The Twelve Riberas of Christmas: An Introduction to Ribera del Duero

Great Match 2011 was held in New York City a couple of weeks ago. This annual Spanish food and wine extravaganza has more to offer a Hispanophile than any other event throughout the year. This my third go-around at the Great Match, I opted to spend more time focusing on new and/or unusual wines as well as honing my sights on some of my all-time favorite wines – those from Ribera del Duero.

Later the same day Steve Olson (aka Wine Geek) led a seminar featuring the wines of Ribera del Duero (hosted by Drink Ribera). Touted by Steve as “The Essence of Spain,” I had the opportunity to taste ten spectacular wines from around the region (ALL of which are worth seeking out):

  1. 2009 Protos Tinto Fino (Bodegas Protos)
  2. 2006 Viña Mayor Crianza (Bodegas y Viñedos Viña Mayor)
  3. 2007 Valduero Crianza (Bodegas Valduero)
  4. 2005 Tinto Pesquera Crianza (Bodegas Alejandro Fernández)
  5. 2005 Matarromera Reserva (Bodega Matarromera)
  6. 2009 PSI (Dominio de Pingus)
  7. 2006 Astrales (Bodegas Las Astrales)
  8. 2006 Malleolus de Sanchomartín (Bodegas Emilio Moro)
  9. 2004 Parcela El Nogal (Pago de los Capellanes)
  10. 2004 Aalto PS (Bodega Aalto)

It was here that I decided it was time to share my passion for the wines of Ribera with the world! Hence, “The Twelve Riberas of Christmas.” Over the course of the next couple of months (leading up to Christmas Day) I will introduce 12 wines from the region which would be a welcome addition to any holiday (or any other day’s) table. First, though, a little background on Ribera del Duero is in order.

Officially recognized as a Denominación de Origen on July 21, 1982, Ribera del Duero is located two hours directly north of Madrid and extends over parts of four provinces of Castilla y León (Burgos, Segovia, Soria, and Valladolid). Stretching 71 miles from east to west and 22 miles wide, the region is traversed by the nutrient-rich Duero River. Climate in the region is Mediterranean with Continental influences and is characterized by extreme temperatures, both daily and seasonally. The region is also situated on the highest average elevation in Europe and experiences minimal rainfall.

Ribera del Duero has six authorized grape varieties, five of which account for less than 5% of all production. The lone white varietal is Albillo (3%); red varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Garnacha Tinta, Merlot (approximately 2% combined), and Spain’s darling varietal, Tempranillo (95%). Known primarily in the region as Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais, Tempranillo (from “temprano” meaning “early”) is perfectly suited to the region’s short growing season and intense climatic conditions. The grape is characterized by small berries which grow in loose clusters with tough skins. It produces beautifully well-balanced and full-bodied wines (in the hands of tremendous winemakers) which yield fruit flavors of black plums, cherry, and licorice along with balanced acidity.

Ribera del Duero is one of Spain’s premier wine regions. If you have never tried a wine from the region then stay tuned over the coming weeks for some amazing wines to explore. If you are already a fan of Ribera del Duero wines then join me in spreading the good word! To learn more about Ribera del Duero check out “Drink Ribera. Drink Spain”.


Life is short. Drink Spanish wine!