Los locos

Winemaking in Spain is generally rather conservative, so when someone breaks out of the conventional mould and heads in a different direction, they are usually referred to as loco.

Even something that could be considered a natural evolutionary process, such as adopting an unconventional label, is often frowned on.

At the end of the day it all comes down to resentment - envy by those who are nervous about appearing to not accept the pattern for such matters.

God's grape

The choice of grape variety can gives rise to perceptions of being different for the sake of it. This is not the case as far as the Ortega brothers are concerned.

It is said the Tempranillo grape (Spain's most widespread) was made by God and Pinot Noir by the devil, encapsulating how the variety is delicate and requires more pampering than, say, Tempranillo or Palomino. So the idea of cultivating it at a thousand metres in the extreme weather conditions that characterise the Duero region, was risky.

But it worked, and from a project that commenced in 1985, the Alta Pavina bodega has justifiably carved out a niche for itself. It takes a lot of guts, or foolishness, to plant a grape variety in a region where it has never prospered before.

In the 14th century, the Dukes of Burgundy prohibited the cultivation of any grape variety in their region other than the Pinot Noir and, without of course any scientific evidence, the decision was more luck than good judgement. Something that is not so rare.

When Ronda bodega Los Aguilares took the same risk a decade ago, the result was equally unexpected: the top international award three years running in blind tastings against 2,000 other wines made with the Pinot Noir grape from all over the world.

Frankly the most commendable element of these excellent wines is their value-for-money rating. Although there are several non-Pinot Noir blends in the selection, such as the superb Pavina White (Verdejo: seven euros), Pavina Red (25% Pinot Noir: ten euros), Pago La Pavina 2012 (30% Pinot Noir: nine euros) it is the outstanding Alta Pavina Citius 2009 (100% Pinot Noir) that really demonstrates the wine-maker's skills. (Birdie Wines).