Wines of Spain: Ribera del Duero
Wines of Spain: Ribera del Duero
A beacon of Spanish viticultural fortitude, Ribera del Duero is a prolific wine in existence since the Roman Empire over 2,000 years ago. While continuing to place Spanish wines at the forefront of the marketplace with offerings that have been qualified by the most stringent of standards, the region has become a revered powerhouse of Spanish winemaking precedents.
While Ribera del Duero’s wine heritage first began with the Romans, new vineyards were cultivated by ecclesiastical orders like the Cistercians and the Benedictines in the middle ages, which helped to bring about a rebirth of winemaking in the region. By the 13th century, winemaking began to spread amongst the lay people of the region and cellars were constructed underground to protect aging wines from harsh temperatures. Outfitted with chimneys to aid in the protection of the wine, they have come to symbolize the early wine producing techniques indicative of Ribera. As ingrained into the culture of the area as the breathtaking castles that sit perched atop its many plateaus, the production of wine has become the symbolic and economic identity of the region. Winemaking brought about lucrative trade with other cities in Spain, positioning Ribera as a preeminent appellation and resulting in its vintages being exported throughout the Spanish Empire during the golden age of the 17th and 18th centuries. Prolific production and highly esteemed wines transcended into Ribera becoming the first zone to institute quality standards for its wines prior to Spain’s formalized D.O. classification. The Ribera Del Duero D.O. wine producing zone spans from near the town of Aranda de Duero in the Burgos province to Valladolid in the west, and then to San Esteban de Gormaz in the east.
A legend of the Ribera del Duero region, the iconic Vega Sicilia has been producing top quality wines since 1864. Revered as one of the founders of Ribera’s wine making tradition, Don Eloy Lecanda Chaves first brought French Bordeaux varietal grapes to the region in the hopes of producing high quality French style wines. Through this endeavor however, Chaves discovered that when he combined Cabernet Sauvignon and other French varietals with the local Tinto Del Pais grape (now commonly known as Tempranillo) he was able to produce a supreme wine that would rival any of the traditional vintages he previously ventured to produce. The Tempranillo grape exudes a ruby color and produces a full-bodied wine that boldly exhibits flavors of vanilla, berry, plum and tobacco. Through Chaves’s revolutionary discovery, the bodega of Vega Sicilia is credited with not only bringing high quality wine production to the Ribera region, but also transforming the artisanal winemaking traditions of the area into a globally recognized wine zone. Perhaps the most notable vintage to come from Vega Sicilia is the Unico Gran Reserva, which is comprised of a blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the estate’s oldest vines and is said to exhibit its signature hazelnut and wood perfume even up to 80 years after bottling.
Emilio Moro is a boutique, family run winery that has remained a preeminent producer of some of Ribera del Duero’s finest vintages for three decades. The family is widely esteemed due in part to their heritage as a local family operation, starting with the birth of their founder Emilio Moro in Pasquera del Duero. A rarity amongst the other large wine producing houses of Ribera, the family’s roots run as deep into the region’s soil as their illustrious vines. The bodega’s Finca Resalso wine is named after the estate’s first vineyard, which dates back to 1932. It is a bold red made from 100% Tempranillo grapes that should be enjoyed young, and abounds with the flavor of black fruit and a finish of soft anise on the palate. Another notable wine from the Moro estate is the rich Malleolus De Valderramiro, which is a treasure produced from the family’s oldest and most coveted 80 year-old vines.