Don’t be misled by the kitschy labels; there is nothing gimmicky about the wines of Alfredo Maestro. Working, renegade-style, far outside the confines of his vineyards’ D.O. legislation, Maestro’s wines have already reached eye-catching levels of maturity and complexity to add to their striking originality.
The wine iconoclast comes in all shapes and sizes. With his sensible haircut and genial, understated personality, Alfredo comes across as the antithesis of a larger-than-life Didier Dagueneau-type figure. While this grower’s appearance may not stand out, his wines – deliciously supple and refreshingly pure-fruited reds unburdened by new oak – not to mention his meek pricing, stick out from their neighbours like a sore thumbs.
Working in the heart of one of Spain’s most conservative wine regions – his first vineyard was planted at Almate on the Rio Duraton near his home town of Peñafiel (Ribera del Duero) – it didn’t take long for this self-trained grower/winemaker to veer off-piste. Throwing out the conventional script, along with the new barrique, Maetro’s many rewrites included conversion to organic farming and eliminating any chemicals in the vineyard and additions in the cellar. By 2003, when the term ‘natural wine’ was still a glint in the marketer’s eye, all of Maestro’s wines were being fermented off their native yeasts and bottled without filtration and in most cases without sulphur. Suffice to say, if we did not know where his wines originated, Castilla y León may have been the last place we would have looked.
In Spain, Maestro has emerged as one of the most dynamic young winegrowers in the whole country. Why did it take so long to find this guy? As with most one-man bands, he has been content to sell what little wine he makes to an enthusiastic gang of local supporters and a handful of importers. It’s only over the last five years that he has managed to scrape together enough land – in the form of abandoned or neglected old-vine highland vineyards on outcrops of limestone or granite around the Ribera del Duero and Madrid highlands – to increase production to a practical quantity. He now farms 9 hectares and runs two small, rudimentary bodegas; the first located in his native Peñafiel, and the other in the remote Navalcarnero area, southwest of Madrid. Like the other conservative bastions of Spanish viticulture Ribera now has it’s own avant-garde pied piper. We hope many others may follow his tune.