One of the most highly-regarded pieces of land in Ribera del Duero, the estate of Villacreces sits adjacent to Vega Sicilia along the Duero and at the center of the golden mile – a cluster of vineyards and estates considered by many critics to be the best in Valladolid if not the entire DO. There is written evidence that the first vines were planted on this estate in the 13th Century. During the 14th Century, it was run by Saint Pedro de Villacreces.
Later on, with its perfect conditions for prayer and retreat, it became a monastery for Franciscan Friars to see contemplative solitude. In the 20th Century, the property belonged to a wealthy aristocratic family from Valladolid, who spent their holidays and weekends here. In the early 1970s, 40 hectares of vines were planted, which has now been increased to 60. Including a 200-year-old forest, the estate comprises a total of 115 hectares.
We have worked with Finca Villacreces since the early 1990s and when we had to be selective of what we chose to import. The estate was a diamond in the rough with untidy vineyards and inconsistent cellar practices. Despite these drawbacks, we were not alone in finding something special in this terruño within a bend of the Duero, and some of the most promising parcels had already been leased to more famous neighbors. So when word got out that the estate had been sold, we were nervous that the new owners would incautiously modernize the property and strip it of its unique charms.
Luckily for everyone, it was the Antón family – owners of Izadi in Rioja – who purchased the estate and invested in revitalizing the property and cellars. Most of the vines were not well-tended, so while yields were low, the quality was uneven. The first step in rescuing the vineyards was to switch to sustainable and organic practices, which culminated with organic certification in 2017.
Next was utilizing the access rights to the Duero, dating back to the time when the property was a monastic retreat to nurse the vines to their full potential gradually, all while working the soils to force the roots deeper. The final step was to counter the vegetative vigor of drip irrigation by carefully managing the canopy. The results are healthy vines that are less dependent on irrigation, revitalized soils, deeper root systems, and more self-regulating plants than before.
In the cellar, the Antón family removed the old wooden fermentation vats replacing them with stainless steel and new French oak vats. The barrel stocks were completely replaced with new French and American oak barrels. Over time the percentage of new barrels has decreased, and more of the wine is being aged in foudres and well-seasoned oak.
There are three cuvées made at Finca Villacreces, each vintage. Pruno is sourced from the sandier soils of the estate vineyard, those parcels closest to the Duero river, and older and younger vine fruit from the estate vineyards situated above the river on a thin layer of clay over sand and gravel soils. The estate Ribera del Duero comes from the oldest estate vines planted on clay over sand and gravel. Nebro is made from a single 1.2-hectare parcel of pre-phylloxera vines in the neighboring subzone of Burgos.
2918 Finca Villacreces Pruno Reviews
Suggested Retail Price $21.00
92 Pointz James Suckling
A little jammy on the nose with plum, vanilla and some cherry undertones. Full-bodied and layered with chewy, juicy tannins and a flavorful finish. Quite a bit of wood at the end. Drink now.
91 Pointz Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
The entry-level here is the 2018 Pruno, which follows the line of the 2016. It’s mostly Tempranillo with 9% Cabernet Sauvignon fermented for three weeks and matured in French barrels for 11 months. It’s clean and quite fruit-driven, approachable and juicy, with integrated oak. Very pleasant, with very good freshness.
2016 Finca Villacreces Ribera del Duero Reviews
Suggested Retail Price $45.00
A blend of 86% Tempranillo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Merlot.
93 Pointz James Suckling
A red that offers a wealth of plum, chocolate, and walnut character. Smoky with redwood undertones. Full body, chewy tannins, and a flavorful finish. Needs time to soften. Try after 2022.
92 Pointz Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
The 2016 Finca Villacreces was produced to showcase the essence of the estate, mixing grapes from different soils fermented and aged separately and then blended into a combination of 88% Tempranillo, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Merlot that fermented in concrete and oak vats and matured in 225- and 500-liter French oak barrels for 15 months. I was expecting more freshness here, but I found ripe black fruit and something earthy/organic reminiscent of peat and coal, plenty of fine-grained tannins and ripe and earthy flavors. It’s still quite oaky. Surprisingly enough, the 2017 showed better… 71,242 bottles and 535 magnums produced. It was bottled in July 2018.