Ribera del Duero: Wine Travel


After making two trips to Spain, I was drawn to the wines of Ribera del Duero. We were finally able to add it to our wine travel experience and happy we did.

I love the Spanish culture; laid-back evening strolls followed by tapas and wine. The people of this wine region have a genuine desire to make visitors feel welcome and tremendous pride in the area and the wine being produced. A visit to this area offers a full spectrum of wineries from traditional, to small family run, to the large modern state of the art facilities. It is best to make appointments in advance for visits.

This region is only two hours from Madrid a city with so much to experience. Madrid being the capital of Spain houses some of the greatest Spanish art with many wonderful museums to uncover this rich culture. An easy-going and friendly city, there are glorious buildings, world-class shopping, and an energetic nightlife. One of our favorite spots was Plaza Santa Ana with lots of great bars and restaurants surrounding the square where everyone gathers to catch up and pass the evening with a glass of wine.

We used the towns of Salamanca and Burgos as our home bases to explore Ribera with a stop in Rueda. Salamanca is a picturesque city with Renaissance a style, most notable is the Plaza Mayor, which is stunning when illuminated at night. There is a lively vibe here as the city houses one of the largest Universities in all of Spain. Burgos is home to the most extraordinary Gothic cathedral, which looms large over the town captivating your views. It is also situated on the Pilgrim's Road should you desire to embark on this spiritual path to Santiago de Compostela.

Ribera del Duero is a rural region with vast vineyards stretching endlessly, and several lovely villages are scattered about. Winemaking is centered around the town of Peñafiel, where perched prominently atop a hill, and visible for miles, is the Peñafiel Castle. Historically significant during the 9th and 10th centuries it was an important line of defense of the Duero River for both the Christians and the Moors. This rural region has fantastic local food; the pork and lamb were some of the best we tried in all of Spain – which is saying something!

It may be the lesser known of Spain's wine regions, but it is notable in its own rights. Although the Tempranillo grape is the same as Rioja, and they follow the same winemaking processes, the wines from Ribera couldn't be more different. The young wines are bright and easy to drink, while I find the reserves tend to be smooth and velvety.

Much of the Ribera del Duero wine region runs along the Duero River, the weather conditions seem extreme with scorching hot summers and frigid winters; even temperature swings in one day can be more than 50 degrees. The area experiences plenty of sunshine with minimal rain, and the plateau where many the vineyards reside is more than 2500 feet above sea level. This climate and the terroirs of the region seem to be conducive to this thick-skinned grape making for some bold, age-worthy reds wines. The key to understanding these Spanish wines is to understand the terms used in classify their wines, which in large part is related to the wine aging process.

Vega Sicilia brought attention and accolades to the area and sets the standard for traditional wines from Ribera. Alejandro Fernandez, the winemaker at Tinto Pesquera and Condado de Haza, is another significant influencer who helped put this region on the wine map. A well-respected figure in the Spanish wine world it was a pleasure to meet him and share some wine.

Another prized winemaker in the region is Emilio Moro, whose family has been making wine in the region for generations. It's definitely worth a stop in the Valladolid district, located in the town of Pesquera. Bodegas Cepa 21 is another winery owned by the Moro Family with a modern facility and restaurant. The desire for this new endeavor is to be forward thinking which was very exciting to see in this area of Spain. For another modern, state of the art facility, visit Legaris. Owned by the sizeable Codorniu group, the winery is shaped in a cross has a stunning location with views of the Peñafiel Castle.

Each Bodega was memorable, but an unforgettable experience was spent with Maria Luisa Cuevas, owner of Ferratus winery. The passion she has for their wine production, and the love she has for her supporting family just radiates, this made for a delightful afternoon sharing wine. Unfortunately, she had a horrible experience with a US exporter, or someone posing as one, who deceived her and seven other wineries in the region. The amazing thing was she held no blame but looked at it as a learning experience in the business of wine – classy lady.

So don't overlook a visit to Ribera del Duero you'll be pleasantly delighted.