We carry several wines from the Ribera del Duero region. Not everyone has heard of them or realizes what great value this wines provide. Today we offer some information about this incredibly fine region.
Ribera del Duero is located in the northwest of the country, about two hours north of Madrid, in the center of Castilla y León, Spain’s largest autonomía, or state and this region is one of Spain’s top red wine–producers.
This the region’s vineyards follow the Duero River valley north and south—from the limestone cliffs to the intersection with the Meseta Central plateau rising from 2200-3300 feet above sea level throughout the valley’s varied widths. More than 22,000 hectares of vines are planted throughout the valley.
The main wine-growing areas of Ribera del Duero include: Burgos, Valladolid, Soria, and Segovia.
Approximately 95 percent of the vineyards are planted with Tempranillo—known in the region as Tinto Fino or Tinta del País. These names distinguish the regional Tempranillo and its expression of Ribera del Duero’s terroir from the wines of nearby Tempranillo-producing regions. Approximately 35 percent of those vines are 25 years old or older, including about 323 hectares of vines that are more than 100 years old. Older vines have deep roots that help them survive the region’s harsh climatic conditions. They tend to produce even yields and smaller fruit, but they give wines with exceptional structure and balance.
The name Tempranillo is derived from the Spanish word for early, probably due to the grape’s propensity for early budding and ripening. It’s an ideal grape for the sunny, but short growing season. The variety has adapted to Ribera del Duero’s harsh climate, growing conditions, and soils over centuries. It yields wines that are powerful and concentrated but that retain a high degree of acidity.
Evidence of winemaking in this area dates back 2,600 years. The discovery in 1972 of a large 4th-century mosaic in Baños de Valdearados depicting Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, is one piece of evidence that suggests that people have been making wine in Ribera del Duero for nearly two thousand years. In the 12th century, vineyard practices were refined by Benedictine monks who brought a more sophisticated style of viticulture to the region from Burgundy.
In time, a small group of growers applied for Denominación de Origen (DO) status. When Ribera del Duero received its DO status in 1982, there were only nine wineries in the region. The region has been evolving ever since. As of 2016, there were 282 wineries in Ribera del Duero and 8,334 growers. Most of these are of small, family-owned operations—with more than half producing fewer than 9,000 cases annually—and only 14 wineries sell more than 75,000 cases.
The Ribera del Duero appellation pertains exclusively to red and rosado (rosé) wines. DO regulations maintained by the Consejo Regulador (the official board that monitors and regulates Spain’s DOs) do not permit white wines in Ribera del Duero. To be recognized as DO, red wines must contain a minimum of 75 percent Tempranillo, though most are made with 100 percent. Blends may contain up to 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Malbec. No more than 5 percent Garnacha or Albillo, altogether, may be added. Rosado wines must be made with a minimum of 50 percent of the region’s authorized red varieties. Designations indicating how long Ribera del Duero DO wines have been aged in oak and bottle have been modeled after those of other established wine regions. They may appear on the front or back label or on the neck of the bottle:
Rosado: Indicates a rosé wine that doesn’t abide by the defined aging specifications but meets or exceeds classification requirements; rosados can only be aged to Crianza.
Crianza: A minimum aging of 24 months, of which one year must be in barrel.
Reserva: A minimum aging of 36 months, of which at least one year must be in barrel and the rest in bottle
Gran Reserva: A minimum aging of five years, of which at least two years must be in barrel and the rest in bottle.
Over the past few decades, Ribera del Duero wines have been redceiving increased international attention. The region sells its entire production of finely crafted Tempranillo-based wines every year and is second, behind Rioja, for total DO wine production in Spain.