Ribera del Duero Blind Tasting

On Monday the 14th of November we attended an exclusive blind tasting event in Eindhoven at the beautiful 1-star Michelin Restaurant Zarzo. There, together with other wine bloggers, led all by Esmee Langereis (wine journalist) we were asked to blind taste 40 Ribera del Duero wines. It was up to us to make a top 10 of this particularly beautiful wine region in Spain.

Ribera del Duero and Rioja, alike but not the same

Ribera del Duero together with La Rioja are two of the most famous wine regions from Spain. In fact, they share the same grape variety that characterizes them: Tempranillo. The soils on both regions mainly consists of clay and limestone but their wines are very different.

The reason for this? The climate. This is what makes Rioja and Ribera del Duero different from each other. Ribera has extreme temperatures: very cold in winter and very hot in summer, in La Rioja the climate is milder. An important difference for two regions that are less than a 3-hour drive from each other.

So how does this difference translate into the wines? 

Ribera del Duero wines are generally more powerful and structured and tend to be rougher on the palate, due to their higher concentration of tannins. In the case of Rioja wines, they tend to be softer.

As for the aromas: in wines from La Rioja it is quite common to taste aromas of red fruit, such as strawberry, while in wines from Ribera the dominant aromas are more likely to be of black fruit, such as blackberry.

Ribera del Duero

Located in the northwest of the country, Ribera del Duero is as mentioned one of the best-known Spanish DO’s. The wines of this region are mainly red, divided according to their ageing into different categories: Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. They are made with the most characteristic grape variety there: Tinta del País, known in the wine world as Tempranillo. This variety makes up more than 90% of production in the region. This variety gives the characteristic color, aroma and structure to the red wines of this region.

Ribera del Duero also produces rosé wines. They are fresh and fruity. White wines have been allowed in the DO since 2018, in the form of the Albillo Mayor grape variety.

The Tasting

We tasted only red wines in 3 flights depending of their ageing:

  • Joven: The young ones with a great fruity load and pleasant in the mouth. Unoaked.
  • Crianza: Elegant and balanced. Minimum ageing 24 months.
  • Reserva (minimum ageing: 36 months) and Gran Reserva (minimum ageing: 60 months): Characterised by their aromatic complexity.

It was great to see how this variety, Tempranillo, is different in all styles but keeps its beautiful essence in all the wines we tasted. After two rounds of tasting we were invited to a delicious meal in the dining room of Restaurant Zarzo. There we enjoyed some exquisite dishes. The day ended on a very positive way with the selection of 10 beautiful wines, which will be announced later.

If you have drunk a wine from Ribera del Duero, you will surely remember it. They are usually bright, intense and elegant. If you haven’t had one yet, go and try one of them, you won’t regret it! 

Special thanks go out to Ribera del Duero and Pitch PR for organizing this event and Zarzo for the hospitality and great food. This event was covered for us by our own Inma Muñoz, our specialist on Spanish wines.