Friday, April 5, 2013

Ribera del Duero: Thriving through Adversity

By Eric Guido

I’m about to leave my comfort zone. Let’s face it, having a comfort zone is a bad thing for anyone that credits themselves as a student, teacher—heck, professional in any way. For me, my comfort zone was always Italy, with a little France, Germany and Napa mixed in. However, the longer I wrote about wine, the more regions I explored and now I’ve found myself off the deep end. There is more great wine out there than you or I could ever imagine. So today, I’m keeping it a little old world, yet new to me just the same, with Ribera del Duero.

When I think of Spain, the first thoughts that come to mind are Rioja and Priorat. Rioja, because I have loved many aged Rioja Gran Reserves in my life. They have always been a secret passion of mine. Priorat, on the other hand, was all about marketing. For years wine publications have told us to love Priorat. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some good ones, but over all, I have trouble finding value in Priorat.

Then there’s Ribera del Duero. It’s not a new region, nor is it the most fashionable thing these days. Instead, it’s a region that has been delivering great wines (ever hear of Vega Sicilia?), and in all price ranges for decades, including some of the best values around. The thing that struck me most about these wines is how easy they went down, yet how much you could sink your teeth into them if you choose to take your time.

The grape of choice here is Tempranillo and boy does it shine beautifully through adversity, especially from these high altitude vineyards. But it’s not just altitude that makes these wines what they are; much of it has to do with the extreme climate of the region and its long growing season. The Ribera del Duero sees long, dry, hot summers, followed by hard winters during which temperatures may drop as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit. You can imagine that a vine that survives these conditions would be full of character.

The resulting wines show perfectly ripe fruit, earth tones, great acidity and broad structures that add to the experience, instead of drying you out. What’s more, the expert use of oak is neither too little, nor too much. These are very enjoyable wines that can easily pair with dinner, be enjoyed with a plate of cheese or better yet, accompany an evening of Tapas. Below, I’ve listed a number of my favorites from the recent Snooth "People's Voice Wine Awards" tasting. Give them a try and join me in escaping your comfort zone.


 On to the Wines:

2009 Ortega Fournier Ribera del Duero Urban – The nose showed vibrant, ripe red fruits and stony minerals. On the palate it was juicy with tart, dark red fruits on a medium-bodied frame. The finish was saturating to the senses yet juicy throughout. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2011 Bodegas Barco de Piedra Ribera del Duero – The nose showed red berries with chalky minerals and seemed to gain volumn and fruit sweetness with time in the glass. On the palate, it was juicy and fun with red berry fruits and inner floral tones. The finish was juicy and refreshing. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2006 Convento San Francisco S.L. Ribera del Duero – The nose showed ripe cherries with notes of fresh turned soil, minerals and clay. On the palate it was lush with ripe strawberry fruits and hints of stems, which gave way to fine grain tannins that slightly dried the palate and turned the fruit tart. The finish was overshadowed by this wines structure, which should resolve with time. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Bodegas Valduero Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva – The nose was dark and rich with great intensity, showing black cherry, plum, spices, dark chocolate and coffee grinds. On the palate, it was full-bodied with lush textures, showing tart mulberry and a hint of citrus. The finish was long with pure, fucused dark fruits. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2005 Bodegas Hnos Perez Pascuas Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva Viña Pedrosa – The nose showed an intense mix of ripe wild berries followed by masses of floral notes. On the palate, it was medium-bodied, ripe yet fresh showing red fruits that turned from juicy to tart. The finish followed suit with juicy tart berries lingering through the close. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2011 Bodegas Felix Callejo Ribera del Duero Flores de Callejo - The nose showed tart cherry with ashy earth, clay and minerals. On the palate, I found blackberry and cherry fruit with an herbal quality. The finish dried the palate and took a turn toward tart red berries. I enjoyed this wine quite a bit for it’s mix of fruit and earth. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2007 Bodegas y Viñedos Montecastro Ribera del Duero Montecastro y Llanahermosa – The nose was refined with a regal aura, showing ripe red fruits, a whiff of floral perfume, airy herbs and vanilla. On the palate, it was juicy and mouthfilling with sweet red fruits, spice and minerals. The long, intense finish lingered with dark red fruits. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2005 Legaris Ribera del Duero Reserva – The nose showed intense red and blue fruits, sweet spice, hints of herbs and floral tones. On the palate it displayed silky textures with ripe red berries, licorice and a mintiness that mixed with this wines vibrant acidity lending it a juciy, yet beautifully balanced personality. The finish turned slightly tart, giving me the desire to take another sip. Well done. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2009 Bodegas Cepa 21 Ribera del Duero Malabrigo – The nose showed black cherry, minerals and herbal tones with an airy, energetic feel. On the palate it was refined and beautifully balanced with focused red fruits and a mouthfilling sturcture leading to a finish full of wild berries with a tinge of citrus. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2010 Bodegas Los Astrales Ribera del Duero Astrales – The nose showed ripe, dark cherry, dark chocolate, caramel and a hint of vanillin oak. On the palate, I found ripe red and blackberries, it was beautifully blanced with vibrant acidity. Dark fruits lingered on the long, engaging finish leaving me with a truly satisfiying experience. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Condado de Haza Ribera del Duero Alenza Gran Reserva – The nose was dark and spicy with ripe black fruits, hints of herbs, tar and vanilla. On the palate it was lush, yet balanced with dark frutis, minerals and earth, turning tart into the finish. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

** The best part about this tasting were the people I enjoyed it with. This Ribera del Duero tasting was hosted by Snooth for their "People's Voice Wine Awards". My tasting companions were made up of some of the best wine bloggers from around the country. Below are links to their impressions from this exciting lineup of wines. Enjoy!

My Vine Spot: Ribera del Duero Lunch at Salinas

Benito's Wine Reviews: Snooth PVA: Ribera del Duero

Wine Julia: Experiencing Spain in New York City with Ribera del Duero Wines at Salinas

Vindulge: Wine and food are a great match for Ribera del Duero

The Reverse Wine Snob: Reveling in the Wine of Ribera Del Duero Plus 3 Top Value Picks From This Region

Brunello Bob's Wine Blog: Ribera del Duero Lunch -Salinas NYC

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