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Pingus: The Importance
Few wines have had as profound an impact on their homeland as Pingus. One of the world’s most elite wines, it rivals even the Bordeaux first growths for both prestige and price with a cult following to match.
A ‘garagiste’ style wine produced from ancient Tempranillo, Pingus first became the stuff of legend when the fledgling 1995 vintage debuted on Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate with 96-100 point score. This staggering achievement was rendered even more astounding given that the wine came from Ribera del Duero, a region hitherto known for mass-produced ‘bulk’ wine (with the notable exception of the inimitable Vega Sicilia). Robert Parker did not mince his words when assessing the 1995 Pingus’s quality:
“It is one of the greatest and most exciting young red wines I have ever tasted. I am not kidding when I say this might be the greatest young red wine I have ever tasted from Spain.”
Fast-forward to the present day and Pingus has become a gold-standard in winemaking, not just in Ribera del Duero or Spain but worldwide, sporting a handful of perfect 100 point scores and many more in the high nineties from Parker. These accolades, coupled with a miniscule production of fewer than 500 cases a vintage have led Pingus to be one of the world’s most covetable wines.
Pingus: The Insight
At the heart of Pingus’s story are its vines. The wine comes purely from biodynamically farmed old Tempranillo vines, with some plants exceeding 65 years in age. The wine is fermented in large wooden casks and is largely left alone once it is in barrel. Founder and winemaker Peter Sisseck is adamant that this is the secret to Pingus’s success and is vocal about the purity of his vines.
Three wines are currently produced at Dominio de Pingus. The first is of course the legendary flagship, of which just 500 cases are made a vintage, with none made at all in poorer years (none was produced in 2002). The top vintages of Pingus are undoubtedly the 2004 and 2012, both with 100 points from Robert Parker, but others such as the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010 are all similarly incredible wines.
Pingus’s second wine is the Flor de Pingus. Made of 100% Tempranillo sourced from a handful of estate parcels in the La Horra region, it is crafted from 35+ year old vines that are also owned by Peter Sisseck. Flor de Pingus is crafted with all the same philosophy, making it an excellent insight into the domain’s winemaking: Jay Miller of the Wine Advocate called it “a very close approximation of Pingus at a fraction of the price.” In fact, in some years Flor de Pingus has been known to rank hot on the heels of the flagship wine: in 2004 it scored at a staggering 98 points and in 2008 it came in at 96, just a point less than Pingus’s 97.
The final and newest wine from the Dominio de Pingus stable is the PSI. Sisseck began PSI as side project in 2007 with the intention of making the most of Ribera del Duero’s many old vine sites and the huge surplus of grapes unused by their owners. The project has so far been a success, with the 2012 PSI earning a highly respectable 92+ points from the Wine Advocate – not bad for grapes that would have otherwise gone to waste. In 2010, the production of PSI doubled to 16,600 cases a vintage.
Pingus: The Background
After a successful career in France making wines in Bordeaux, Danish winemaker Peter Sisseck arrived in Spain on a whim in 1990, settling in Ribera del Duero. The odds were seemingly stacked against him. The region had become known for focusing on quantity rather than quality and seemed unlikely to ever challenge the mighty Rioja. Sisseck was determined and, on purchasing a tiny plot of neglected 60-year-old vines, the Pingus story began.
His first ever vintage, the 1995, produced 325 cases of wine – 75 of which were allocated to the U.S. market and packed up for shipping. Some weeks later, that shipment sank, with all of the 75 cases disappearing near the Azores in the North Atlantic. While Sisseck’s parcel was not the only wine shipment on board – nor the most sizeable – the loss represented a staggering proportion of the fledgling vineyard’s production and seemed a devastating blow to the Pingus dream.
Or so Sisseck assumed. In reality, the sudden disappearance of nearly a quarter of the wine’s miniscule production rendered it unexpectedly collectable. Demand for Pingus surged almost overnight, rendering it one of the most sought-after Spanish wines. This spike in interest was a catalyst, but it would be unfair to overlook the quality of Dominio de Pingus’ wine, which has proved its excellence time and time again and which now rightly holds the crown of Spain’s foremost cult wine.
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