Given the prestige and the fame of its top wines, most notably Pingus and Vega Sicilia, it’s easy to forget that Ribera del Duero is a young DO, established in 1982. In the ensuing 39 years Ribera has accumulated plaudits and brickbats in equal quantity. For every person who considers it Spain’s top red wine region, there’s another who finds the wines too powerful, too oaky or too pricey.
Ribera is certainly historic – the Romans tended vineyards here – but the DO is best viewed as something inchoate: as a work in progress, if you prefer. It has expanded from 6,460ha in the early 1980s to 24,157ha today and is still growing. And remember: the region may be young, but many of its best vineyards (21.8% of them) are more than 50 years old.
Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for 12 top wines from eight Ribera del Duero producers
Often viewed as homogenous, Ribera del Duero is extremely diverse in altitudes, soil types and aspects. How could it be otherwise in a region that’s 115km long, 35km wide and varies between 740m close to the river (from which the DO takes its name) and 1,000m up on the moorlands, which have been brought into play by a changing climate.
Ribera del Duero’s 307 bodegas are heterogeneous too, of course. All of them work with Tempranillo (known here as Tinto Fino: the grape covers nearly 96% of plantings, after all), but Albillo Mayor (white), Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha and Merlot (among others) play a part, too. And styles vary considerably from village to village, winery to winery.
Ribera has changed a lot in the last decade and will continue to evolve. As it does, these are eight of my favourite bodegas to keep an eye on.
Ribera del Duero producers to know:
Tim Atkin MW’s top wines from eight innovative Ribera del Duero producers
Wines are listed alphabetically in score order