Varieties – Albarín and Prieto Picudo

. . . devotees (as if!) of Cork Talk will also know that I’m a great believer in the indigenous grape varieties of this country, my home for the last 23 years.


Firstly, the area – Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León is a huge wine making area, North, North West and North East of Madrid – yes, it’s that large! In years gone by VdlT wines were considered the poor relations of DO wines, Denominación de Origen. Largely, in those days, they deserved the description – the wannabe DOs.

Then new wave thinkers came along, believing in the raw ingredients – the indigenous grape varieties, often not found elsewhere, and in the climate, soils, the terroir of certain locations within those geographical areas. Regular Cork Talk readers will know that I’ve often mentioned wines from VdlT areas of Spain, praising them and championing the fact that these areas are nowadays producing wines every bit as good as those from DOs, and often, better!

So, that’s my first point – if you don’t see DO, but you do see VdlT on the back label, don’t be put off at all!

Next, again devotees (as if!) of Cork Talk will also know that I’m a great believer in the indigenous grape varieties of this country, my home for the last 23 years. I first learned of Monastrell living in the South East of Spain, adding to my knowledge of course of Spain’s most famous variety, Tempranillo from Rioja, as well, of course, as its synonyms. Albariño was new to me until I can to Spain, and Verdejo was new to everybody, apart from those living in Rueda, until about fifteen years ago! And so on.

Perhaps you also remember my writing about Bobal when it certainly wasn’t fashionable to do so, and Godello, plus several other varieties, which at the time were not at all so well known? I’m not blowing my trumpet here, suggesting that it’s me who’s made these varieties better known and more available. I’m simply letting you know that I’m on the case – I love hearing about, and then, of course, tasting Spanish grape varieties that have yet to achieve fame.

Undiscovered varieties, sometimes almost extinct whose continued existence can be attributed to just a few devoted believers. Occasionally even just one person, whose passion, perhaps for his great grandfather’s remote vineyard leads him to continue his ancestors’ work, honing their bequeathed winemaking ideas, adding new technology and advanced international learning.

I’ve recently come across the white wine variety Albarín (not to be confused, as it often is, with Albariño); and the red wine variety Prieto Picudo. (Youtube and I’ve enjoyed white, rosado and red wines made with these varieties, by a relativey new producers (10 year anniversary in 2020) in VdlT Castilla y León, Leyenda del Páramo.

Albarín makes a fragrant, fruit filled wine, and El Aprendiz, has to be one of the best examples. There’s a refreshing citrus note on the nose, along with a suggestion of ripe banana, with the citrus notes of grapefruit and lemon continuing onto the palate with a little soft apple in there too. Herby notes follow with perhaps a little nuttiness too, blanched almonds. We paired it with Perch in a puff pastry parcel, and I can see it being just right also with other fish and seafood. Another plus here – it’s a lovely dry white for just drinking with friends, it’s happy with food, but it doesn’t need it!

El Aprendiz Rosado is made with Prieto Picudo. Its delicate strawberry aroma and flavour draws a veil over a quite meaty rosé wine, a pink wine with presence! Fish is a good pairing and I like to use similar colours, so I’d try this with trout or salmon. Plus, of course, a Valencian Paella, seafood and mixed with rabbit and/or chicken, will be nicely covered with this wine.

El Aprendiz Tinto is made with 100% Prieto Picudo. The variety has a natural acidity, making it fresh in the mouth. There aren’t many hectares (btw a hectare is about the size of a rugby pitch!) of this variety, it’s therefore necessarily a limited production. This wine has had 3 months in oak, and was my second favourite of the reds. Some forest fruits and a little earthy undergrowth, fresh and lively. A lovely BBQ wine and for lighter meat dishes.

My favourite wine was El Médico 2014, with its cool, inviting label! Again 100% Prieto Picudo, this wine is aromatic with soft red fruit initially morphing into darker brambly berries. It’s had 9 months in oak, for me, apparently the optimum time, as the Músico, their final wine in this portfolio (there are others – watch this space!), with longer in barrel, was losing its fruit (though this may be because it was a little older?), with the oak being central to its aromas.

El Médico, was just right – balanced, elegant, with good fruit on the palate, some depth of flavour and a little complexity. A good wine for turkey, venison, lamb and pork dishes – simply roasted, casseroled or served with a sauce as its pleasant acidity will cut through the sauce and freshen the palate!

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I’ll be very interested to see how these Peregrino (pilgrim, in Spanish!) wines progress over the next few years. I received from Bodegas Gordonzello, via Ondara’s wine shop Aguilar, three bottles of the wines they were showing at the shop one evening when I couldn’t attend.

I was attracted to them as they are made with relatively rare varieties which hail from the DO Tierra de Léon region, as does the winery in question. I’ve written before about Albarín Blanco and Prieto Picudo and was impressed then – so I was keen to try some other versions, and here I had a white, rosé and a red, again!

Firstly, please note again, that Albarín is not the same variety as Albariño, which will be known to most readers. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a lesser grape at all – different flavour and aroma profiles, but really enjoyable.

With vineyards at an altitude of 750 meters above sea level – it’s a good start. Temperatures can be very high during the growing season, but at night, at this height, there is some respite allowing the grapes to develop far better. On the nose, Peregrino Albarín, might remind the taster of a French Sauvignon Blanc, that’s subtle, rather than in-your-face NZ Sauv. Or you might first think of Spain’s Verdejo, one made with indigenous yeast, rather than cultivated and mass produced yeast, designed to bring out, and even exaggerate certain flavours and aromas. Or then again, a taster new to the Albarín may think the wine is like a combination of the two!

This a little nutty on the nose, but with good fruit – perhaps greengages and maybe a little kiwi, with a citrus twist? It’s a lighter style than the one I’d tasted earlier – an aperitif wine for sure, also pair it with salad. And in this heat (it’s currently approaching 40ºC at the time of writing!) I’d approve of a cube of ice and a little sparkling water, making a wholly different, refreshing spritzer.

It was close, but my favourite wine of the three was in fact the Rosado. Yes, I’m aware that we are having very rosé weather at the moment – rosado wine is so refreshing in the hot weather – but it’s not this fact that endeared to the wine to me particularly. It’s just that it’s a really fresh rose petal wine, with soft red fruit and a slight red peach flavour too!

We are eating far less meat these days. Vegetarian options are good, also fish, and I like to pair the colour of the fish, sometimes, with the colour of the wine. Salmon and Trout can work well in this way with rosé wine, and so it was with the salmon fillet marinated in chilli oil, ginger, garlic and a touch of lime. The match worked well.

La Costana 2014 Crianza is the red wine I tasted. It’s from the same bodega, though another name, and made with the same variety as made the rosado, Prieto Picudo. It’s crianza was 12 months in a mixture of French, American and Hungarian oak.

I wish I’d tasted this wine two years ago, when it would have had the fruit of its youth, which is now, unfortunately on the wane. I have found that in the 20+ years I’ve been writing about Spanish wines there has been a change in the style, generally of crianza wines. To me they don’t seem to be built to last the perhaps 5 – 7 years that they used to manage with some ease.

Perhaps the 2014 vintage wasn’t such a good one, perhaps the majority of the vines used were a little too young? I’m not sure but, whilst it is drinking quite well, it’s more the oak that is to the fore.

It may also be that this variety is perhaps better when drunk younger? The red I tasted several months ago was from the 2016 harvest. Of course, there may have been some vintage variation, those vines may have been older, different oak and time in barrels might have been used – there are many variables. However, it may be that Prieto Picudo is at its best when enjoying the vibrancy of youth – but then, aren’t we all?!  Facebook Colin Harkness

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