Ribera del Duero

Introduction

The Appellation of Origin Ribera del Duero, a young denomination with its scare 35 years of life and home to more than 200 wineries, is one of the most important in Spain and one of the most successful commercially. It is a land of both large wineries and small family vineyards, these last ones harvesting only for themselves and their neighbors. The Ribera del Duero wines are cultivated in a narrow strip of sedimentary soil located on both banks of the Duero river in the Community of Castilla León. These are mostly red distilled wines from Tempranillo, a grape that, according to the regulations of the appellation, should represent not less than 75% of the volume. There are four types of wine:

  • Tinto Joven
  • Tinto Crianza, aging for no less 24 months, with at least half of that time in oak barrels
  • Tinto Reserva, minimum of 36 months of aging, 24 of them in oak barrels
  • Tinto Gran Reserva, with 60 months of ripening process and at least two years in oak barrels, reaching the market in their fifth year wines.

History of the Region

Wine making in the Ribera del Duero area goes back over 2,000 years, with the Romans cultivating the region to supply their legions (as evidenced by a mosaic representing Bacchus, the god of wine, which was found at Baños de Valdearados, Burgos). From the 10th century on, the monastic orders were expanding across all the Iberian Peninsula, spreading the wine culture everywhere they went. By the 12th century, these monastic orders had as their task to regulate grape harvests and strains selection to ensure the highest quality. Viticulture reached the Ribera del Duero in this century thanks to Benedictine monks arriving from Cluny (in the Burgundy region of France) and making wine in Valbuena de Duero.

This legacy and knowledge persisted over the years until reaching the 19th century, when the new technology and techniques of a modernized viticulture, paired with a new understanding in vineyard exploitation and wine production, distribution and commercialization allowed winegrowing to reach new levels of excellence.

In 1864, the Lecanda family founded the Vega Sicilia winery on the banks of the Duero river, starting to develop the legendary wines that would set the quality standard of the Ribera del Duero products. Their vineyards acclimatized international strains, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. Three decades later, the destructive phylloxera plague desolated the Duero territories, causing a serious blow to winegrowing. In 1915, Basque winemaker Txomin Garramiola arrived at the Ribera del Duero area. Applying the knowledge he acquired in La Rioja and assisting on renovating barrels and cleaning mills, he helped Vega Sicilia to regain its well deserved prestige.

In 1975, Alejandro Fernández created his winery in Pesquera de Duero, developing an impressive red wine that finally put Ribera del Duero in the map. Seven years later, in 1982, the Ribera region obtained its own Appellation of Origin, recognizing the magnificent work and heritage of the area.