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Home > Features > The Pearl of the Duero River

The Pearl of the Duero River

When I received an email from Esteban Celemín about his wine project I immediately picked up the phone, gave him a call, and ended up having an hour long conversation with him.  After the call, I decided to book a flight to Madrid, with a plan to meet Esteban the following week.  I was so enthralled by his story, his enthusiasm and his knowledge that I knew I had to try his wines, no matter what.

Esteban works at an architect firm in Madrid during the week but his real passion is in winemaking.  He comes from a small region along the Duero River called Castronuño.  It is located outside the Toro D.O. and quite close to the very famous white wine producing region of Rueda.  In this area, the tendency is to plant Verdejo grapes, one of the most popular white wine grapes in Spain.  Esteban was very aware that the local grapes that existed in Castronuño when he was growing up were fast disappearing, so he decided to do something about this.

He studied winemaking, carried out some thorough investigations on the grape varieties from the area and began looking for the few vineyards that still had some of these indigenous grapes.  He contacted the locals and landowners and told them he wanted to bring back the Albillo Real variety to the region.  His idea was well received and so his project began.

The first part of his plan was to locate the old vineyards with Albillo Real and look after them so that he could ultimately start making wine from them.  The second part of his plan was to start replanting Albillo Real vines where they used to be, close to the river.  But, he decided not to replant them in the usual way.

Normally when you plant a new vineyard you have to take clones from an existing plant.  So, you would order however many you need from the local nursery and then they grow them for you.  However, Esteban’s idea went a bit further.  He wanted his new vineyard to be genetically diverse, so every vine he planted came from a different existing vine.  This is an extremely tough job but the results proved his decision was the right one.  His new vines are healthy and vigorous and the grapes from these vines produce high quality wines.  This level of dedication and passion was a new experience for me and I knew that Esteban’s project was likely to be a small one for him to be able to do all of the work required, on his own.  In fact, it is so small that some of his vineyards only produce as little as 230 bottles a year.

Esteban makes his wines the good old fashioned way!  This means minimum intervention in the vineyard and in the cellar.  All of the Albillo grapes are grown organically; they’re manually picked and stepped on, and then pressed manually.  Eventually the grapes are fermented and aged in oak barrels.  The wines are not filtered or clarified and Esteban only adds a small amount of sulphite to make sure it doesn’t spoil before it arrives on your table.

After tasting all of his wines in Madrid, I returned home the same day and instantly knew I should bring some of his wines to Mallorca.  I wanted to share Esteban’s passion with other wine fanatics here, as well as some of the best Sommeliers on the island.

Apart from the Albillo Real wines, Esteban also makes other red and white wines in the area.   His focus remains the same, to preserve local varieties and produce wines with personality and an honesty I have not seen before.  You have to taste them to truly appreciate what I mean.

You will find Esteban’s wines clean and elegant.  His Albillo Real wines are more focused on the sensations in mouth rather than in the aromas or flavours.  The Albillo Real grape is not particularly expressive when you smell it in the glass and it can also have a rather flat taste to it, but the surprise comes with the sensations you get once the wine is in your mouth.  I have never experienced such intense texture before.  I can only describe the wines as meaty, as they fill your palate with a creamy sensation that is magnificent, especially when you pair it with dishes such as fatty fish, risottos or other cream based pasta dishes.

If you can get your hands on one of Esteban Celemín’s wines, I truly hope you will understand my fascination with them and that you will share this discovery with other people.