When most people think of Spanish wine or Tempranillo, Rioja is the first thing that comes to mind. The Rioja region has all the glamour: an excellent tourist route and a mass following in the UK for table and fine wine. But for lovers of Tempranillo, it pays to look a little bit further.
Perched on the Iberian plateau, to the Southwest of Rioja, is the wine region of Ribera del Duero. This region is home to many of Spain’s most iconic wines, like Vega Sicilia and Pingus.
Ribera del Duero has a strong domestic wine market but was much slower to develop internationally than Rioja. The Spanish Royal Court was temporarily based in Valladolid, Ribera del Duero. However, King Philip II moved the court to Madrid, and Ribera never developed into transport hubs like Haro and Logrono in Rioja.
In 1982, when Ribera gained its DO quality status, only a dozen or so wineries existed in the region. A decade later, Ribera began to take off as more people realised its immense potential.
Four provinces in Ribera del Duero produce wine; the two most important to know are Valladolid and Burgos. Valladolid is located in the Western part of the region; this area is warmer and has more clay-based soils. Bugros is to the East of Valladolid; this area has a higher altitude, and the wines reflect this with a more linear and powerful structure.
In Ribera de Duero, you are more likely to see varietal bottlings of Tempranillo (known locally as Tinto Fino) than blends like in Rioja. There is also outstanding white wine produced in Ribera del Duero from the grape Albillo. Expect to see more and more of this exported in the coming years.
How does the Tempranillo differ when comparing Rioja and Ribera del Duero? When it comes to Rioja, there are generally two different winemaking styles: traditional and modern. Traditional wines are usually aged for years in old French and American oak. Modern wine spends up to 18 months in new French barrique (225L barrels). Even bearing this in mind, Rioja typically shows moderate tannins, more of a red fruit register than black, and a medium body. Ribera del Duero is consistently a more powerful and full-bodied wine with a darker fruit register and more overt use of oak.
This month at the OWC, our range of Ribera del Duero wines is 15% off! One of the producers we are most excited about is Bodegas Arrocal. Arrocal is based in Burgos province and reflects the more linear and powerful structure discussed above. We stock three of their wines: Joven (9 months in old French and American oak), Selección Especial (18 months in new French oak), and Reserva de Familia (24 months in American oak). If you want to try a wine from the Valladolid Province, we have two fantastic wines: Alion and Chafandin.
Swing by the shops if you want to learn more!