When André Tamers (owner DeMaison Selections) called me a couple of years back and said, “Hey Andrew, I got two words for you: Salamanca and Rufete,” I was instantly intrigued. It’s a grape I know from Portugal, and I’ve always been a big fan because of its freshness and chill-ability (red wine worth chilling). I even choose a tank of 100% Rufete from a producer in Dão for us to import a few years back. So when André took me to Salamanca this past May I was eager and excited to taste Rufete on the Spanish side, and it didn’t disappoint.
Salamanca the city is about 2.5 hours west and slightly north of Madrid, and the Sierra de Salamanca D.O. wine region is a 70km further northwest. It’s only 15-20km from the Portugal border, and it’s one of Spain’s newest and smallest D.O’s. In fact, it’s wild terrain, granitic soils, and rural settings are very similar to Portugal’s Dao region (directly west). Although there’s a long history of wine-producing here, very little wine is sold outside of the area.
The main red grapes of Salamanca are Rufete & Aragones (not to be confused with Tempranillo because it’s actually a different clone there), and the white grapes Rufete Blanco and Palomino. Red Rufete is a grape variety widely planted in neighboring Portugal where some producers call it Tinta Pinheira. It’s typically used in the Duoro and Dão to add some acidity to port and still wines when blended with the super fruity and concentrated Touriga National grape.
In Salamanca Rufete is often blended with Aragones where the wines have a bit of tannin and crunch, but some producers are making Rufete on its own, resulting in lighter, softer, and refreshing red wines. Rufete Blanco still remains somewhat of a mystery, and trying to find any info on the grape and its origin was difficult for even the locals to answer. I was told “it’s just always been growing here for many years, now shut up and have another piece of ham” to which I happily complied.
We started our visit by meeting La Zorra’s owner Agustin Maillo in the middle of his 60+ year old Rufete vineyard where he explained the granitic soils, grapes, and his wine region. Salamanca has very few independent wine producers. It’s a region dominated by cooperatives, and most of the wines are sold locally and are made primarily to be enjoyed with what Salamanca is best know for- its ham. But, after spending some time with Augustin, and tasting his wines, you soon learn that the wines should be recognized as well. He’s somewhat of a Maverick there and truly believes that his region has enormous potential. I agree.
La Zorra’s winery is located behind the family restaurant in the small town of Mogarraz. Augustin’s family has always made wine on a small-scale to sell locally, and for the restaurant, but over the past few years he has decided to sell more wine commercially. The winery is tiny, winemaking is minimal, and these guys know their vineyards quite well.
Here’s the lineup of what La Zorra produces:
Teso Rufete: 100% Rufete. Vinification: Temperature controlled fermentation with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Aged less than 4 months in French oak before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Bright cherry color with notes of ripe red fruit and green tea with a floral nose. The wine is light, fresh and balanced with a long finish and lively acidity.
La Zorra tinto is a 50-50 blend of Rufete and Aragones. Vinification: Temperature controlled fermentation with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Aged for 6 to 7 months in a combination of French and American oak barrels before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. This wine shows bright cherry color with violet hues. The nose is bursting with red fruit and sweet spices. On the palate the wine is expressive and fruity with ripe, elegant tannins.
Teso Blanco Rufete and Palamino. Vilification: Temperature controlled fermentation with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Aged under a thin layer of flor for 5 months in 3-year-old French oak barrels before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Bright golden color. The nose exhibits white fruit, toasted cereals and vanilla with aromatic herbs. The palate is fresh and lively with a marked and prolonged finish.