Xavier Ausàs would have smiled when he saw Luis Gutiérrez describe his 2017 Interpretación as a “Ribera del Duero of yesteryear”. As the former Vega Sicilia winemaker (a role he held down for 17 years), he can hardly avoid being inspired by history. Nonetheless, in a region known primarily for powerful, long-lived reds, Xavier knows that muscle in Ribera del Duero is a given. He therefore focuses on polishing this power with finesse, tension and structure. To achieve his aim, Xavier works with several old-vine, high-grown parcels concentrated around Ribera’s central belt connecting the villages of Valbuena de Duero, Peñafiel and Pesquera—an area he calls the “triangle of chalk”. As a blend, Interpretación relies in part on the working relationships Xavier has nurtured over the years with growers he met while at Alión, where he was installed as head winemaker at the precocious age of 24. Xavier varies his purchases and winemaking according to the character of the vintage. “I’ve known some of these vineyards for 30 years, so I understand what they contribute to a blend,” he says, “be it tannins, acidity, elegance or structure.”Aside from his vineyards’ altitude and rocky soils, what binds these sites are the old, deep-rooted Tempranillo bush vines that produce balanced grapes needing no additions (it is commonplace for producers to acidify in Ribera de Duero). The resulting wine is deep and intense, still a modern expression and a wine built for aging, yet it remains stylishly structured, full of expressive earth and spice notes balanced by fine-grained texture and a long, chalky framework. It’s a powerful yet classy, layered and rewarding Ribera del Duero.