Way back in 1988, having been in the then embryonic specialised Spanish wine business in London for five years and weaned on all things Spanish by my wine and history writing father and cookery book writing mother, convinced that there was vinous life beyond Torres and Rioja, I embarked on an extensive journey round regional Spain.

The wines of the Pérez Pascuas family, were, even then, a benchmark of the recently created Ribera del Duero DO (1982), for until the release of the region’s first ever so-exciting modern wine (Pesquera 1985), this austere and rugged high altitude area of Castile had been known as a bastion of rural tradition.

Home of Vega Sicilia of course, this exalted outfit produced mythical rarely seen reds with (once upon a time) at least 10 years in oak, which was and still is largely accessible to just a privileged few. There is, for example, a verified story that Winston Churchill, entertained at a banquet in the Spanish Embassy, after due reflection over a long wine list, remarked: “My vote goes to this unknown claret.”

Entirely more typical were the dark but invariably lavish oak-aged wines of family wineries such as Ismael Arroyo and Torremilanos, not to mention the wines of the Peñafiel Cooparative – one of Spain’s first – whose special cuvée Protos was the poor man’s Vega Sicilia.

Today, of course, is another story, and there are currently no less than 302 wineries in the DO, which was revamped in 1990, and is some 120 kilometres wide at an average altitude of 800 metres above sea level, straddling four provinces: Valladolid, Burgos, Segovia, and Soria.

Pérez Pascuas is however without doubt the producer with the deepest family roots and longest history, and despite having a distinctly unremarkable history (go out there on the web and you will find mega ratings for their wines but a rather dull, standardised blurb to the effect that the winery was officially founded in 1980 by the three Pérez Pascuas brothers – Benjamín, José Manuel (gifted winemaker) and Adolfo – sons of Mauro).

Yet, on the one hand, their fans are as glitzy as any and cover an impressive timespan (ex-President politician José María Aznar, former Real Madrid and Spanish goalie Iker Casillas, contentious judge Baltasar Garzón, famous old time singer Manolo Escobar, ex-Barça footballer Michael Laudrup whose Danish wine company still look after imports there, mythical cyclist Miguel Induráin, and singer and quirky actor Miguel Bosé), and on the other, they are the only winemaking family I have ever come across to have a most impressive, diligent and exacting chronicler.

Castile is in many ways the heartland of Spanish Catholicism (note the capital C) and in his epic 200 page paean HOMBRES Y VINOS Los Pérez Pascuas de Pedrosa del Duero (Siglos XVI-XX1), Fray Valentín de la Cruz – published 2004 – takes us on an elegiac trip and account of its people, history, geography, viticulture and soils virtually village by village.

From this – and he incorporates the river Duero almost as a character (‘Padre Duero’) – we not only learn many age-old truths regarding country people and man’s universal communing and respectful relationship with nature, but also of the detailed unions of the local Pérez family (of Burgos village Pedrosa, founded in 1727 with an initial population of just 42!) with that of the Pascuas (originally Pasquas) of Fuentesauco de Fuentidueña – a tiny village near Segovia which even today apparently has a population of around 310) as of around 1645, that would result in founder Mauro Pérez Pascuas pioneering the winemaking side of things in the early 1920s, given that his elder brother had just died of flu and as the only varón of an important agricultural family he was excused military service.

So, one distant Sunday back in August 1988 and on my own because my son Elliot, very nearly 3 at the time, had just come down with mumps, I arrived in hot and dusty Pedrosa and – having previously stopped in neighbouring Roa to ask directions and gulp down a beer in the midst of a picturesque religious procession – found myself walking across a dry field in the shimmering sun to greet the member of the family I had agreed the visit with, a small man in a beret, who, pitchfork in hand, was harvesting barley and grudgingly interrupted his labours to open a few bottles for me in a nearby barn.

Today’s installations are opulent and luxurious – just outside the village and a stone’s throw away from perhaps better known Roa – comprising around 150 hectares divided into some 18 to 20 parcels on mixed sandy clay soils with elements of chalk and underlying limestone and at an altitude of between 800 and 850 metres, which by virtue of the continental nature of the area affords major differences between day and night time temperatures, resulting in intensely flavoured reds with a pronounced freshness and brisk lively acidity. The official winemaker, since 1989, is Benjamín’s son, the meticulous and supremely down to earth José Manuel. Production is now around half a million bottles spread across several styles, with exports to some 44 countries which represents around 45 per cent of the total sales. Exult!

Cepa Gavilán 2016 (14%)

The simplest style on offer, first vintage 2001, this is pure Tinto Fino from 12 to 15 year old vines with 6 months each in 2nd or 3rd use French and American barriques. Fab, dense purple colour, with tangy vanilla oak, lively red cherry and plum fruit. Fresh and simple with good acidity and brisk tannins. Has impressive finesse for such a young wine. Production 180,000 bottles Yield 5,500 kilos hectare

Viña Pedrosa Crianza 2016 (14%)

Just out… Also pure Tinto Fino but from older, 25 to 35 year old vines with 12 months in American barriques and 6 in French – of which one third is new. Brilliant violet ruby in hue, this is altogether riper with a zingy red cherry character and much more substance, complemented further by notes of cacao, cranberry, jam, and with more assertive but still very friendly tannins, with alluring hints of coffee and toffee. Fresh too and of a similar, medium intensity. Production 250,000 bottles Yield 5,000 kilos hectare

Viña Pedrosa Crianza 2015 (14.5%)

Just sold out… With a similarly dark colour to the above, this was a warmer vintage and is smokier with wild herbal elements (curry lurks in the mix) and is altogether more savoury in character but, yet again, lively and in this case slightly astringent red cherries dance throughout.

Viña Pedrosa Reserva 2014 (14.5%)

Even older Tinto Fino – vines of 40 to 50 years old – with 1 year in US oak and 1 in French, of which 50% is new. Colour still dense but ruddier; aromas of red fruit compote intermingle with elegant French oak; lean and quite incisive on the palate with a pronounced chargrilled oak character but inky in texture with no uncertain minerality. Very concise and with great, balanced tannins. Production 69,000 bottles Yield 4,000 kilos hectare

Viña Pedrosa Gran Reserva 2011 (14.5%)

This is a wonderful old wine from a spectacular vintage and may well now be impossible to find. Made from 60 year old Tinto Fino vines and with 10% Cabernet, its oaking was as above. Still very dark but with pale edges; it´s savoury, herbal, rustic, with a major dash of chocolate, a suggestion of raisins and notes of dark cherry marmalade mutating into kirsch. Good acidity and freshness too, with a suggestion of strawberry liqueur in its very long finish. Absolutely at its best; by the time you read this the Read family will have exulted in an Xmas bottle – 1 of the just 4,230 produced!

Pérez Pascuas Gran Reserva 2009 (14%)

This equally spectacular vintage, which resulted in more graceful wines (2011 was considerably warmer), saw the rare release of the winery’s most spectacular and limited cuvée. Low yield (I kilo per vine) Tinto Fino from 6 hectares of 87 year old vines amounted to 26 mainly US barricas of which around a third were new. Deep garnet in colour, with a balsamic, pruny and slightly herbal character, there’s still quite a lot of tannin here but this is one for aficionados of old, mature wines as its intriguingly complex (bitter sweet amarone and treacle notes abound) and eye-wateringly priced. Production 2,729 bottles.