2012 Wine Region of the Year: Ribera del Duero

Just 30 years after its formal recognition as a quality wine-producing region, this part of northern Spain has justifiably claimed a share of the limelight.

Agapito Ojosnegro

A scenic two-hour drive north of Madrid brings you to the beautiful wine region of Ribera del Duero. Wine has been produced here since Roman times, as evidenced by a 2000-year-old Bacchian mosaic tile floor that was unearthed in 1972, yet Denominación de Origen (DO) status was only conferred on the region in 1982.

Ribera del Duero boasts wines that have undergone a radical change in terms of both quality and consumer accessibility, with many now ranked among the finest in the world.

There are over 270 wineries bracketing the banks of the Duero River in an undulating swath of land that’s approximately 70 miles long and 22 miles wide.

The main grape variety in Ribera del Duero is Tempranillo, which also goes by the monikers Tinto del País and Tinto Fino. The DO also allows for the use of Garnacha, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the white grape, Albillo, in the blending process.

With a tradition of winemaking stretching back generations, small family bodegas exist alongside state-of-the-art, corporate-owned wineries. Approximately one-third of the vines planted on its 51,000 acres are over 50 years old, and 3% are over 100 years old.

Most vines are planted at between 2,500 and 3,000 feet above sea level, and the region receives an impressive 2,400 hours of sunshine per year. Temperatures can be extreme in northern Spain, but the large difference in day and night temperatures is responsible for the ripening and concentration of the grapes’ sugars, creating wines of exemplary depth and balance.

Although Ribera’s focus on excellence allows for up to 3.1 tons of grapes per acre, the average yield over the past few decades has been a mere 1.6 tons, an important factor in the high quality of fruit used in the winemaking process.

The combination of climate, altitude, soil and winemakers’ dedication creates wines that are simultaneously powerful and elegant. They are international in style, yet distinctly Spanish at the same time, and a rightful source of national pride.

Ribera del Duero recently launched the comprehensive Ruta del Vino, a wine route that guides guests along a vinous journey of discovery. The beautiful cities of Valladolid, Aranda del Duero, Peñafiel and Burgos are proud gems along the route and are natural destinations for wine and culinary enthusiasts.

The “Drink Ribera. Drink Spain.” campaign has also heightened trade and consumer awareness of Ribera del Duero wine, making it easy to locate in wine shops and restaurants.

Direct marketing efforts include consumer tastings, contests and social media initiatives. These well-executed programs bring to life the combination of tradition and technology that goes into every bottle of Ribera del Duero wine.

It’s this combination of top-quality wines, beautiful vistas and a proactive approach to tourism and customer satisfaction that makes Ribera del Duero the choice of Wine Enthusiast as our Wine Region of the Year.

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