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Wines with Altitude


Wines with Altitude was a Masterclass showcasing Ribera del Duero wines.  It was hosted by Jane Parkinson and held on Tuesday 3rd November at Browns Courtrooms, St. Martin’s Lane, London.

Ribera del Duero is one of Spain’s best winemaking regions, but go back 30 years or so and no-one knew much about Ribera.  Wines from Ribera del Duero are often styled on wines produced by Bodegas Vega Sicilia, one of Spain’s most revered wineries, and a number of wines from this region can be even more highly regarded than those from Rioja.  


Ribera del Duero is located in Northern Spain, south-west of Rioja and about 2 hours north of Madrid.  It extends across four provinces of Castilla y Leon; Burgos, Soria, Segovia and Valladolid, and the vineyards follow the natural course of the Duero River.


One of the early examples of wines from the Ribera dates back to the 1970’s when Alejandro Fernández created Tinto Pesquera.  This became one of the most prestigious bodegas in Spain and Tinto Pesquera has become synonymous with fine wines made in the Ribera.


In 1982, Ribera del Duero received a DO for its red and rosé wines.  At that time, there were only 8 producers.  There are now close to 300.  Around 8000 growers cultivate 21,000 ha of vineyards and a large number of co-operatives produce some excellent wines in the region.


Ribera is warmer than Rioja and vines are grown at higher altitudes, averaging around 800m above sea level.  Ribera has a short growing season with long cold winters and short hot summers which suits early ripening varietals like Tinto Fino, a variation of Tempranillo, the main grape of the region.  This combined with extreme temperature variations between day and night which range from 35C in the day to as low as 12C at night, help grapes ripen slowly whilst retaining freshness and good levels of acidity.


DO regulations require that red wines from the Ribera are made from at least 75% Tinto Fino with the rest of the blend coming from Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Garnacha and Albillo. 


Ribera del Duero wines blend concentration with elegance and are known for their consistency of quality.  As a region, they are continuously monitoring levels of alcohol and moving to the use of less American and more French oak for ageing.


The classification system in Ribera del Duero is as below:


Joven – young wines with no oak ageing.  There is a huge market for this style of wine created for the modern palate; light, fresh and fruity.

Roble – sub-category of Joven indicating a few months ageing in oak

Crianza – aged for a minimum of 1 year in oak, plus 2 years in bottle

Reserva – aged for a minimum of 1 year in oak plus 3 years in bottle

Gran Reserva – aged for a minimum of 2 years in oak plus 5 years in bottle


The Tasting


2014 Hijos de Antonio Barceló 13.5% - Viña Mayor Joven Roble (Bibendum £9.99)

100% Tinto Fino fermented in stainless steel and aged 4 months in American oak.

2014 is expected to be the best vintage since 2010. 

Simple, light bodied, fresh acidity, soft chewy tannins, packed full of ripe red cherries and raspberries, with a relatively short finish. 


2013 Alberto y Benito 13.5% - Briego (O.W. Loeb £9.56)

100% Tinto Fino from old vines grown at 900m, aged 8 months in American oak, 6 months in French oak followed by a year in bottle.

Medium bodied with firm well-integrated tannins, ripe red cherries, redcurrants, violets, hints of perfume and lead pencil and a long spicy finish.


2013 Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro 14% - Arzuaga Crianza (approx. £19.50)

90% Tinto Fino, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Merlot from vines grown at 900m, fermented in stainless steel and aged 50/50 in French/American oak for 16 months.

The oak was very apparent on the nose; also sweet spices and vanilla.  Fuller bodied, rich, ripe and very fruity with soft fine-grained tannins, black plums and a long smoky finish.


2011 Bodegas Ismael Arroyo 14% - Valsotillo Crianza (Boutinot £14.80)

100% Tinto Fino fermented in stainless steel and aged 14 months in American oak.  2011 was an exceptionally hot year producing wines with real intensity, power and flavour.

This wine had firm tannins, good acidity, an abundance of black fruit and hints of tar.


2011 Bodegas Pingón 14.5% - Carramimbre Crianza (Amathus Drinks £16.80)

90% Tinto Fino and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 12 months in French and American oak.

A big fleshy Crianza with firm structured tannins, sweet ripe black plums, spicy blackcurrants and a long smooth finish.


2011 Bodegas Protos 13.5% - Protos Crianza (Excel Wines £14.95)

100% Tinto Fino aged 14 months in French and American oak.

Rich black cherries on the nose, firm chewy tannins, jammy black plums and a long savoury finish.  This wine would benefit from additional ageing.


2010 Bodegas Legaris 14.5% - Legaris Crianza (Codorniu UK £15.99)

96% Tinto Fino and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon fermented in stainless steel and aged 50/50 in French/American oak for 12 months.  Legaris is a large producer with approximately 100 ha which first planted vines in 1999.  2010 was considered an “excellent” vintage and Cabernet Sauvignon is only added to the blend in the best vintages.

Firm grippy tannins, fresh acidity, an excellent concentration of black fruit, with some earthy and mushroom notes on the finish.


2010 Viñedos Y Bodegas Aster 14.5% - Aster Finca El Otero (John Armit Wines £26.95)

100% Tinto Fino fermented in stainless steel and aged 1 year in barrel.  The sister company of La Rioja Alta, they first planted vines in 1991 and produced their first wines in 1999.  They use new American oak and 2 year old French oak; the best wines are aged in French.

Complex, smooth and well-integrated wine, with good levels of acidity and fruit concentration, together with hints of cinnamon, fruitcake and nutmeg.

2010 Comenge Bodegas Y Viñedos 14.5% - Don Miguel Comenge Reserva (Eurowines Limited £39.50)

100% Tinto Fino aged between 18-22 months in new French oak.  A single estate vineyard founded in 1999 which only grows Tinto Fino and Cabernet Sauvignon.

A complex wine with soft fine-grained tannins, sweet red and black fruits, hints of spice and a long finish.


2009 Real Sitio de Ventosilla 14% - Pradorey Reserva (C&D Wines £29.00)

95% Tinto Fino plus 5% Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot aged 24 months in barrel and 12 months in bottle.  The largest vineyard holders in Ribera with 520 ha; they planted their first vines in 1987.  2009 is also considered an “excellent” vintage and the second largest harvest in Ribera’s history since it gained its DO.

A very powerful nose with ripe red fruits, well-structured tannins and good integration of oak, which is less pronounced than in some of the wines.  Tertiary flavours coming through on the finish include mushroom, forest floor and leather.


2010 Dominio Basconcillos 14% - Crianza 12 Meses Ecológico (Vintage Roots £20.00)

100% Tinto Fino aged 60% in French oak and 40% in American oak for 12 months.  This is from the northern part of Ribera at altitudes of between 900m – 1000m.

Fresh acidity, good concentration of fruit, well integrated oak, and a good length.


2010 Bodegas Félix Callejo 14% - Autor (Anthony Byrne Fine Wines £90.00)

100% Tinto Fino aged at least 18 months in French oak.  A family owned winery which only produces Tempranillo; they ferment using indigenous yeasts and vineyards are located between 850m – 950m.

This wine had a black core, silky smooth tannins, an excellent concentration of black cherries, black plums, black pepper, oak, sweet spice and vanilla, some subtle tobacco notes, tar and lead pencil.  A very elegant wine.


Copyright of - November, 2015


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