Danish-born, Bordeaux-trained Peter Sisseck was dispatched to Spain in 1990, to the then obscure area, Ribera del Duero. He was there to work on a short-term project which, subsequently, enjoyed much praise – Hacienda Monasterio. A victim of his own success, Peter found himself in total charge.
Hacienda Monasterio established, Peter Sisseck started to get very twitchy. Instinct, born of his Bordeaux experience, called him to seek another challenge. Although relatively unknown, as a region, Ribera del Duero has a long viticultural history and Peter believed that it had the potential to produce Spain’s finest wines. He sought out parcels of ancient vines, on perfectly exposed terroir, which he instinctively knew would produce something exciting, if in small quantities. The stage was set for the arrival of Pingus – a trailblazer which had the world at its feet from the outset.
The Ribera del Duero region lies to the east of Valladolid in the upper reaches of the Duero river, which becomes the Douro when it crosses the Portugese border. Planted at altitudes of more than 800m above sea level, the vineyard of Dominio de Pingus enjoys warm sunny days and refreshingly cool nights during the growing period. The swings in temperature make for an extended growing period, ensuring complexity and vibrant freshness in the wines.
From squat, gnarled, Tempranillo vines (known locally as Tinta del Païs) of sixty years and more, Pingus was created, the first vintage being 1995. No-one had ever tasted anything like it before. It soared to worldwide acclaim, as did Peter’s reputation as a truly gifted winemaker. Pingus treads a narrow but rewarding path, indisputably true to its Spanish origins, it is nonetheless shaped by modernity, hugely concentrated and rich in spicy, toasted oak. The harvest is divided into three lots; a third is vinified whole, a third is de-stemmed by hand and the remainder is de-stemmed by hand and then crushed.
Fermentation temperatures are low and malolactic fermentation is in wood. The production of Pingus is absolutely tiny, with yields of around 17hl/ha. Pingus therefore is self-limiting as a means of earning a living and, on its own, would not be enough to keep the agile mind and energy of Peter Sisseck fully occupied.
Flor de Pingus
Chance offered Peter Sisseck a pragmatic option to increase production, spread his risk and protect the integrity of Pingus. The grapes which become Flor de Pingus come from different plots of land and from younger vines. Flor de Pingus exhibits a very different style, albeit bearing the Peter Sisseck hallmark. Flor de Pingus is a very great wine, in its own right. The vines for Flor de Pingus clock in at a very respectable average age of thirty-five years, with the younger vines planted at between 6,000 and 10,000 vines per hectare. Dense plantation forces them to compete with one another and their roots travel deep into the soil for nutrients, adding further complexity.
Both Pingus and Flor de Pingus are in great demand and have improved as Peter Sisseck embraced organic principles and, increasingly, the disciplines of biodynamic viticulture. Pingus is fully biodynamic and Flor is moving in that direction.
Perhaps Peter Sisseck had a sense of déjà vu when he saw Flor's popularity and recognition spiralling upwards, with attendant supply problems. One solution would have been to buy in grapes and/or wine to increase production but Peter was reluctant to pursue that route. He had however identified interesting sites from which he would have been delighted to buy, different terroirs with which he would like to experiment – but not for Flor. A germ of an idea was sown, which would ultimately blossom as Ψ PSI. This project will be drastically different from Flor and Pingus, in both revisiting and reinventing tradition. Large wooden vats will be used and oak will be underplayed. Peter Sisseck will experiment with contrasting and complementary vinification methods the better to express the characterful fruit and texture of Ribera del Duero wines. The first vintage was 2007 so the project is at an embryonic stage. Peter aims to work with a network of growers, encouraging, helping and advising them on the challenges of organic viticulture. Corney & Barrow are honoured to be involved from the outset of such a new challenge and absolutely delighted to have been appointed exclusive agents for the United Kingdom.
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