Discovering the Ribera del Duero, again!

New Releases are Reflecting a Change in Direction


Spain has really become a land of compelling values, and having just tasted through a case of value Garnacha I am thoroughly convinced everyone should be paying closer attention to their wines. But while values abound, there aredistinct styles of wines among those values. Some that appeal to the cocktail wine part of the market, and others that really offer impressive complexity and nuance while still delivering the fruit that appeals to so many palates.

Take this small sampling of wines from Ribera del Duero for example. The least expensive wine among these is the $12 Torremoron Tempranillo which offers an incredible mouthful of pure, zesty fruit. It’s not going to win any competitions for complexity, but it will prove absolutely exciting to drink, a rarity at it’s price point.That may be because, according to the back label the juice comes from vines aged between 80 and 100 years old. I’m a little sceptical that all the juice comes from these vines, but no matter, it’s an impressive value nonetheless.
Want something with a little more complexity? The Vizcarra Senda del oro captures much of the fruit of the Terromoron, though with more elegance on the palate. More power and breadth in the mouth, and real nuance. Again the back label supplies  a clue as to why. Relatively high elevations, 2,750 feet and soils of limestone and sand. Meager soils that help to stress the vine. It’s one of the keys to elegance in wine, something Ribera has not always been well known for.
This small group of wines served as a fine peak at what’s up coming with Ribera and while I don’t generally see Ribera wines this young in marketplace, I wish I did if only to get a better picture of how these wines evolve. Truth be told most of the wines I tasted today were decidedly on the young side, which served as inspiration to pull a pair of bottles out from my cellar to help frame my thoughts. These current releases are really very attractive wines, rich with fresh blueberry, blackberry, and violet aromas and flavors married to rather firm structure and bright mineral accents on the palate. One of the issues some folks may have had with the wines of Ribera have been the not inconsequential, and sometimes rustic tannins. 
To better understand why this is one has to realise that the ribera del Duero is not only a land of rocky limestone, chalk, and sandy soils, but it’s also hot and dry. All factors that contribute to vines producing small berries, which increases the skin to juice ratio of the berries, producing wines that are rich in tannins, but also the coloring and flavoring compounds found within grape skins. In the past there was a decided effort to extract as much as one could from these thick skins, but today as the world is moving away from the more is always better wine model, vintners are learning to achieve a new balance with these wines. 
It is worth noting that all the wines I tasted today were of Crianza level or lower. Lower not referring to quality but rather to time required in oak. Those extracted dense wines of the past, and the present of course as they still exist, require more time in wood to soften the tannins. That time also rounds out the wines texturally but at the same time it allows for some of the brilliant perfumes these wines are capable of to disappear. Today’s more approachable ribera’s forsake some of the time in wood and bottle to help bring this really unique expression of Tempranillo to the market, and as I alluded to early , they are doing so at terrific prices.
The two wines I pulled from my cellar, the 2007 Condado de haza and the 2009 Vina Pedrosa Crianza both still show some of that brilliance of fruit, with the tannins having melted away on the remarkably fresh Condado and something magical happening with the pedrosa, which is also, at $32 the most expensive wines tasted today. While these wines are fabulous today, they never had the brightness that the current release wines now show. It’s matter of a market evolving, and gos to show the emerging diversity that the Ribera del Duero is able to offer.
These are fascinating wines. wines that may appeal more to the wine geeks crowd because of their tense structure, fine mineral nuance, and relatively complex flavor profile but as they age they become softer, rounder, and more elegant. It’s an exciting time to be trying these wines. They not only offer great value, they offer a killer expression of terroir. And they are downright exciting to drink! I paired these with a black olive risotto and grilled strip steak. The Vizcarra and the pedros were standouts at the table, but even there the $12 Torremoron held up impressively well. Worth taking note of as we head into BBQ season!

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Top Ribera del Duero tasted 3/14

Viña Pedrosa Crianza (2009)
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Vizcarra Ribera del Duero Senda del Oro (2012)
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Condado Haza (2007)
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Mibal Tinto Ribera del Duero (2011)
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Valdubón Ribera del Duero Cosecha (2012)
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Ribera del Duero Torremoron (2012)
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  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 3,298

    I feel so smart: I bought some Condado de Haza last week before this review sends demand through the roof!
    Gotta recommend those Crianza RdDs fro people who want a fresh, pure wine with lots of good chunky fruit that isn't a heat bomb or flabby. Good everyday drinkers when you want a break from barbera, sangio, or even dolcetto. And something Americans who might have had Riojas with age on them should try--you really get that Tempranillo essence before the winemaking takes over. There's a place for both, esp with Temp.

    Mar 20, 2014 at 7:07 PM

  • Ribera de Duero is doing well and there are so many small wineries who make great, outstanding wines at reasonable prices; most of these small wineries have no structure to export, but I foresee, they will join to export together and put their wines on value, because they are really worth. If you visit Ribera de Duero, look for Vetusta Vendimia Seleccionada wine, which in ex-cellar price is 8€ and its complexity in flavors and yummy taste make of it a great wine at a great price too.

    Mar 21, 2014 at 4:50 AM

  • Where are these available in Australia ?

    Mar 22, 2014 at 2:34 AM

  • Snooth User: diezma
    1383026 1

    Ribero del Duero is a very underestimated region regarding good value wines and as I live in Spain I can assure you that the wines produced in this area are as good as, and in some cases much better, than far more expensive wines from the Rioja region of Spain. There are a multitude of small wineries in this region and they are well worth exploring. Most of these smaller wineries are not only too small for the export market but what is am even better credential is that most is snapped up by locals so there isn't enough to export. Isn't that enough said!!!

    Mar 26, 2014 at 11:41 AM

  • Snooth User: ALLENCCTX
    1470590 2

    sorry folks, but spain's red wine does not compare with calif cellars. rioja's wines taste like Kool-Aid.

    Mar 26, 2014 at 8:58 PM

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