Mon 2 Jun 2008
The wines of Vinedos y Bodegas Garcia Figuero — to give this estate its full name — are made of 100 percent tempranillo grapes, some of which derive from vineyards that date to the 1930s. For decades, the grapes from the Figueros vineyards went into the wines of other producers in the Ribera del Duero region in north central Spain, part of the province of Castilla y Leon, until the family launched its own winery in 2001. As far as this palate is concerned, it was a wise decision.
Yes, these wines age in French and American oak barrels, qualifying them for the often-used designation “new” or “modern” wines, in opposition, I suppose, to “old” or “traditional” wines, you know, the ones that aged years in large, ancient wooden casks or vats and emerged dry, austere and fruitless. I tend, as I have iterated many times, to be a purist about such notions of a region’s tradition and heritage, but Figeuros proves that we don’t have to adhere to tradition slavishly. Yes (again), the top levels of these wines display notable austerity on the finish, but that quality is preceded by rich, ripe fruit.
The least expensive of these four wines is the Figueros Roble 4 Months in Barrel 2006; the wood regimen is four months in 85 percent American oak, 15 percent French, all new barrels. The wine is lovely, seductive, bursting with grapey notes of ripe black and red currants and plums. The wine is soft and spicy, permeated by macerated and roasted black currant flavors that seethe with lavender, licorice and bittersweet chocolate. Drink now through 2010 or ’11. About $20 and rated Very Good+.
The Figeuro Crianza 12 Months in Barrel 2004 begins to dip into the estate’s older vines; 80 percent of the grapes come from 20 to 40-year-old vines, the rest from vines that are 50 years old. This wine sees no new oak; the barrels — 90 percent American, 10 percent French — are two and more years old, so there’s no trace of toastiness or vanilla. My first note on the wine is “Wow!” followed a few lines later with “what great character!” The bouquet is packed with cedar and tobacco, the scents of black fruit both fresh and dried and deep rooty, minerally elements. Lordy, what a dark and intense and concentrated wine this is, etched with spice and bolstered by robust tannins that support ripe, roasted and fleshy black currant and plum flavors wreathed with wild berry. After 30 minutes or so in the glass, the tannins expand and grow, seeming to fill the glass — and the drinker’s mouth — with rigorous austerity. I would give this wine until 2010 and then consume it through 2014 or ’16. Excellent. About $30.
Next is Figuero’s 15 Months in Barrel Reserva 2004, I wine that I found absolutely compelling in smoothness and mellowness, in balance and harmony. The grapes are all from 50-year-old vineyards. Despite aging in new barrels for 15 months — 95 percent American — the wine, like its cousin mentioned above, displays no trace of vanilla or new oak toastiness. Instead, the oak provides a sturdy framework, a permeating presence of spice that never becomes obtrusive. Mint, eucalyptus and cedar float above scents and flavors of black currant, black cherry and plum set into a lush, dense and chewy texture. Drink now through 2012 or ’15. Excellent. About $55.
You will need patience for the Figuero Noble Gran Reserva 2004. The vines whence the grape derive are more than 70 years old, a factor that contributes to the wine’s extreme density, richness and austerity. The aging is sequential, first 15 months in American oak, then six months in French. It’s true that Noble 2004 emits beguiling touches of cedar and tobacco, mint and eucalyptus, but this is mainly about gritty tannins, polished oak and brooding earthy, minerally qualities that will require aging until 2011 or ’12 to achieve company manners. After that, consume through 2018 or ’20. It would be fascinating to watch this wine develop, though I say “would be” because only 583 cases were made and the price is about $160. Excellent.
The wines of Vinedos y Bodegas Garcia Figuero are imported by Quintessential, Napa, Ca.