Ribera del Duero is a DO (Denominación de Origen) surrounding the town of Arranda de Duero in the Duero River Valley. It is considered one of Spain’s top red wine-producing regions.
Ribera del Duero is located in the center of Castilla y León, a northwestern autonomía and the largest in Spain. Known as the “Kingdom of Castles,” Castilla y León contains a number of fortifications built to combat the Moors in the early Middle Ages. In the 15th century, the kingdoms of Castilla y León and Aragon joined through marriage, beginning the creation of modern Spain.
Wine has been produced in Ribera del Duero for over 2,000 years. A more modern style of viticulture was introduced in the 12th century by the arrival of the Benedictine monks from Cluny in Burgundy. For most of history, Ribera del Duero remained largely unaffected by international wine preferences and shunned the French style adopted by Rioja, which relied on the export market. In the mid 1980s, however, Ribera del Duero began receiving international attention, gaining DO status in 1982. In 2008 the region was approved to receive DOCa classification, but acquiring the status was never pursued and Ribera del Duero remains a DO today. Regardless of classification, Ribera del Duero is garnering a continually increasing level of international attention.
A visit to Castilla y León is defined by its vast and awe-inspiring ruins. The landscape is filled with Romanesque monasteries and churches, Medieval battlements, and fortress-mansions of the nobility known as hidalgos, or free men. As a major historical pilgrimage destination, Castilla y León is deeply rooted in religion, whose visual culture is ubiquitous.
Due to the long, cold winters in Castilla y León, soups and stews are an important part of the local cuisine. Chickpeas are a staple, and blood sausage and roasts play a recurring role.
Ribera del Duero has a high elevation and a Continental climate, slightly moderated by its proximity to the Atlantic and Mediterranean but still subject to extreme heat and cold. Rainfall is moderate to low. The Duero River flows westward through the region, heavily impacting its terroir; in fact, Ribera del Duero translates as “banks of the Duero river.” Ribera del Duero’s soil consists of sandy layers of silt and clay, punctuated by limestone, marl, and chalky concretions.
The wines from Ribera del Duero were (and are) distinguished from their Rioja neighbors to the northeast, whose wines were much more affected by French influences and markets. The classic style of Ribera del Duero wines is rich and extracted, complex with dark black fruit and an aptitude for aging.
Ribera del Duero has more than 20,000 hectares under vine. The difficult, almost alpine climate of this elevated region results in the need for meticulous care in the vineyard, in order to keep vine rows free from weeds and growth that increase chances of fungal diseases. The DO produces reds and small amounts of rosados (rosés); whites are not allowed. The primary grapes are Tinto Fino and Tinto del País, two strains of Tempranillo. These two grapes make up 95% of production and must constitute 75% of any blend. Secondary grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec, which can compose up to 20% of a blend. Garnacha Tinta and Albillo, a white used only in rosados, can compose up to 5%.