4 Monos is a winery located in Cadalso de los Vidrios, a small village an hour’s drive west of Madrid, in the mountainous region of Sierra de Gredos. Sierra de Gredos is a mountainous wine region, overlapping three designations of origin, DO Méntrida, DO Vinos de Madrid, and DO Castilla y León. Its unique concentration of old vines, mostly Garnacha, sandy and granite soils, make this unique terroir one of the most promising wine regions in Spain.
The project of 4 friends
4 Monos, at the beginning, is the project of 4 friends, Javier Garcia, Laura Robles, David Velasco and David Moreno. “4 Monos” literally means “four monkeys” in Spanish. It is an expression used to talk about people who have not yet accomplished anything, in short, who do not take themselves seriously. It says a lot about the modesty with which the four friends started their project.
I met Laura Robles during a trip to Madrid and I had the chance to visit the winery with her. Today, 4 Monos has four hectares of vineyards, all organically grown. They also source from several other growers who share the same philosophy (representing an additional 6 hectares of vines). The estate also uses some biodynamic farming practices.
A unique terroir
I was struck by the beauty of the vineyards I discovered, dotted with blooming olive and almond trees and surrounded by mountains. 4 Monos produced its first vintage in 2009. It was a harvest of albillo, a once-forgotten native white grape variety that is now regaining some of its glory. Unfortunately the harvest was a little late and 4 Monos decided to produce a dessert wine. The first commercialized vintage thus dates from 2010.
In 2016, the estate produced about 30,000 bottles, which is still a rather confidential production. The vineyards of 4 Monos are located in two municipalities: San Martín de Valdeiglesias and Cadalso de los Vidrios. San Martin is a rather hot area, with a Mediterranean climate, on rather coarse granitic and sandy soils, which give rustic wines, with rather high alcohol levels, but with a nice minerality. The old Grenache vines are 80 years old and are at an altitude of over 800 meters. Cadalso, on the other hand, at an even higher elevation, is a 60-year-old Grenache vineyard on much finer sandy soils, which produces more elegant wines, with more fruit. According to Laura, there is almost no soil here, almost only rock.
Albillo, an Underestimated White Grape Variety
4 Monos produces mainly red wine, but also grows a small amount of albillo (or albillo real), a white grape variety native to the region (0.6 hectares). It is believed to be a very old variety that survived the Arab occupation of the region, when most of the vines were pulled out to plant table grapes.
Albillo is very difficult to cultivate, with a very late maturity. The vine is very low, with many branches. It also offers very low yields with only 900 to 1,000 kilos of grapes per hectare. The production of albillo in 2015 did not exceed 900 bottles! It should not be confused with the albillo mayor, grown in the Ribera del Duero region, which is a completely different grape variety. The albillo often gives rather bold wines with little acidity. So it is not easy to get good results from this variety! 4 Monos also grows some carignan and syrah.
4 Monos Wines
4 Monos produces a white wine and 4 red wines. The white is obviously a 100% albillo, from vines that are almost 100 years old! The wine is aged in 3rd or 4th use oak barrels for about 10 months. It is a wine that smells of almonds and white flowers, with a very round mouthfeel, and very little acidity. I often tend to find wines that lack acidity a bit flat. And yet in the case of this wine, it is not disturbing. A rather atypical wine, which will take you out of your comfort zone, but which I personally liked very much. Very original and probably very versatile too. Laura suggested I try it with grilled vegetables.
4 Monos produces four red wines. A blend of Syrah and Grenache and a 100% Carignan in a natural style (less than 7g of sulfur), which I did not taste. The other two wines, La Danza del Viento and La Isilla are the two best wines, made from old Grenache vines. La Danza comes from the San Martín de Valdeiglesias vineyard and La Isilla from the Cadalso de Los Vidrios vineyard. Both wines are made from grapes that are fermented at low temperatures and then aged for 12-13 months in 300-500 liter barrels. I only tasted La Danza del Viento. Nice floral nose. Powerful wine with well marked tannins, while being endowed with a beautiful freshness. Still too young, however, it should be given time to beautifully evolve!
I loved the time I spent with Laura. You can tell that she and her partners are truly passionate and in love with the region. Their wines are excellent and they have only been making wine for a few years, so 4 Monos is definitely a producer to keep an eye on! As is the Sierra de Gredos region, with its almost century-old Grenache vines and its breathtaking landscapes!