In partnership with ARAEX GrandsRibera is Spain’s answer to Burgundy and the cradle of some of the best wines in the world, writes Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW. Here, terroir is everything…
In partnership with ARAEX Grands
Ribera del Duero profile
Climate: Short, hot summers and cold winters. It is protected from any maritime influence by a ring of mountains. The vineyards are situated at high altitude.
Grapes: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Garnacha.
Soils: Clay/sand, with layers of limestone, marl and chalk.
Vineyard area:22,552 ha *
Annual production (2017):97.8 million bottles*
Max. production per hectare: 7000kg*
*Source: Ribera del Duero DO.
Wine lovers know that Burgundy is a classic region that delivers an amazing variety of red wines mostly from one grape variety, thanks to its diverse terroirs.
Those terroirs are defined in a complex legal system that sets up a hierarchy for the land, classifying it in categories going from plain Burgundy to Grand Cru. Imagine now that Burgundy were just one appellation, with no legal hierarchy of terroirs. Individual producers would define the terroirs; all terroirs would appear the same in the labels.
Anyway, the diversity and the quality ladder would still be there, but you will need to find it out in different ways… This is Ribera del Duero. Ribera is the cradle of some of the best wines in the world. Instead of matching an archetypal profile definition, the top Ribera wines are virtuoso interpretations of diverse terroirs and a single grape variety, occasionally blended but always dominant, Tempranillo.
While Burgundy follows a North-South axis, Ribera occupies a 115 km long stretch of land, following an East-West axis.
The climate is continental, with harsh winters, hot summers and high daily temperature variation. It is a dry area with very diverse soils, including clay, sand, limestone, marl and chalk. It consists of three distinctive regions.
The core towns of each region are:
- San Esteban de Gormaz
Around Peñafiel, wines tend to be fruitier and rounder in youth, then ageing graciously.
At the Roa sub-zone wines are characterised by their elegant structure and firm backbone.
In the more continental and smaller area of San Esteban de Gormaz the wines, coming from pre-phylloxera vines growing in sandy soils, render unique purity and depth of fruit expression.
To make things more complicated, many great Ribera wines are blends from a number of vineyards, often from at least two of those sub-zones.
Despite its long history, Ribera is a young appellation, just 35 years old. Now approaching adulthood, there is a growing pressure to classify terroirs, broadly in line with the Burgundian model.
But laws develop slowly: for a few years wine lovers will have to deal with a simple labelling system based upon trust on the producer. Some people think this is a better way to approach excellence.
Promotion: A word from our sponsor ARAEX Grands
The following Ribera del Duero wines have been recommended by ARAEX Grands…
Rolland & Galarreta, Ribera del Duero
Two cultures and two different winemaking styles but a common goal have brought together French winemaker and consultant Michel Rolland and Spanish wine entrepreneur Javier Galarreta.
This wine is rich, concentrated and fleshy and shows elegance and complexity. On the palate, it shows silky tannins, with a succulent structure and excellent depth.
Cair, Ribera del Duero Crianza
After a long search to find the right terroir and vineyards, Juan Luis Cañas settled in La Aguilera, a small hamlet in the northern part of the DO, rich in old vines planted in chalky-clay, sandy and gravel soils.
Full and powerful on the attack with good balance. A meaty, juicy mouth feel with sweet tannins. Long, lingering finish.
Valtravieso, Ribera del Duero
This dynamic winery (pictured top) blends tradition with state-of-theart production processes to make a wine that is unique, full of sensations and expresses the singularity and personality of the region.
The wine has a good attack in the mouth which demonstrates its good structure, with some sweetness brought about by an excellent glycerine which rounds the tasting. Balanced tannins and acidity.