Altolandon is based just outside the village of Landete in the province of Cuenca in the east of Spain. The Mediterranean is only about 100km away, but here at over 1,000m up on the plateau and with the Sierra de Mira mountains looming in the distance, the beach feels like a world away. In this corner of DO Manchuela, Rosalía Molina and her husband founded one of the DO’s most well-known and respected wineries.
Like many wineries in Spain, Altolandon’s was a modest start. About twenty years ago Rosalia and her husband took over her grandparents’ house back in the village and shoved the furniture aside to make way for a modest collection of inox fermentation tanks and wooden barrels. From those humble beginnings, they slowly expanded, taking on new plots each year as the region’s viticulturists gradually retired. They now oversee about 200 hectares of vineyard and the winery itself has recently added a beautiful new, 1,000m2 barrel room to look after all their wonderful French oak.
The winery work with a wide variety of grape varieties, including some you wouldn’t expect to find out here like Godello and Albariño. But for us, the prize variety is the native Bobal.
A thick-skinned variety, resistant to drought and capable of adding a nice rich colour to red wines, Bobal was primarily used as a blending ingredient for much of the bulk wine exported to France in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Once farmed as a high yield grape blended into bulk wine, Bobal’s popularity in single varietal wines is well and truly on the rise. Altolandon’s delicious Rayuelo is packed with fruit, herbs and balsamic notes. With its fresh, floral flavours, you can almost sense the high plains and the meseta winds swirling through the glass.
Altitude plays an important part in the use of Bobal here. At 1,100 metres above sea level, these are some of Spain’s highest plots, and the temperature difference between day and night ensures the Bobal grapes have time to relax and ripen at a steady pace, locking in acidity and enhancing the flavours and aromas that winemakers at lower altitudes and in warmer climates can often struggle to maintain.
Organic production is at the heart of Altolandon’s philosophy, they strictly adhere to organic farming processes and all their wines are bottled with the EU Organic label. Nature also lends a hand. At such high altitude, and sitting exposed on the plains, the vineyards at Altolandon get plenty of wind, which is good for the health of the vines. It keeps the plants aerated as they ripen and helps stave off fungal disease. That means the team don’t need any chemical pesticides to keep the vines healthy.
Rosalía is also very focused on the wider environmental impact of what she does. While not certified biodynamic the winery follows basic biodynamic farming principles, like reusing compost for fertilizer. It all helps to let the vine and the terrain express themselves in their wines.