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Celebrate with Ribera del Duero this Christmas

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Ribera del Duero is one of the most exciting wine regions in Europe, let alone Spain. Located just two hours north of Madrid, residents of the Spanish capital have long enjoyed the high-quality wines coming from the 115-kilometres strip of vineyards hugging the banks of the Duero River. This superb wine region has flown under the radar of many British wine drinkers, but exports to the UK are increasing considerably as drinkers realise the quality and character of Ribera del Duero’s wines. And there is no better time to discover these stunning pours, especially with Christmas just around the corner!

The rise of Ribera del Duero

Although the world-famous Vega Sicilia was established as the region’s first winery back in the late 19th century, most of the 20th century was dominated by bulk rosé production by leading co-operatives. This began to change with the success of Alejandro Fernandez’s Tinto Pesquera. The 1982 vintage won high praise, with Robert Parker calling it ‘the Pétrus of Spain’. Such acclaim saw the growing number of estates soon joined by the likes of Dominio De Pingus and Bodegas Aalto, confirming Ribera del Duero’s reputation for high quality wines.

In 2003 came Spain’s transformative Ley Del Vino, a law that allowed wineries to produce and sell wine in more than one region. Well-funded companies from across the country who had long sought out the opportunity to invest in Ribera del Duero now had their chance. Investments from Rioja and Catalunya, as well as from abroad, have seen the number of wineries grow to over 300 in 2022. A far cry from the ten bodegas that welcomed the establishment of the DO in 1982.

Patchwork of terroirs

The upper valley of the Duero River boasts some of Europe’s highest vineyards (720 to 1,100 metres above sea level), with a range of slopes and aspects. The region records large diurnal range in the hot summer months, which helps retain crucial freshness in the grapes as they ripen.

The vineyards stretch from the riverbanks, up the slopes of the valley, and onto the exposed moorlands at the highest altitudes. The DO has mapped over 30 different soil types, with Vega Sicilia’s Pablo Álvarez claiming there are at least 19 different soils in their 200 hectares alone. This allows for blending options and single vineyard expressions as producers gain more understanding of the nuances of terroir. It’s no wonder that Tim Atkin MW has referred to Ribera del Duero as the ‘Burgundy of Spain’.

Vines and varieties stand out

Tempranillo dominates plantings in Ribera del Duero. Known locally as Tinto Fino or Tinta del País, it is crucially early ripening and therefore avoids the autumnal harsh drop in temperatures and early frosts. It can also express differences in terroir, winemaking skill, and style, vital to show off the premium expressions that are achievable.

The DO allows up to 25% of other varieties in red wines, including 5% whites. These blending options are important to achieve structural balance, especially in the face of climate change. Albillo Mayor is the flagship white variety and the main protagonist in high quality white wines.

The region’s old bush vines are a prized asset. Half of the plantings are bush vines, capable of producing low yields of highly concentrated fruit. Phylloxera hit in 1915, but the sandy soils allowed some vines to survive. Vines that were already considered old back then are still producing high quality fruit to this day, with many vines over 100, and some over 200 years old. Not only does this bode well for the quality of the wines they produce, but they also cope better with rising temperatures and extreme weather events to produce wines of consistent, elegant balance.

Winemaking styles continue to evolve

Vintage variation can be stark given the sometimes harsh climatic conditions. Overall, producers talk of Atlantic (cooler and wetter) versus Mediterranean (hotter and drier) vintages. Although a landlocked region, these bodies of water have an important influence. The desirability of vintages, however, depends entirely on one’s view of style, from fresh and expressive, to powerful and concentrated.

Top-quality wines are full bodied, with ripe blackberry, and dark plum flavours. But winemaking styles diverge. The ‘traditional style’ of structured and powerful wines, aged in American oak contrasts with the more ‘modern’ approach, which seeks fruity and acid-driven wines, aged in small French oak barrels. Overall, there’s an evolving trend towards less extracted and more approachable styles. Producers aim for vineyard expression, especially as they gradually learn the nuances of their different terroirs.

In his latest report on the region, Tim Atkin MW fuels the enthusiasm surrounding Ribera del Duero by stating the region is ‘continually evolving and developing’ and that ‘its best years are ahead of it.’

This Christmas is a perfect opportunity to discover this fascinating region and its fantastic wines.

Ribera del Duero – DWWA winners for Christmas

This festive season, explore the expressive and elegant wines from Ribera del Duero. This selection of DWWA 2022 winners is the perfect place to start, giving great insight into the region and its unique wines.


Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro, Reserva 2018
97 points
95% Tinto Fino, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Merlot; 14.5% abv
Judges were impressed by the very long and characterful finish of this wine. Classy and energetic with notes of spice, black fruits and black pepper on the nose. Fresh and with vibrant acidity on the palate with elegant tannins.
£39.10 Vinissimus, Gourmet Hunters, Décantalo

Bodegas Portia, Roble 2020
97 points
100% Tempranillo; 14.5% abv
Commended for its superb value, this wine was described as a stellar young wine with outstanding concentration. One for the big red wine lovers, its notes of dark fruits, spice and oak, encased in a silky texture.
£11.30 Vinissimus, Ocado, Décantalo

Cruz de Alba, Finca Los Hoyales 2016
97 points
100% Tempranillo; 14.5% abv
A full-bodied and powerful wine, with multiple elegant layers, bound to prosper with time. An expansive bready and yeasty nose opens up to black fruits, herbs, vanilla, chocolate and spice, paired with integrated tannins and bright acidity.
£65 The Great Wine Co., QWines


Bodegas Peñafiel, Miros De Ribera 2017
96 points
100% Tempranillo; 15.0% abv
Judges noted the lovely potential of this powerful but poised red. Nuanced and soft, this wine is round and inviting in the mouth, with notes of vanilla spice, ripe black fruits and coconut.
£34 Vinissimus, Décantalo

Bodegas y Viñedos Pradorey, Elite 2019
95 points
100% Tempranillo; 14.0% abv
With a bouquet of cedar box, tobacco, flowers, red fruits and black cherry, judges commended this wine’s deep-fruited palate and chewy tannins. It is an effortlessly polished and elegant red with a long and spicy finish.
£34.10 Vinissimus

Protos, Crianza 2018
95 points
100% Tempranillo; 14.5% abv
A true classic red from the region. Judges applauded the seamless transition from the bouquet to the palate, as well as the depth and energy. It has vivid blueberry, liquorice and clove aromas with red fruits, spice and oak on the palate.
£20 Vinissimus, Gourmet Hunters, Décantalo


Bodegas Yllera, Jesús Yllera 2016
94 points
89% Tempranillo, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.0% abv
An elegant expression of the Tempranillo grape which, together with Cabernet Sauvignon, provides a fresh and complex red. There are notes of balsamic on the nose, as well as plum and cherry paired with leafy, herbal notes.
£27.20 Vinissimus, Décantalo

Cillar De Silos, Flor De Silos 2018
92 points
100% Tempranillo; 14.5% abv
Noted by the judging panel as a wine which will age well, this is a powerful and expressive red. It presents generous and elegant layers of black ripe fruit, sweet spices and oak, ripe and lively tannins and a persistent but silky finish.
£52.40 Vinissimus

Viña Mayor, Crianza 2019
90 points
100% Tempranillo; 14.5% abv
A vibrant Crianza, fresh and juicy with very well integrated tannins. It has a high fruit intensity paired with herbaceous notes of forest fruits, spicy oak and creamy toasts, ending with a long and firm finish.
£18.50 Vinomondo, Guest Wines, Talking Wines, Décantalo

Altos Del Enebro, Tinta Del País Crianza 2019
90 points
100% Tempranillo; 14.5% abv
This is a very rounded red wine, full of character and volume. Spicy, meaty notes and aromas of ripe black fruit open up
to show the toasted nuances of barrel ageing. It has a chocolatey palate, tight tannins and a long finish.
€16.50 Décantalo

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