Friday, October 11, 2013

Autumn Craves Red: Ribera del Duero

With fall comes red wine, and I could not be happier. Don't get me wrong, I love a good Sauvignon Blanc, but red is where my heart is, and by the end of the summer, I feel like a thirsty man crawling out of the desert. However, you can't just jump right into big, rich Cabernet or robust Barolo; you need a bridge wine. A red that will be there for you on the moderately warm, early days of September, yet also appease on the nights when those cool breezes are blowing in through wide-open windows. I'll often turn to Sangiovese for such a wine. But this year, I've had to make room for another red in my heart—the red wines of the Ribera Del Duero.

The grape of choice here is Tempranillo, and it shines beautifully through adversity, especially from these high altitude vineyards. But it’s not just altitude that makes these wines what they are; much of it has to do with the extreme climate of the region and its long growing season. The Ribera del Duero sees long, dry, hot summers, followed by hard winters during which temperatures may drop as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit. You can imagine that a vine that survives these conditions would be full of character.

The resulting wines are juicy and fresh with incredible depth, showing perfectly ripe fruit, earth tones, great acidity and broad structures that add to the experience instead of drying you out. The expert use of oak is neither too little, nor too much, making the wines of Ribera del Duero appealing to a wide range of palates. What’s more, their vibrant acidity is appreciated at the dinner table, while their intense, fun-loving nature carries them well into the night.

This September, I had a chance to taste through a number of excellent wines from the region, some for a second time. They are all excellent and from every price point.

On to the Wines:

2009 Dominio de Atauta Ribera del Duero - The nose was initially closed up, but with time in the glass blossomed to reveal tart red berries and herbs with a beautiful floral component. On the palate, seductive dark fruit was met by floral tones of violet and lavender with a velvety mouthfeel and refined tannin that sneaks up on you toward the close. The wine turns juicier and brighter on the finish with a slightly bitter twang. It's a refined, pretty and truly unique wine. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $35)

2009 Bodegas AAlto Ribera del Duero AAlto - The nose was showy yet refined with ripe red and blue fruits, floral tones, brown sugar and spice. On the palate, it was tight yet displayed tart red fruits with an herbal note and inner floral tones, which lasted into the close. The finish was structured, yet it was nearly imperceptible, as the tannins were so well covered by the intense fruit that remained. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $46)

2009 Bodegas Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero Malleolus - The nose showed seductive dark red and blue fruits with a gram cracker crust, yet grounded by floral undergrowth and herbs. On the palate, intense ripe blackberry and tart cherry filled the senses, ushered in by velvety textures. Fine tannin tickled the senses throughout the long fruity finish. This was the second time I tasted this wine, and I found it to be very enjoyable. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $51)

2010 Bodegas Los Astrales Ribera del Duero Astrales - The nose showed slightly vegetal at first, yet quickly swayed to the ripe fruit spectrum with small ripe spiced berries and dark wood tones. It entered soft and velvety on the palate, but intensified as tart red and black fruit was accentuated by firm acidity and a backdrop of stony minerals. Mild tannin remained on the finish, along with concentrated dark fruits. This was the second time tasting this wine, and although I may have taken back a point, the experience was still quite enjoyable. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $29)

2011 Bodegas Vizcarra Ramos Ribera del Duero JC Vizcarra - A more modern effort, showing dark ripe fruit, a mix of plum and black cherry, followed by herbs and spice with a buttery crust. On the palate, it was velvety, filling all the senses with dark fruit and spice, backed by slightly gruff tannin. It finished juicy, pleasant, balanced--a truly enjoyable wine. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $29)

2010 Hermanos Pérez Pascuas Ribera del Duero Viña Pedrosa Crianza - At first showing as sweaty and closed in on itself, the Vina Pedrosa Crianza blossomed with time in the glass to reveal ripe red berry fruit, herbs and an earthy mineral component. On the palate, red fruits and saline minerals combined with meaty, savory notes to form a very complete and enjoyable experience. Dense, concentrated red fruit remained on the palate throughout the finish, along with a linger hint of cedar. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $18)

2008 Bodegas Alejandro Fernández Ribera del Duero Gran Reserva Pesquera - The nose showed sweet, spiced red fruits, a dusting of sugar with floral notes, cedar and a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, brisk acidity paved the way for intense, tart red berry, notes of wild herbs and cedar. It finished fresh, yet structured and refined. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $N/A)

2009 Viña Sastre (Bodegas Hermanos Sastre) Ribera del Duero Crianza - The nose showed slightly restrained with red fruit, cacao, wood spice and a hint of apple cider. On the palate, it displayed soft textures with juicy red fruits and a hint of tannin that wrapped around the senses into the finish. It was a simple yet fun wine. (88 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $35)

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