Whilst Rioja wines tend to be the favourite tipple of Spanish wine lovers around the world, it is the Ribero Del Duero wine region which produces some of the country’s finest red wines. Its vineyards are spread across the elevated northern plains of Valladolid, Burgos, Segovia and Soria in Castilla y León. They are irrigated by water from tributaries of the Duero River which flows across northern Spain towards Portugal where it drains into the Atlantic at Porto.
The region is home to many wineries which concentrate almost entirely on the production of full-bodied, red wines using the tempranillo grape. Prize winning wines from the region include Vega Sicilia and Tinto Pesquera. The only white grape grown here is the Albillo and most of the white wine produced from this grape is consumed locally.
History of the Ribera del Duero Wine Region
The discovery of an impressive mosaic of Bacchus, the god of wine, in the Roman Villa of Santa Cruz in Baños de Valdearados suggests that wine may have been produced in the region for at least 2000 years. However, it was the Benedictine monks from Cluny, in France’s Burgundy region, who are credited with introducing viticulture in the 12th century.
In 1864 the Vega Sicilia winery was founded in Valbuena de Duero by Eloy Lecanda mixed local tempranillo grapes with French varieties he had acquired in Bordeaux. At the turn of the century he sold the winery to the Herrero family who oversaw the production of some exceptional wines but these were never made commercially available.
Little attention was paid to any other wineries in the region until the 1970’s when Alejandro Fernandez began producing red wines at a 16th-century stone winery in Pesquera de Duero. Such was the quality of these fruity, full bodied wines that Tinto Pesquera became highly regarded both domestically and internationally. In 1982 the Ribera del Duero wine region was formally recognised as a Denominación de Origen (DO).
In that same year Vega Sicilia was purchased by the Alvarez family who remain the owners of this prestigious winery. They have taken the region’s winemaking to another level with the production of Vega Sicilia Unico wines which have become popular at the dinner table of the Spanish Royal Family. The success of Vega Sicilia and Pesquera attracted many new producers to the region to the extent that there are now more than 270 wineries located here.
Getting to Ribera del Duero
Whilst Valladolid is the region’s largest city, it is the town of Aranda de Duero which is considered to be the capital of the Ribera del Duero wine region. Other significant destinations for wine tourism include Peñafiel, Roa and San Esteban de Gormaz. The main ways that visitors tend to get to the region are as follows:
Madrid to Ribera del Duero
The Ribera del Duero wine region lies 175km north of Madrid and can be reached by road in less than two hours. There are full-day wine tours from Madrid to Ribera del Duero with an English-speaking chauffeur and guide. Alternatively, there are high-speed AVE train services to Valladolid from Madrid Chamartín and various bus services to Valladolid, Peñafiel and Aranda de Duero.
Bilbao to Ribera del Duero
Bilbao lies approximately 240km to the north of Ribera del Duero. The beautiful drive south is highly recommended, otherwise there are direct buses to Aranda de Duero. Another option is to travel by train from Bilbao Abando to Valladolid then use local transport to get around the area.
Ribera del Duero Wine Tours
There’s a 15km stretch of the road between Tudela de Duero and Peñafiel in the heart of the Ribera del Duero wine region which is known as the ‘Milla de Oro’. This ‘Golden Mile’ is home to many of the area’s most prestigious bodegas including:
|Dehesa de los Canónigos||Pago de Carraovejas|
|Dominio de Pingus||Pesquera|
|Finca Villacreces||Vega Sicilia|
A great place to stay on the ‘Golden Mile’ is the Hotel AF Pesquerain in Peñafiel. It is one of the region’s finest boutique hotels which is owned by the Familia Fernández Rivera from the Pesquera Winery. The hotel is ideally located at the foot of the historic Peñafiel Castle which houses the Provincial Wine Museum and is within walking distance of several wineries.
Ribera del Duero Wine Labels
When you read the label of a wine from Ribera del Duero you will see the words Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva. This is the same system used in the Rioja region to classify wines according to the ageing process. The minimum requirements are as follows for these three categories of wine:
Crianza: Two years of total ageing, with at least one year in the barrel.
Reserva: Three years of total ageing, with at least one year in the barrel.
Gran Reserva: Five years of total ageing, with at least two years in the barrel.
Most bodegas will age their wines for longer than these periods.
Grapes of Ribera del Duero
Tinto Fino is the local name for the tempranillo grape which is the main grape used in the production of Ribera del Duero and Rioja wines. Whilst some bodegas grow small quantities of Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot to blend with the Tempranillo, Tinto Pesquera continues to be produced using 100% tempranillo grapes.