In a year of locking down and looking inwards, broaden your wine horizons and discover Ribera del Duero. Home to some of the most sought-after and lauded wines in Spain where the Tempranillo grape is king, Ribera del Duero produces exceptional wine and challenges the status quo.
Ribera del Duero is a little rebellious, intense and stands tall (the highest average elevation in all Europe at 800 metre-plus altitude). The region is set a couple of hours North of Madrid where it flanks the Douro River. With plenty of experience and a burgeoning array of styles, it has a CV that reads well and the region continues to go from strength to strength.
In the Middle Ages monasteries were established by Benedictine and Cistercian monks who had earmarked the area as suitable for vine growing. Their legacy left vast, sprawling underground cellars (some to a depth of 12 metres) that are still in use to this day. During the 15th century, wine quality was codified by law and in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Spanish Empire started the exportation of the wines of Ribera del Duero.
Fast forward to the latter half of the 20th century, winegrowers were selling their grapes to large cooperatives that churned out mass-produced bulk wine.
In the 1970's, only one winery, Vega Sicilia stood out. It was winemaker Alejandro Fernández, in deciding to make pure Tempranillo (known locally as Tinto Fino) from the village of Pesquera del Duero, that really changed the game for the region. His wine, Tinto Pesquera, gained international success which spearheaded a surge of producers to make their own wines too. Together, they promoted the abundant potential and quality of the region. Their efforts garnered a Denominación de Origen (DO) status in 1982. The replanting of derelict vineyards, significant investments, and state-of-the-art wineries followed.
The area now boasts over 270 producers and is heralded as the jewel in the crown of the autonomous region of Castilla y León.
What to expect
The wines of the DO are 99% red with the remaining 1% attributed to rosé. They are renowned for their power and intensity of flavour (think Napa Cabernet power). They are very food-friendly when young and harmonious in later life with very long ageing potential. You can expect plenty of ripe red fruit aromas, oak characteristics (leather, smoke, and coffee), a medium to full body, and a healthy hit of alcohol.
There is now a new wave of producers toying with the norms of style from this region and turning a blind eye to the rules that are tied to the old guard such as Gran Reserva.
With 32 different soil types, diversity in aspect, and vine age, the new generation is focusing on their microclimates and producing wines that reflect this. A region that offered up the huge punches and uppercuts of wine style is now getting lighter on its feet and redefining its identity. As with Fernández breaking out and making his own wine, innovation and progressive thinking continue in Ribera del Duero. The wines here are already of high quality with plenty of prestige for a young DO but, most importantly, there’s clearly much more to come.
Winebuyers has over 300 exciting wines from Ribera Del Duero to choose from. Browse selection.