When I think of Spain, I always think of big, mysterious, dark, broad-shouldered… wines. And especially the wines from Ribera del Duero, a wine region in the northwest of Spain. The area is situated on the river Duero, which we know from Portugal (Douro) and because of the high altitude it is very hot in summer and extremely cold in winter. Since 1982 Ribera del Duero carries the DO status.
There is one quote that describes Ribera del Duero very well and because I’ve heard it so many times, I’m fed up with it but I’m going to share it with you anyway because it describes the climate of this wine region just too well. A famous winemaker from the area once said: In Ribera del Duero it is nine months of winter, and three months of hell. There you go.
Now you’re thinking, how on earth do those grapes hold up? Well, the thing is, the soil is partly made of clay and it holds a lot of water, so they don’t die from drought. What about the hot sun? Luckily it’s only there during the day, at night the temperatures drop a lot. Sometimes there is a difference of forty degrees between day and night. Large temperature differences between day and night often cause the aromas in the grape to be retained very well and the wines from this area are bursting with expression.
The grape variety in this area is the well known Tempranillo, here called Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais. Often a Ribera del Duero wine consists of 75% Tempranillo, the other 25% may be supplemented with French grape varieties such as Cabernet or Malbec. Nice to know; The Albillo grape is the only white grape welcome at the red festival.
The wines from Ribera del Duero are firm, full-bodied and have a lot of tannin. Because of the coolness of the nights, the acids remain present in the wine, so it never becomes unwieldy or boring.
Like the Rioja, the wines are divided into Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.
Joven: 3 to 12 months in oak barrels. The wine is young, splashes out of the glass both in color and smell (lots of forest fruit) and can be a tiny bit harsh.
Crianza: has matured for at least 12 months in wooden barrels and is therefore rounder and fuller, has notes of vanilla, ripe forest fruit and is juicy.
Reserva: these wines have matured for 36 months, at least 12 in oak barrels. Because of the aging, the wines are elegant, complex and powerful. The aromas are fuller and more earthy than their fruity predecessors.
Gran Reserva: this variety ripens for no less than 5 years! Minimum 36 months in wooden barrels. These are the real powerful wines that are still soft and drinkable with beautiful spiciness.