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Ribera del Duero panel critical, despite medal haul

The reputation of Ribera del Duero, arguably Spain's most high-profile DO of the last decade, has taken a knock after a less than stellar performance at a Decanter panel tasting.

Decanter tasters worked their way through 106 wines from the 2007 vintage – rated ‘muy buena’ by the local Consejo. While the results weren’t disastrous – two wines were awarded five stars, and 21 achieved a four-star rating – several tasters were heavily critical of many of the wines.

Pierre Mansour, Spanish wine buyer for The Wine Society, was the most outspoken. ‘For a region that bills itself as a top fine wine region in Spain, I didn’t expect to see so many poor wines,’ he said. ‘I genuinely found very few exciting wines. I’d go so far as saying this was probably the most disappointing panel tasting I’ve done at Decanter.’

Fellow judge Juan Carlos Rincón confessed: ‘I expected better. We’re dealing with a place that has a reputation, a place that has had a lot of investment. But many of the crianza wines, in particular, were disappointing.’

Sarah Jane Evans MW, the regional chair for Spain at the Decanter World Wine Awards, said the problem lay in an inconsistency of style: ‘Every time I go to a Ribera tasting, I’m expecting confusion. I’m wondering if I will really know that this is Ribera Del Duero – there’s a lot of work going on, money being spent, flashy wineries, but can I tell where these come from?’

Mansour felt that over-use of oak was one of the main problems. ‘There were times when I questioned whether I was at an oak tasting not a wine tasting. A lot of my notes questioned “where’s the fruit?” There was some very glamorous, expensive wine making, but the wines were over made. The oak was far too dominant.’

Veteran Spanish commentator John Radford agreed, saying that ‘there are winemakers who think that new French oak is the panacea for everything – if you’re not quite happy with the wine let’s give it 12 months in new French oak and that will sort it out. It doesn’t.

‘This been an endemic problem in Spain for many years, not just Ribera Del Duero,’ he added. Overall, though, he wasn’t as critical as other tasters, observing that the vintage conditions meant that ‘the wines produced are earlier drinking…’ and ‘ bearing in mind that it wasn’t such a good year as 2005, for example, I thought wines of this ilk showed well.’

The full results of the tasting are available in the December issue of Decanter, on sale now. Subscribe to Decanter this month and save up to 44%

Written by Decanter staff

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