Located in north-central Spain, to the southwest of Rioja, the high altitude plain of Ribera del Duero is Tempranillo country, with nearly all of the best wines made from this grape varietal. As a wine region, Ribera del Duero came to prominence in the 1980s - and was granted its DO on 21st July 1982 when only 9 bodegas were operating.
Today there are over 270 wineries alongside the banks of the Duero River covering an area of approximately 112kms long and 36kms wide. The DO also allows for the use of Garnacha, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the white grape, Albillo in the blending process. Most of Ribera del Duero's production is red, with only a modest quantity of Rosado produced. No white wines are allowed under the DO.
The practice of winemaking in Ribera dates back more than 2,000 years to the Roman era. With a tradition of winemaking stretching back generations, small family bodegas exist alongside state-of-the-art, corporate-owned wineries. Approximately one-third of the vines planted on its 20,600ha are over 50 years old, and 3% are over 100 years old.
Ribera del Duero owes its success to a combination of factors, its terroir of schist sub-soil, its microclimate, with its high altitude and extreme diurnal variation, ensures ripeness while preserving the vivacity of the fruit, aromatic flavours and refreshing acidity. Plus the ideal conditions to ripen an exceptional native grape, Tempranillo (also known as Tinto del País or Tinto Fino). This yields superb, complex red wines that are delicious when young but which also have the capacity to age into magnificent Gran Reservas.
The DO rules govern Ribera's barrel-aged styles as for Rioja: Crianzas are aged for 2 years before release with at least 1 year in oak, Reservas must be 3 years old with at least 1 year spent in oak, and finally Gran Reservas must be 5 years old before release, with two years spent in barrel. The young (Joven) unoaked red wines called Roble, tend to boast a moreish, vibrant, bramble fruit while the best oak-aged styles of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva show intense, generous fruit overlaid with notes of vanilla and sweet spice, wrapped in integrated tannins.
Most vines are planted at between 750m and 915m above sea level - the combination of climate, altitude, soil and winemakers’ dedication creates wines that are simultaneously powerful and elegant. They are international in style, yet distinctly Spanish at the same time.