Winemaking for Spain’s most prestigious wine regions for red and white wines began almost 2,000 years ago. It’s a wonder anyone would have thought to plant grapes in these regions of extreme temperatures, blisteringly hot summers, bitterly cold winters, rocky terrain, and high altitudes. The flag of Castilla y León bears images of castles and lions – the coat of arms commissioned by leaders centuries ago. But the presence of the many castles scattered throughout the region and the symbolic watchful eye of the lion has persisted. This symbolism represents the name of an expansive region and a sense of purpose and prestige. Given this, it seems unlikely to be home to the most prestigious wine regions in Spain, but a river runs through it, and with that, the key to vibrant vineyards and the stunning wines that come from them. Ribera y Rueda were bestowed the Denominación de Origen (D.O.) status in the 1980’s – a prestigious designation, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Get to know Rueda, land of lions, home to Verdejo and Spain’s #1 white wine. At its heart, Rueda and it’s signature grape, Verdejo, is all about agriculture. World-class winemakers moved in the 70’s to make the world’s next great white featuring a grape with tremendous potential. Rueda is one of Spain’s best-kept secrets – but not for long. It’s no surprise that Verdejo is Spain’s number one-selling white wine. The grape’s many forms of expression – sparkling, clean, crisp, young, aged, oak, unoaked – means it takes what the winemaker intends the wine drinker to experience. It also means that a glass of Verdejo will go with pretty much any type of tapa or other food. One thing is for certain: like its animal spirit the lioness, this wine is stealthily yet sure-footedly makes it a perfect pairing for seafood, fresh salads and spicy food.
The young or “joven” style is everyday Verdejo – best described as a cross between sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. For a magnificent wine experience, seek out the world-class winemakers utilizing lees and oak-aging to bring complexity and texture to the wine. All this is to say that Rueda Verdejo is slowly but surely turning into a world-class wine with a reputation for richness, herbal notes, complexity, minerality, and aging potential of 5-10 years similar to wines from Loire, Sancerre, and Chablis. Collector’s Tip – don’t be afraid to age these beauties.
RIBERA DEL DUERO
Land of extremes, Spain’s most prestigious reds, where Tempranillo is king – Ribera del Duero produces complex wines with balanced acidity, a backbone of tannins, dark fruit, and sturdy structure. Wines are crafted for the finest restaurants, hearth cooking and wood-fired meals filled with roasted meats and vegetables picked in season. Today, more than 300 wineries call Ribera del Duero home, including some of Spain’s most iconic names and because of that, the bar is high for wineries to create exceptional wines with equally exceptional value. The result, wines that can be enjoyed at home on the everyday table filled with rich dishes and staples like charcuterie and cheese. Perfect for fireside chats with the best of friends.
Tempranillo, locally known as Tinto Fino, remains king in Ribera del Duero, and the vines have been around for decades. While organic viticulture is becoming increasingly popular throughout the wine world, many growers in the region have always farmed organically. In Ribera del Duero, sustainability is not a trend. It’s a tradition. Tempranillo in the hands of dedicated winemakers in extremes growing climates translates to wines that offer finesse, elegance, intensity, and luxury. All of this comes at a fraction of the price compared to other super-premium wines from world-renowned regions like Napa, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Piedmont. Ribera del Duero wines can go head-to-head with the wines from any of these regions, but fortunately for Ribera lovers, the competition stops at price.