About 2 years ago, I went to Ribera del Duero (like I use to do every year in my previous job) to visit many wineries and taste wines at the barrel from the newest vintage and re-taste some of the newly bottled wines from the previous year and older vintages.
Amongst many other wineries visited over 2 or 3 days, I went to Bodegas J.C. Conde, Delgado y otras. Javier Ajenjo received me and my colleagues and gave us a little tour of what was, at that time, still a work-in-progress winery.
Bodegas J.C. Conde is somewhat a fairly new project founded in the late 90's by Julio Cesar Conde, Javier Ajenjo and Jose Luis Simon.
The vineyard-driven project was started without a vineyard by this small group of friends with 3 goals in mind: respecting the region traditions, aiming for high quality rather than quantity and producing great Ribera del Duero wines by searching the essence of wine.
They aim to produce wines with a balanced harmony between the ripe fruit aromas and flavors for early consumption and the oak influence for good ageing potential and structure.
The first few vintages were made out of purchased grapes and farmed grapes from local 50 years+ old vines. They slowly bought some vineyards and built a winery with the suggestions and winemaking expert knowledge of their winemaker, Isaac Fernandez, former cellar-master of Vega Sicilia.
Isaac's philosophy is:
"I try to make wines of the highest possible quality based on each year and look to be able to offer them to the world with reasonable and competitive prices. I try to respect to the maximum the identity of the vineyards and of the grapes with which I work, despite this is not an impediment to be able to develop my wines and to equip them with an elegance that differentiates them from the rest." Isaac Fernandez
Quite a few months later, Javier Ajenjo gave us a surprise gift for supporting his wines, to each of us, a bottle of Neo 2004 with our name on the label. It was very nice of him and I'm hoping to go back to the winery within the next few years.
2004 Bodegas J.C. Conde "Neo" Ribera del Duero Spain
Suggested retail price $55-$60
Distributed / Imported by Grapes of Spain in NYC (see also Aurelio Cabestrero)
Production: Produced from 50-60 years old vines planted in clay-limestone soils, located near the village of la Horra, this wine is a great example of the quality and the density that can be achieved in Ribera. Coming from vineyards managed with a specific intent to produce low yields of ripe, healthy fruit, the Tinto Fino or Tinto del Pais grapes (a synonym for Tempranillo in Ribera) were sorted and destemmed before being macerated-fermented for 20 days. The wine was then aged for 15 months in 80% French and 20% American new oak barrels (medium-plus toasted). It was finally bottled without fining, clarification or filtration. They produce about 16,000 bottles of this great 2004 vintage.
Tasting Note: I made a terrible mistake, 2004 Neo wasn't meant to be open two years after bottling. It was definitely long enough for this wine to really express itself. I decanted it twice and left it to rest for about 2 hours in the decanter before trying to drink it over the dinner.
The robe was really sombre. At first, the nose was a bit closed and discreetly delivered aromas of "opaque" dark fruit, earth, smokiness and hints of alcohol. The palate was very rich, opulent and dense yet tight and tannic with dark ripe fruit, earth, garrigues and smokiness. Even the finish seemed strong, oaky, and alcoholic. So we left the wine to rest in the closed decanter until the next night. My wife and I found it much better, open and in better condition than the previous day, but still tight.
Time will tell for this wine. It is way too soon to open it and really enjoy it. It needs to settle down and relax. Let's hope that time will tame this dark beast and that within the next 3-5 years, the tannins and the alcohol will be more integrated and in harmony with the fruit.
The wine was a real expressive, powerful and structured fruit bomb at the winery when we visited it. Maybe the wine just entered a sleeping phase and will reopen within the next few months or years. We will see.
Enjoy! (but not now!)
LeDom (du Vin)