Barranco Oscuro, the Valenzuela family's winery, is nestled in the Sierra Contraviesa in the Andalusian Alpujarras, a good 1000 metres above the nearby sea. The area is still remote, wild and desert-like to this day. This is one of the reasons why Sergio Leone filmed the showdown for his spaghetti classic Spiel mir das Lied vom Tod not far from here (in the Desierto del Tabernas).

The area around the real town of Barranco Oscuro looks similar to Leone's fictional railway station Sweetwater: the ground is brown, sandy and broken up by rocks, the sky is almost always cloudless and bright blue. Unlike in Leone's great western, however, the vegetation is not characterised by isolated cacti, but by small, squat vines planted far apart from each other (due to the chronic lack of water). During the 1980s, Manuel Valenzuela planted these successively on the slopes surrounding his estate, which he acquired in 1979 after many years of travelling through Spain's major cities. Manuel was born in the 1940s as the penultimate of nine children at the foot of the Sierra Nevada in a rural family that sent him to study in Madrid. He became a chemist, moved to France and later to Barcelona before deciding at the end of the 1970s to turn his back on the city and chemistry and become a farmer again.

31 Grape Varieties

At the time, Barranco Oscuro (the dark ravine) included several hectares of almond trees that had been planted on the undulating slopes after phylloxera had conquered the mountainous world of the Alpujarras and wiped out the vines. Manuel had little desire for almonds and began to replant the terrain with vines, planting the most important national (Tempranillo, Garnacha) and international (Syrah, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) varieties alongside the old varieties of the region (Vigiriega, Pedro Ximenez, Montùa, Moscatel, Tintorera). In 1984 he bottled his first wine, in 1985 he was already so firm in his views and approach that he decided to sell his wines and in 1987 he started with the first single-varietal versions, which made him famous far beyond the Alpujarras. 

Organic since 79 

Manuel, who has been actively supported for years by his son Lorenzo and his wife Luisa, has left no doubt from day one of his wine-growing activities that he has absolutely no interest in conventional cultivation.

As a result, its soil and vines have never been exposed to pesticides or fertilisers.
The yields are low, which has to do with the sparse rainfall on the one hand and the altitude on the other. The nearby sea exerts its influence particularly in summer, when clouds occasionally stray up into the sierra and cover the fields with dew and moisture in the morning.  

Luz - the meaning of light 

The vineyards of the Valenzuelas are almost always 1000 metres or more above sea level, which has consequences. As a result, the wines have an astonishing acidity for this latitude (they are at the same altitude as Tunis). But that's not all. At an altitude of over 900 metres, the light also changes massively, becomes more intense and leads to a change in photosynthesis, which in turn has an effect on the plant, the grape skin, the fruit flesh and ultimately on the aromas.  

All of these components are obviously noticeable in the wines, of which the Valenzuelas have quite a few. In addition to a handful of classics (the Pino Rojo, Brut Nature, Varetuo, Tres Uves, the 1368 and the Rubiyat), the range is complemented by ongoing experiments. The approach is completely undogmatic, trying out whatever comes to mind and not shying away from radically undermining expectations. The only common denominator is the renunciation of any additives - the Valenzuelas are always concerned with letting the expressiveness of their terrain and varieties have the last word and taking themselves out of the game as far as possible.

The Wines of Barranco Oscuro