Tour de Spain: Ribera del Duero
I'm excited to say that I am going to be kicking off a series of posts featuring wines from Spain! Re-reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway must have put me in a Spanish wine mood. Spain happens to be one of my favorite wine countries, so I hope you'll enjoy exploring the regions as much as I will.
Our first stop is Ribera del Duero. The last time I wrote about a wine from this part of Spain was when I recounted the vacation that hubs and I took in Key West last year. The region only allows for the production of red and rosé wines and the majority of the red wines are made with 100% Tempranillo, although you can also find some wines made with international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec, while rosé wines are made with Garnacha.
Tempranillo is widely grown throughout northern and central Spain and while the style varies by region, there are some consistencies about the grape that you should know. It's low in acidity and thick skinned, so if it's not grown in an ideal climate it will be flabby, rather than fresh tasting, and overly tannic. The climate that suits this grape is one that provides a mix of warm and cool temperatures to fully ripen the grape yet maintain its acidity, so it performs best: when days are sunny and warm and nights are cool (found at high elevation sites) or when vineyards receive a cooling influence from the sea. At its best, the grape produces wines that show fresh berry and red and/or black fruit flavors, commonly tied together with oak influences of vanilla, clove, cedar, or toast. With age it can show tobacco and leather notes as well.
Ribera del Duero is in central Spain and situated along the Duero River. It's also surrounded by a ring of mountains and the vineyards are planted at a high altitude, some up to 2700ish feet. To give you some perspective, that's as tall as the Burj Khalifa. At that elevation, the sun is intense and the nights are as much as 68 degrees cooler than the daytime temperatures, even in the summer. It's basically heaven for a grape that responds so well to contrasts.
I wish I could say that this picture of vineyards in Ribera del Duero is my own, but I've never been to Spain. My pipe dream is to take the kids out for tapas in Barcelona next year. Until then, to Pinterest I go!
Now that you have some hopefully useful information on the region, I've selected an affordable and tasty Ribera del Duero as a good example of a wine from this part of Spain.
Dominios de Castilla Ribera del Duero Crianza 2012
This wine is made with 100% old vine Tempranillo and aged in oak for 14 months. I thought it showed notes of raspberry, strawberry, cherry, pepper, tobacco, cedar, and toast. It had a nice smooth texture and was full bodied with a pleasant and noticeable alcohol level, well-integrated tannins, and a nice level of acidity to balance it out. It's delicious and certainly worth a try at $14.