The best Ribera del Duero wines

A wine region making a strong rise in prominence in the last few decades is Ribera del Duero. Here, too, there is a long tradition of winemaking, but the arrival of French monks in the 12th century has done much to introduce the techniques still used to this day.

The area is characterised as a vast, level terrain following the river Douro. The climate here is less moderate than in Rioja, and therefore has more extremes.The locals themselves describe the climate as “9 months of winter, 3 months of hell”. The number of sun hours is 2,400 per year. Summer days are hot and in winter temperatures easily drop to -20 °C and lower. Perhaps most important for the quality of Ribera wines is the diurnal range during the growing season. Due to the location of the vineyards between 720 to 1,100 meters above sea level on the Spanish mountain plateau "Meseta Central", temperatures drop dramatically at night. Therefore, the grapes hold on to their acidity that you'll taste in the wines. Ribera del Duero wines are full, ripe and robust and generally have a substantial alcohol percentage, but also a good acidity that ensures finesse and a good balance.

The terroir is markedly different. But other than that, the areas are much alike, for instance, they use the same classifications, and here too, wines are made that need a long maturation.

These are the different classifications:

Joven - no or only minimal (oak) maturation
Crianza - maturations for at least two years, of which at least one year in oak barrels
Reserva - maturations for at least three years, of which at least one year in oak barrels
Gran reserva - maturations for at least five years of which at least two years in oak bareels

Gran reserva wines are particularly layered and complex wines whose profile and build resemble the old tino fino vines from which they originate: knotty, powerful, earthy with intensely dark notes of chocolate, tobacco and leather.

Tempranillo, locally called Tinto fino or Tinta del país, is the main red grape for this area.

Ribera del Duero cannot be separated from its most famous bodega: Vega Sicilia. Spain's most legendary winery was founded by Don Eloy Lecanda in 1864. Vega Sicilia quickly established a great reputation for its full-bodied, rich wines from Bordeaux varieties combined with the local tinto fino. Another famous Ribera winery, Pesquera was founded in 1972 by Alejandro Fernández. They are known for their wines made of 100% tinto fino.

From the 1980s onwards, more ambitious wine makers came to the region, among which the Dane Peter Sisseck. He started Dominio de Pingus in 1995. The first vintage of his wine attracted the attention of the international wine press. Robert Parker noted in his assessment of Sisseck's 1995 vintage: “One of the greatest and most exciting wines I have ever tasted”. And the rest is history! Sisseck's iconic wine Pingus has reached a cult status.

Ribera del Duero