Nestled amongst the hills and castles of the Duero valley are the vineyards of Ribera del Duero. Winemaking is a long-held tradition in this part of Spain dating back 2000 years to the time of the Romans. Despite this heritage, the wines from Ribera del Duero are often overlooked compared to more illustrious regions in countries like France, Italy and California. Meaning that Ribera del Duero produce some stunning wines and great value for money. Our complete guide will tell you all you need to know about this hidden gem of a region.
Where is Ribera del Duero?
Situated two hours north of Madrid within the historic Castilla y León region, the vineyards of Ribera del Duero stretch for over 70 miles along the River Duero through the provinces of Valladolid, Burgos, Segovia, and Soria.
Winemaking in Ribera del Duero dates back over 2000 years but has grown dramatically since the region was awarded DO status in 1982. Back in 1982, there were only 9 wineries in operation covering 15000 acres of vineyards, this has swelled to more than 300 wineries today and 2300 wine brands with 55000 acres of vineyards.
What is Ribera del Duero known for?
Ribera del Duero is situated in Spains largest autonomous region, Castilla y León. The history of the region is one of conflict. Having been ruled by the Romans the region was then captured and held by the Moors for several centuries. In the 15th century, the Moors were defeated and Spain was once more a united country. Dozens of castles were built to defend the region over the centuries, many of these castles survive to this day and help to drive Ribera del Duero’s tourism industry. A great example is the stunning hilltop castle in the town of Peñafiel. With walls 200m long surrounding the three-storey keep, Peñafiel is a sight to behold.
Wine has been a key part of Ribera del Duero’s history too. Starting with the Romans over 2000 years ago winemaking has been integral to the region. In the 12th Century Benedictine monks brought in new viniculture methods and the winemaking tradition has continued to grow since then.
What is Ribera del Duero wine?
Since 1982 Ribera del Duero wines have been granted the Denomination of Origin status. This stipulates where Ribera del Duero wines can be made, how they are made and what they are made from.
Ribero del Duero must be made along a 70 mile stretch of the River Duero incorporating the provinces of Valladolid, Burgos, Segovia, and Soria. This 70 mile stretch of the valley features a diverse mix of soils and elevations. A dry climate and an extreme temperate range, which can differ by 50 degrees from day to night, produce perfect growing conditions for the predominant tempranillo grapes.
The wines from Ribera del Duero must be at least 75% Tempranillo for them to be recognized by the D.O.
There are 4 classifications of Ribera del Duero D.O. wines:
Cosecha: This is the entry-level classification and simply means the wine comes from the Ribera del Duero region and meets the criteria set by the appellation.
Crianza: Must be aged for at least two years, with one year in oak.
Reserva: Must be aged for at least three years, with one year in oak and the rest of the time in the bottle.
Gran Reserva: Must be aged for at least five years, with two years in oak and the rest of the time in the bottle.
What grape is Ribera del Duero made from?
To be classified as Ribera del Duero a wine must contain 75% Tempranillo grapes. Known locally as Tinto Fino, the Tempranillo from the old vines of Ribera del Duero are thick-skinned black grapes with lots of tannins. The grapes are well suited to the extreme terrior and climate, being able to develop fruit quickly during the short growing season. This produces complex wines with good structure, balanced acidity and dark fruits, which have good ageing potential.
Whilst the limelight is on the Tinto Fino – Tempranillo grapes, several other varieties are grown in the region. Red grapes such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and grenache all feature. In terms of white grapes, Albillo Mayor is the most prominent white grape and is often used in blends with red grapes to enhance the mouthfeel of the wine.
What is the difference between Rioja and Ribera del Duero?
Rioja and Ribera del Duero are two different Spanish wine-producing regions. There are some similarities in the Tempranillo grape which dominates the red wine from both regions. However, the rules for which grapes can be used and in what proportion are different in both regions.
There are also similarities in the classifications of the two wines, with Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva used to signify different quality levels and the rules to qualify for each quality level are broadly equivalent across both regions.
Featured Ribera del Duero Producers
Pago de los Capellanes
Founded in 1996, Pago de los Capellanes owns 125ha of vineyards nestled around 8 ancient walnut trees making up 35 different plots, each of which are vinified separately in their state of the art winery. Wines of class and elegance which improve over time, Pago de los Capellanes is now revered as one of Spain’s true modern classics.
Marqués de Burgos
Marqués de Burgos is the Ribera del Duero operation of Bodegas LAN. Established experts in Tempranillo in Rioja, they embarked on a search for prime vineyard sites within the Ribera del Duero region, where this famed grape also thrives. Their thorough search led them to the village of Quintana del Pidio and old bush vine vineyards producing low yields of very intensely flavoured grapes. María Barúa is at the winemaking helm and perfectly marries the exuberant berry fruit aromas of Tempranillo with a subtle spiciness from the measured use of oak.
Viñas del Jaro
Viñas del Jaro is the heart of the Vinedos Iberian operation. The winery lies in a very prestigious neighbourhood, nearby Pesquera and Vega Sicilia. Unlike a lot of its neighbours though Viñas del Jaro can claim to have won Decanter’s most coveted award – that of simply ‘the best wine in the world’.
Finca Villacreces was described by Robert Parker as “the hidden jewel of Ribera del Duero”. The estate is based at the heart of the Ribera del Duero DO, forming part of the ‘golden mile’ along with its immediate neighbour Vega Sicilia to the west, Pingus and other such high-profile estates. Located in Quintanilla de Onésimo, the stunning estate was purchased by the Antón family of Izadi in 2003 and the resulting wines, made by winemaker Ángel Ortega together with Luis Laso, are deep, dark and focused in style.
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