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Tannic Panic! Issue #14: Ribera del Duero, Send Value Right Over
A Swim Up The River Does Bargains Deliver
What’s crackanin’ you Jurassic-era-fossilized-mosquito-juice-colossal-mistake-of-a-reanimated-experiment-that-will-be-repeated-an-unjustifiable-number-of-times-for-a-decades-long-franchise stampede of Winosaurs?
This week we cobbled together a tiny little rickety canoe and paddled wayward up the Douro river in search of further value. Where did it take us? Back to the WONDERFUL land of Spain (or, as the locals call it, “Ethpaña”) — here, the river is called the Duero, and we’ve been here before. WHY? Because this river serves up value like a vacuum at a glitter party (TRUST ME — THAT’S A THING).
In case your feeble amnesiatic brain has already forgotten, last week we were in the DOURO region of Portugal, and some undisclosed number of weeks ago we were in the TORO region of Spain, which sits between the Douro region of Portugal, and the Ribera del Duero region of Spain that we find ourselves in today. TRY TO KEEP UP.
Also, I’m sorry about calling your brain feeble. It’s very powerful and my therapist says I’m projecting.
TIME FOR THE CARFAX:
Although winemaking in Ribera del Duero dates back over 2000 years, the region only gained formal recognition relatively recently. The Ribera del Duero DO (Denominación de Origen) was officially established in 1982, which would have been a huge deal, but Michael Jackson dropped Thriller that same year, so Rolling Stone didn’t even report that it happened.
*SHOCKINGLY* Ribera del Duero is located in the Duero Valley, which follows the Duero River from the mountains south of Rioja through Spain and into Portugal. Ribera’s vineyards, which are nestled in the highest part of the Meseta Central, benefit from the cool night-time temperatures afforded by high altitude — a critical factor in preserving the freshness and acidity that is characteristic of the wines produced in the region.
While red, white and rosé wines are produced there, what Ribera del Duero is really known for is its bold, tannic reds made from the Tempranillo grape (locally known as Tinto Fino).
Ribera red wines are typically aged in oak, and how long they are aged makes up a key component of the labeling system.
The aging classifications in Ribera del Duero (for red wines) are as follows:
Joven: Young wines with little or no oak aging.
Roble: Wines that have seen some oak aging, typically less than a year.
Crianza: Wines aged for a minimum of 24 months, with at least 12 months in oak barrels.
Reserva: Wines aged for at least 36 months, with at least 12 months in oak.
Gran Reserva: Wines aged for a minimum of 60 months, with at least 24 months in oak barrels.
Zach’s Humble Spanish Journey…
Zach recently had the pleasure of traveling to Spain with his wife and kids to visit some friends, and while they didn’t walk far enough north to explore the Duero valley (I imagine it had something to do with the integrity of their shoes), they did have the chance to enjoy some delicious wines (including some from Ribera) and had themselves an all around rip-roaring good time! Hear it from the man himself:
“We traveled with our friends in the South of Spain this Summer, road tripping to Granada. En route we stopped at an Italian Restaurant in the town of Ronda for lunch. Their wine list was solely comprised of local wines from the Sierra de Malaga D.O. in Southern Spain.
This little known wine region produces some incredible value red wines of high quality mostly using Bordeaux varieties, as well as Syrah and Tempranillo. The 2015 El Arquitecto (PICTURED ABOVE) was a rich and concentrated blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Syrah.
We spent some time at Osborne Winery in El Puerto de Santa Maria in Jerez, near the city of Cadiz. This region is famous for production of premium Sherry wines (WHICH WE’LL COVER IN A FUTURE POST).
Another stop along the way was at a Tapas bar (Bar Vera Tapas in Osuna, Spain), where we ordered this gorgeous little Ribera del Duero for the insane price of about 15 euros per bottle. We’ve since revisited the Ribera del Duero wines of Bodegas Protos and the results speak for themselves.”
… AND NOW FOR THE REVIEWS (IN ORDER OF PRICE):
2021 Vecordia Ribera Del Duero Roble / 89 Points / $17
Profile: Strawberry, plum, orange peel, vanilla, chai spice, cinnamon, ginger.
"It's not the age, it's the mileage" -LOL
While Indiana Jones might've been referring to his “rugged” good looks, the same can be said about Ribera del Duero wines (TRUST ME, THIS ANALOGY MAKES SENSE). Don't be swayed by fancy shmancy terms like "Crianza" or "Reserva" or "Gran Reserva" — sometimes, younger is fresher, bolder(ish), and… almost as exciting? Enter "Roble" wines! Unlike the aforequoted terms, “Roble” is not an official classification, and is typically ascribed to wines that haven’t aged in oak long enough to qualify as a Crianza. Oak aged for anywhere from few months up to a year, they bring out a youthful zest (MAKE ME YOUNG AGAIN!) without the oak taking quite as much of the ole center stage. Usually you can find these at even more of a discount than other Ribera wines, and if you choose wisely, you might just find a hidden gem.
The Vecordia Roble is one such hidden gem, at $17 a bottle, it is slightly more expensive than the Vecordia Joven (with no oak aging requirements), but for good reason — it has decidedly more character, and after decanting for a while, it showed very interesting notes ranging from red fruit characteristics, to chai spice and orange peel.
I will say that initially there was a slightly funky aroma, but once it opened up those dissipated and the bottle showed really nicely.
Try pairing this with a curried coconut sweet potato soup!
2019 Condado de Haza Ribera Del Duero Crianza / 90+ Points / $20
Profile: Blackberry, black raspberry, black cherry, mocha, vanilla, tree bark, and dill.
Dark fruits accompany a powerful and interesting spread of oak characteristics (mocha, vanilla, tree bark, dill) in this structurally balanced Crianza with a nice finish.
Probably needs a few more years of bottle age to fully integrate the oak, but BELIEVE YOU ME, you can drink this bad boy now. Would it score higher if the oak was a little toned down? Sure, but overall a well made and classic Ribera.
DISCLAIMER: You gotta be a fan of the new wood!
2015 Protos Ribera Del Duero Reserva 5 Año / 92 Points / $37
Profile: Blackberry, black plums, dark chocolate, figs, vanilla, asian spice and leather.
Ah yes, enter Reserva, stage left. This brambleberry delight comes a-hootin and hollerin the sumptuous song of dark chocolate, figs and spice. She’s full-bodied with great structure and a long finish. A classic and rich Ribera Del Duero showing some bottle age — INDEED, your shaky little meat hooks will EAGERLY return to the bottle for another glass. Bravo, good Protos, bravo.
In Vino Concluditas — Ribera good. Duero good. Douro good. Wine good. Rivers… also good.
IT’S ALL GOOD. You get it. Now go out and get it!
Until next time, happy drinking.
Isaac & Zach
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