If it comes to really powerful red wines, I have come to love what the Spanish do with the Tempranillo variety. At their best these wines are powerful yet not overpowering, bringing the thunder without forgetting the elegance. Bodegas Aalto is one of the wineries that got a lot of praise over the past few years - which is remarkable seeing as the only got into business around 1998. On the other hand, it may not be so remarkable after all as the people behind Bodegas Aalto are well respected wine professionals: winemaker Mariano Garcia (who came to fame at Ribera del Duero's Vega Sicilia) and Javier Zaccagnini (formerly head of the 'Consejo Regulador', the regulatory body of the Ribera del Duero appellation).
With financial backing from investors such as the Sherry company Osborne, they bought vineyards in the Ribera del Duero, some of them with 60 year old Tinto Fino vines (a Tempranillo clone), and started restoring them. The first wine, the 1998 vintage, was not as good as hoped and was never commercialised, but the later vintages put the winery into the premier league of Spanish winemakers.
The 2002 Aalto, and mind you, this is not their most prestigious 'PS' but the 'basic' wine, impresses instantly with its intensely dark cherry-ruby red. Despite its age I would recommend to decant it or to slowly drink it over a day or two - initially the nose is dominated by fruit and a bit of smooth oak, which makes it almost too pleasant. However, after a few hours a combination of wood, leather, tobacco/smoke and a very slight hint of cocoa powder make for a very good balance to the dark berry and marinated cherry fruit. On the tongue the sensation is very similar, with still quite powerful (yet smooth enough to be enjoyable) tannins that make the finish less fruity, with a drier, leathery edge.
A wine with lots of substance, powerful enough to deliver a good punch, but covered with just enough of a soft glove not to knock you out. The 2002 Aalto can easily age a few years more, but is already a joy as it is now.