MADRID - Religion and wine – I have always thought it a good mix, historically and culturally, although it may be tempting to be a more assiduous follower of one over the other. When the vineyards of a stunningly restored XII century abbey in Castile & León’s Sardón de Duero deliver superb wine, it all comes together in a very felicitous way.

The XII century Abadia Retuerta. Courtesy of Bodegas Abadia Retuerta.

Abadia Retuerta is now making some of Spain’s most splendid wines, fabulous liquid incarnations of the Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes, with ventures into Petit Verdot and Sauvignon Blanc on the side. However, this is no miracle, but the result of enormous research and investment, with over 200 hectares of vines divided into 54 plots that have very distinct characteristics. The state-of-the-art winery is impeccable, with an ageing room for up to 5,000 casks carved into the side of a hill, providing natural temperature control in an area of cold winters and scorching summers. And, at the heart of it all lies the Romanesque abbey, with its cloister, chapterhouse and refectory. Declared a national monument in 1931, it has now been transformed into the most peaceful luxury hotel imaginable, where you can wander at will by candlelight, contemplating the joys of wine and food that surpass, I am sure, the fare meted out to the abbey’s previous inhabitants.

Inside the Abadia. 
Courtesy of Bodegas Abadia Retuerta.

We had earned our repose because our trip began in Madrid at the awesome wine shop and restaurant, Lavinia, where we led a chronological walk through the recent history of Abadia Retuerta’s wines, from their first vintage in 1996 to the latest releases of red wine from 2009 and their new 2011 white wine. What an excursion into individual Pago, or terroir, wines and what a treat it was to wade into bottles of such voluptuous structure.

Inside Abadia Retuerta’s Le Domaine restaurant, with the bodega’s Seleccion Especial
Courtesy of Bodegas Abadia Retuerta.

Pago Garduña from the Syrah is a particular favourite – well, how could I resist when their description of it is ‘serena elegancia’! Pago Negralada is classic Tempranillo at its most impressive, Pago Valdebellón is cool Cabernet Sauvignon, PV is spicy, aromatic Petit Verdot (only 1000 bottles are made each vintage), while Selección Especial is a glorious combination of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah. Oh, and by the way, the 2009s are wonderful although one should resist them for a few years, if humanly possible.