buscan expresar, desde la finura, el concepto de terruño, especialmente significativo en un lugar donde conviven viñas viejas de altitud con diferentes exposiciones y por ende con diferentes personalidades.

New batches of producers coming up with fresh ideas

 Little by little Cebreros is building an identity backed by the work not only of the area's historic winemakers, but also by young people who are trying to do their bit with artisanal work such as Las Pedreras de Bárbara Requejo and Guzmán Sánchez.

Bárbara, who was the winemaker at the Soto Manrique winery until the 2021 vintage, has embarked with her partner on making the wines they like, in which we find that minimalist and vertical orientation of some of the great wines of the area. Their non-conformist view of the place is backed up by wines such as Los Arroyuelos 2020, a regional red wine from Alto Alberche which shows a rich fruit character with tension and structure, or Las Ánimas 2020 from the Pedrejuelas area where the wild character of the area can be appreciated, as well as an atypical Provençal-style rosé: Arquitón 2020. These are young people who have come to the area to continue building Cebreros with their artisanal and pure vision.

Bárbara Requejo

Juanan Martín Pérez

In the same line of work we find the young project Rico Nuevo, created by Juanan Martín Pérez who, despite being a latecomer to the winemaking vocation, has teamed up with Julio Prieto, oenologist and technical expert in the art of pruning. It is a perfect combination that from Burgohondo has strived to recover and keep alive old family vineyards, where the economic impact is rather low and where passion is the essential ingredient for the project to continue growing and gaining weight in the place. Its wines seek to express the concept of terroir through finesse, which is especially significant in a place where old vines at high altitude coexist with different exposures and therefore with different personalities.

Cebreros has a very well-established present with these and other serious projects that seek to respect the origin and a promising future ahead.

Latest tastings carried out by Peñín Guide in Cebreros

The arrival of new quality-oriented projects, such as the millionaire winery of Comando G in Villanueva de Ávila, with different but complementary views, will mark whether Cebreros will be one of the great wine growing appellations of Spain in the coming decades.

    Written by Carlos González, director de la Guía Peñín
    Written by Javier Luengo, director editorial de Peñín