Ribera del Duero
The argument can be correctly made that no other wine region in Spain has accomplished more in the past three decades than the historic Ribera del Duero DO located in Castilla y Leon in Northern Spain.
The area is part of Spain’s “Golden Triangle” and enjoys a celebrated winemaking history that originated during Roman times. It was protected by Cistercian Monks during the Middle Ages and allowed to flourish. Even with this advantage, the wines of Ribera del Duero were not granted D.O. status until 1982. From that point on, the area literally exploded with new wineries and the resulting wines placed the Ribera del Duero on an even footing with other great European winemaking locales. In 2012, the prestigious wine industry publication Wine Enthusiast named the Ribera del Duero as the Wine Region of the Year, a most laudable recognition.
Location has a great deal to do with the swift emergence of the region. Four Spanish rivers – the Barbatino, Avia, Arnoia and Miño – converge here, and bountiful vineyards line the river valley floors. Majestic terraces cling to the steep hillsides that allow for superior fruit to be produced by the vines.
Ribera del Duero sits on the elevated northern plateau of the Iberian Peninsula at 2800 feet above sea level. It is divided by the Duero River (as its name would suggest –Ribera del Duero means 'bank of the Duero'), which provides the local vineyards with a much-needed permanent water supply.
The region's inland location, coupled with the sheltering effects of the nearby Sierra de la Demanda and Sierra de Guadarrama mountain ranges, creates an extreme climate in which hot and dry summers are followed by harsh winters. Temperatures can range from 4 degrees below zero (F) to 104 (F) and during the growing season, the high daytime temperatures are combined with considerably cooler nights that produce optimum results and superior fruit. Soils-wise, alternating layers of limestone, marl and chalk under silt and clay topsoil combine to add great complexity and character to the wines of the Ribera del Duero Region.
Ribera del Duero is almost entirely devoted to red wine and is the area where the greatest Spanish grape, Tempranillo, holds court. All reds must contain at least 75% of the Tempranillo with the remainder made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Albillo or Granacha.
The legendary Spanish winery, Bodegas Vega Sicilia, calls the Ribera del Duero its home and has long been considered the finest Spanish wine produced. Many of the French varietals mentioned above were introduced by Bodegas Vega Sicilia more than 100 years ago and mirror the winemaking tradition of the great Bordeaux châteaux.
Another Spanish D.O., this one called Riberio, is sometime confused with the celebrated Ribera del Duero, but is more suited to white wines than it is to reds. Peñafiel is a sub region of the Ribera del Duero and is located in the very heart of the Province of Valladolid. It is closely associated with wine antiquity and houses hundreds of wine caves that store the town’s wines at constant temperatures. These caves have chimney vents for ventilation and to allow the gases generated by fermenting wineThese vents dot the countryside around the town and also the famous Peñafiel Castle, built between the 13th and 15th Centuries, which is considered one of the greatest attractions in Spain.
Peñafiel is the home to Bodegas Pinna Fidelis; our current International Wine Club featured winery.