Wines along the Duero: Authentic Spanish wines in their prime
Wines along the Duero
About Ribera del Duero wine
The Ribera del Duero literally means the Banks of the Duero River. The Ribera wine is a Protected Designation of Origin, a Denominación de Origen in Spanish. This wine region lies along the river Duero and has been a model of vine-growing development for the last 25 years. After decades of promoting innovation, it is now rising to stardom among European wines.
The Ribera del Duero is located in a vast northern plateau of the Iberian Peninsula, called la Meseta. The wine district spans across 115 km from East to West, crossing through several provinces of the Castile and Leon region: Valladolid, Segovia, Burgos and Soria.
Ribera del Duero DO
The region is a Spanish DO or Protected Designation of Origin (POD). It spans over more than 20,000 hectares, produces red wines and some Rosados. White wines are not allowed. The red wines are limited to a few varieties of grapes:
The principal grape is tinto fino, also known as tinta del pais, a genetic variation of tempranillo. These grapes are used with a minimum of 75% in the final composition of wines. In Ribera del Duero, tinto fino accounts for more than 85 % of all plantings. All the top wines are made almost entirely from it, although it is not necessarily the sole grape. Secondary grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. Garnacha Tinta and Albillo, a white grape used only in rosados (rosé wines), can comprise up to 5%.
Traditionally, vines were square planted, bush-pruned, and self-supporting, referred to in Spanish as planta en vaso. In the newer vineyards, vines are espalier-trained, mounted en espaldera. Most of the vines are grafted on to American rootstocks, however there are some very old, centennial, ungrafted vines, never touched by phylloxera.
The production is limited to a maximum of 7,000 kg per hectare. Whenever the harvest reaches standards over the authorized limit, the areas are not allowed to be designated DO Ribera del Duero. The vintage usually starts in the first ten days of October; however, the starting date for harvest depends on the climate and varies each year.
Visiting Ribera del Duero Bodegas
Wine travelers are always welcomed in the many Ribera del Duero bodegas, some of which take the opportunity of wine tourism more seriously than others. In certain places where strict opening hours are not specified, a winery visit and a tasting need some prior arrangements, which starts by notifying the bodega of the visit. Think about calling in advance. Likewise, it helps to speak Spanish in the smaller bodegas, otherwise you can always rely on your Slowwines travel specialists to make the necessary arrangements, with or without a guide.
Why we like this wine region
There is something special about the DO Rueda and DO Ribera del Duero: the severe and dramatic land of rough mesas and flat-topped mountains on either side of the Duero convey an everlasting emanation of authoritative power. And yet, the desolate landscape reveals wines of an unexpected nature, surprisingly fruity and well-structured.
Travelers and especially wine lovers like us come to Ribera del Duero with a curious quest: to understand how the vines can be imbued with such a life force of their own. What is the secret behind Ribera del Duero’s and Duero highest standards? Today, these DO wine districts represent the pinnacle of Spanish know-how of winemaking.
This is not a matter of happenstance but the product of hard labor. Listening to the wine makers helps us understand the mix of resilience and passion that endures through the worst droughts. Successful investments in innovative techniques combined with respect for tradition results in these most sensuous wines.
Local wine owners are accessible and will often give us the guided tours themselves.
Let’s not forget the gastronomical culture in this region. Nowhere else in Spain are sheep more omnipresent than in Ribera del Duero. In some areas of the Old Castile, the only signs of animal life are the flocks of sheep that roam the countryside. The legendary dish of Ribera del Duero is the lechazo, a baby lamb fed only by its mother's milk. In fact, lechazo is a typical dish found in the best asadores - simple, taberna-like roast houses. The heavenly aroma of roast baby lamb can be smelled several blocks away from an asador; and it is hard to pass up.
My sister and I are from the United States and were in Salamanca for a week visiting my niece. We noticed a pamphlet advertising a one day Sierra de Salamanca tour and thought we would give it a try....I am so glad we did! We had an absolutely picture perfect day visiting several quaint villages and touring an organic winery.
Helena and Pierre were fantastic hosts. I hope to return one day to experience a longer tour. If you love wine, do yourself a favor and contact Slowwines.
Just a little word of thanks for your Slowwines people! I thought our trip got off to a bad start, as upon arrival at the airport in Madrid, the rental car agency never seem to have heard of us! We called the Spanish office straight away and in less than half an hour, we had a nice car to start our self-drive tour to Ribera del Duero. Instructions were clear, this wasn't just a map an a few directions. The tour itself was perfectly timed and measured! We never drove long distances and arrived at the scheduled visits without hurrying! That was pure pleasure.
- The underground cellars around Rueda and Medina
- The 16th century castle & wine museum of Peñafiel
- The monasteries along the pilgrimage route to Santiago
- The wine domains with luxury 4* & 5* exclusive country hotel
- Local vine growers: truly inspiring characters
- Centennial vineyards
- Cathedral and picturesque streets of Burgos
- Castle of Cuéllar and Tordesillas
- Verdejo grape celebrated in Rueda
- Castilian typical landscapes
- Strong, savory flavors of local cuisine