Ribera del Duero

Ribera del Duero

Key Points

  • Grape varieties: Tempranillo (aka Tinta del País or Tinta Fino), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Garnacha, Albillo Mayor
  • Hectares: 25,000 Ha
  • Grape growers: 8,000
  • Wineries: 305

About Ribera del Duero

After Rioja, Ribera del Duero (literally "bank of the Duero") is one of Spain’s best known wine regions and spans the upper valley of the Duero river in Castilla y León in north central Spain. Despite a long winegrowing history, the region was only awarded DO status in 1982 but it has grown quickly since then and now covers just over 25,000 hectares stretching from just east of the city of Valladolid across towards Soria. Top producers like Dominio de Pingus, Aalto, Pérez Pascuas or Alión, have joined revered names like Vega Sicilia or Pesquera, and ensured Ribera del Duero’s place on the lists of wine-lovers all over the world.

Sitting on Spain’s meseta norte or northern plain, Ribera’s vineyards are between 720 and 1,100 metres above sea level and cover the four provinces of Valladolid, Segovia, Burgos and Soria. Soil types vary depending on the sub-zone, but are predominantly clay, limestone and stony.

Ribera is a land of climatic extremes. Its position on Spain’s meseta norte, or northern plain, ensures a firmly continental climate, characterized by dry summers, long, harsh winters, low rainfall (400 – 500 mm/year) and a very broad temperature range from -20ºC to 42ºC. All of these factors help ensure top quality grapes, which are able to ripen slowly but steadily.

Ribera’s principal grape variety is Tinta Fino, also see referred to sometimes as Tinta del País, a local variant of Rioja’s Tempranillo . The grape has adapted well to Ribera’s climate, and tends to produce deeply coloured, strongly flavoured red wines which don’t need to be blended with any other grapes. Red wines can be broadly divided into four categories: young wines with no, or very little barrel ageing; tintos jóvenes roble, or young oaked wines with over three months barrel ageing; crianza wines with a minimum 12 months barrel ageing; and reserva or gran reserva wines which have had upwards of 36 months ageing in barrel and bottle before release.

If you’re already a Rioja fan, Ribera del Duero should certainly be on your list of wines to try. While the histories of both regions may be rather different, the importance of climate on winemaking is key to both. Our article Rioja vs Ribera del Duero goes into a bit more detail and flags up aspects like blending practices and the use of different grape varieties, all of which have an influence on the final wine in your glass.

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