Ribera del Duero is one of the most famous and awarded wine regions in Spain. Wine critics, magazines, wine collectors and wine lovers alike find in Ribera del Duero’s wines great pleasure, and it’s easy to see why. The banks along the Duero River are perfect for premium viticulture.
Although we work with producers from all of Spain, you can probably guess (by our name) that we're particular fans of Ribera del Duero wines (You can read about why in our About Us section!) and we wanted to re-introduce the region to you.
Here’s all you need to know about Ribera del Duero’s history, terroir, wine grapes and hard-working producers. Wine as good as this is a hard find, and the more you know about the region, the more you’ll fall for Ribera’s inky fermented grape juice.
The History of Ribera del Duero
Named Wine Region of the Year in 2012 by Wine Enthusiast, Ribera del Duero is a relatively young region, especially considering people have been making wine in Spain for over two thousand years, as the unearthing of a 66-meter mosaic of Bacchus in the town of Banos de Valdearados in 1972 suggests.
The birth of the Ribera del Duero movement was triggered in 1864, when Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, a true visionary, saw the perfect spot for prime viticulture in the Duero river bench and established the estate that would become world-famous Vega Sicilia. Other winemakers soon followed, like Alejandro Fernandez (Recently passed, on May 2021, at age 88), who's famous Tinto Pesquera drew a lot of attention towards the region in the 1970s and 1980s, helping the region gain D.O. status in 1982.
Ribera del Duero is located in Northwestern Spain, 2 hours North from Madrid, and covers surrounding areas of cities like Valladolid, Soria, Burgos and Segovia, from the Castille and Leon region. Here are some Ribera del Duero facts:
- Distance covered East to West: 135 Kilometers (83 miles)
- Hectares under vine: 22,500 Hectares (55,600 Acres). 323 of those are 100+ years-old!
- Elevation: 760 to 945 metres above Sea level (2,500 to 3,100 feet)
- Planted grapes: Mostly Tempranillo (95%). Other red varieties, White wines included!
- Climate: Continental/Mediterranean - Cold winters and hot, dry summers
- Soil: Alternating layers of sandy silt and clay, with limestone, marl, and chalky concretions
- Wineries: 282
The fine grapes and talented winemakers in Ribera del Duero took the region to never-seen quality levels, and perfect scores by the most respected wine critics helped cement the region’s popularity. Today, Ribera del Duero is amongst the most acclaimed wine regions in Spain and the world.
All About Ribera del Duero’s Wine
Ribera del Duero specializes in red wine, and it’s made with Tempranillo, here called Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais. Winemakers sometimes blend the eminent Spanish grape with the international Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, proof of the region’s modern approach to winemaking. However, to be recognized by the D.O., Ribera del Duero wines need to be 75% Tempranillo.
The wines, though, are pretty much traditional. They’re made with the finest, ripest grapes, vinified and aged, sometimes for two years in French (And/or American) oak barrels.
The result is concentrated, age-worthy wine brimming with fruit aromas, but also leather, undergrowth, warm spices and vanilla over a rich palate that extends long into the aftertaste. Tempranillo wines are medium to full-bodied, rich and well-structured, with colors ranging from dark cherry to deep purple.
Iconic Producers in the Ribera del Duero
One of the very first wineries in Ribera del Duero and responsible for bringing global attention to the region, Vega Sicilia is amongst the most respected wineries in the world. Its wines crown wine lists around the globe, and you can enjoy them, too. This is Ribera del Duero at its finest.
Created of legendary Alejandro Fernandez, Tinto Pesquera, named after Alejandro's hometown, was (And cotinues to be) a quintessential Ribera del Duero Winnery, which helped the region achieve D.O. status thanks to the quality of its wine. According to Robert Parker, Tinto Pesquera is one of the best wines in the world!
Going back to 1932, this multi-generational winery has helped put Ribera del Duero on the map. The traditional winery has also brought some innovation to the region, shedding the classic Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva terms for modern wines with their own personalities.
Bodega Aalto is a newcomer in Ribera del Duero, showing the region is just getting started. Founded in 1999, Aalto brings modernity and merges it with tradition. The recently renovated winery is the source of astounding wine in the hands of winemaker Mariano García.
Valduero is a family winery and was one of the first to be founded in the D.O. Ribera del Duero. It was created by Gregorio García Álvarez in the small village of Gumiel de Mercado, which is located 16km to the northeast of Aranda de Duero, right in the heart of Ribera del Duero, in the province of Burgos. At that time, there were only about half a dozen wineries in the region and despite its long tradition of winemaking and the reputation among connoisseurs for the quality of its wines, it was largely unknown to the general public.
Brothers Benjamin, Manuel, and Adolfo Perez Pascuas established the winery in 1980, but their father Mauro actually planted grapes well before that. Perez Pascuase is a well-established family business dedicated to top-quality wines from all estate grapes featuring older vines.
Founded by 11 vinegrowers back in 1927, Protos was the first established winery in the Ribera del Duero region. They became thanks to early gold medals earned by their two first vintages (1927 and 1928). Actually, Protos was orignally named Bodegas Ribera del Duero, a name that they changed to Protos in 1982, while authorising its use for naming wha later became the Ribera del Duero D.O. (Appellation).
The Golden Mile of Ribera del Duero
In the so-called Golden Mile (Spoiler: It's not a mile!) you'll be able to find some of the world most reknowned Spanish Wineries. This 30 minute drive from the towns of Tudela de Duero, where Bodegas Mauro is located, to Penafiel, heart of Ribera del Duero, hosts, along a beautiful drive surrounded by acres of vineyards, a great number of wineries with names like; Vega Sicilia, Emilio Moro, Arzuaga, Protos, Matarromera, Dehesa de Los Canonigos, Pago de Carraovejas, Aalto, Pingus...and many more. We've pinned them all in this map for you to check out
Ribera del Duero Golden Mile
Some Iconic Wines by Iconic Wineries
Emilio Moro is a historical estate in Ribera del Duero, and Cepa 21 is one of their most approachable labels for wine lovers and connoisseurs alike. Made with Tempranillo and aged 18 months, this astounding red offers a vibrant black fruit aroma and endless layers of warm spices.
The Iconic Vega Sicilia is larger than life, and Alion is proof of it. The 100% Tempranillo is aged 12 months in oak barrels and shows how concentrated Ribera del Duero wines can be. This age-worthy wine unfolds in the glass for hours, revealing red and black fruit, leather, spices, vanilla and chocolate.
Aged for an astounding 48 months, 30 of them in French and American Oak barrels, Valduero Reserva 2011 is ready to drink now. Ribera del Duero wines age so well but are ready to drink when released since wineries like Valduero already age them for a significant amount of time. Impressive value in this Tempranillo.
Perfect Meat Pairing Wine
Pair Ribera del Duero Tempranillos with confidence:
- Roasted pork
- Roasted Lamb
- Grill and BBQ