Archives for posts with tag: Ribera del Duero

On Monday 3rd December Ralph showed the WING Tutored Tasting Group red Spanish wines in 3 pairs. Each pair consisting in a basic and superior Cuvée from a grower in an interesting wine area.

Ralph made the point in his introduction that Spanish red wine might be considered as surprisingly lacking in variety – a fact he attributes to a relatively small range of grapes, and high heat values homogenising the wines offered. We shall see…

Here are my notes:

The first pair originate in Terra Alta DO – the Southernmost wine area in Catalunya; the centre of the area is situated about 40 km South-West of the centre of Priorat…. The producer is Herència Altés which makes wine at 420-500 metres altitude on “loamy soil with some calcerous and sandy components”.

L’ESTEL 2013
(50% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 25% Syrah). Plum hints on the nose with a slightly cooked fruit quality and something in the tarry, toasty, coffee liquorice spectrum. The palate is grainy but firm showing spicy warmth and earth-tinged fruit – redcurrant, blackberry and plum come to mind….Tannins aren’t overwhelming but a bit harsh…

(80% Carignan, 20% Grenache).This has a much fuller rounder nose with more port hints, reminiscent of red berries or currants in cognac. The palate echoes the flavours on the nose but has a long line of integrated fruit acidity freshening the overall impression…

The second pair were from Bierzo. This DO is actually right at the north-west edge of Castilla y León but it has much more in common with Ribeiro Sacre a few miles to west in Galicia. Both areas have over 75% of their vineyards planted with Mencía. We tried two Cuvées from the grower here, Losada: the first 100% Mencia and the second predominately from old vine Mencia with 5%  other unidentified very old vines added. Bierzo is famous for slate soil but the vines here are grown at about 560 metres altitude on clay rich terraces, the wines are raised for 15 months in oak, 40% new for the second wine.

This has raspberry fruit on the nose, together with some herbal hints and a floral whisper emerging. Quite complex and reminiscent of a less green Cabernet Franc. Palate has a warm but mineral structured background to red fruit with long evolution in the mouth, showing suppleness and charm – Probably my favourite!

This single-vineyard wine has slightly rounder aromas but is also slightly simpler than the previous wine: red fruit, less herbs and a spirity slightly oaky sweet note. Rounder, smoother but somehow narrower flavours on the palate – integrated fruit acid again but a little constricted at the finish.

The final pair comes from Ribera del Duero and are expressions of Tempranillo from Bodegas La Horra Corimbo. The grapes are grown on bush-vines, the first Cuvée is from 20 year old vines has 14 months in barrels, 80% French oak barrels and 20% American oak barrels; the second from 40 year old vines and has 2 months longer in oak.

Slightly brackish black fruit but quite a hard and unyielding nose – with little development, maybe young? Palate has sweet fruit with a – slightly hard – tannic frame, again seeming young. Quite long but tightening at the finish.

CORIMBO 1 2009
More open pungent nose with sweet fruit and a hint of sous-bois. Palate is a little more supple and nuanced than the previous wine, better integration and interest and not a bad Tempranillo, but rather big and rather pricey (£50ish – nearly double the previous wine and treble wine 3!). I’d expect this sort of quality for wine 5’s price!

A very interesting tasting,  showing that increased price, older vines, single site and “premium” winemaking is not always a big improvement. There’s a danger of getting just more intensity, more concentration of the flavours and no more (and sometimes less) breadth of flavour or interest. In general too I felt the wines (I’d exonerate wine 3 of this) did show a constricted palate of colours to paint their picture, or only a few chords to express their melody – depending if you prefer visual or musical metaphor?!

So perhaps that’s me agreeing with Ralph’s overall impression of Spanish wines expressed at the beginning of the night.

Thanks so much Ralph for a enjoyable and thought-provoking tasting.

As the next Tasting is the Xmas quiz there will not be a scene-setting post this month, but Nottingham based readers may be interested to know that Domaine de Cébène Les Bancels 2015 Faugères made Jancis’ recommended list this month as it’s available from Leon Stolarski (

À Bientôt


There is no generally accepted wine area designated the North-West in Spain, comparable to – say – the South West in France.

The term could apply to the whole North-West quarter of Spain, or just to the most North-Westerly “Autonomous Community”: Galicia, the bit above Portugal. However one could divide the Spanish mainland Wine map into six wide wine “regions” (Duero Valley [basically Castilla y León]; The Ebro Valley; The Mediterranean Coast [including both Catalunya and Valencia]; The Central Plain; Andalucía and The North-West). This definition is much smaller than the quarter of Spain implied by the name (see map below) and is geographically the area North or West of the Cantabrian Mountains, composed of the Administrative Regions of Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria.

Most of the wine  in this area is actually from Galicia where there are five Denominacións de Orixe (DO):  Rías Baixas; Monterrei; Ribeira Sacra, Ribeiro and Valdeorras.  A sixth DO, Bierzo, is reasonably included with these (as its based on a decidedly North-West grape, Mencia) even though it is actually over the border in the Duero Valley. Also in the Duero Valley is the area of Ribera del Duero, famous for Tempranillo, which we will rather arbitrarily include in this month’s tasting to add variety. (Really if including that there is no real reason for leaving out Toro, Cigales, Rueda, León and others… But one can’t do everything…)

Usually Galicia makes between 2% and 3% of all Spanish Wine. Bierzo adds another 0.1%, but Ribera del Duero adds another 2.2%.

The North West Quarter of Spain

The North West Quarter of Spain

Cool, moisture-bearing winds blowing in from the Atlantic make Galicia one of the wettest parts of Spain. Coastal areas receive more than 50 inches (1300mm) of rain a year. Happily, Galicia receives abundant sunshine (more than 2000 sunshine hours per year on average), without which the grapes would seriously struggle to ripen. Even so, very few red-wine grapes are able to achieve full ripeness here, so Galicia produces mainly white wines, both varietals and blends.

Albariño is the main white grape, making up over 60% of production. Other significant varieties are  Godello (14%)and  Treixadura (3%). Loureiro, Torrontes and Caiño Blanco (a Galician obscurity often mistaken for Albariño) are also grown. Red wines are produced only in warmer inland areas – typically light in style and made from Mencia, which accounts for a little over 10% of production.

Galicia is home to five DO-rated wine zones. Running east to west they are: Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei, Ribeiro, and the most celebrated, Rías Baixas. Albariño is concentrated in Rías Baixas; Godello in Monterrei and Valdeorras; Treixadura in Ribeiro; and Mencia in Ribeira Sacra.

Ribeira Sacra (and its neighbour to the East – Bierzo) have more sheltered continental climates with high temperature differences from summer to winter, and from day to night. The former especially benefits from steep hillside sites, south facing terraces on well-drained slate and granite soil. This gives long growing seasons and concentration in the red grape, Mencia.

The main grapes – pretty distinctive to the area – are therefore Albariño, Godello, and Mencia. Nearly 70% of the world’s Albariño is in Galicia with the rest (apart from tiny amounts in Western US) over the border in Portugal where it’s called Alvarinho. It has a fruit and floral balance which sometimes recalls Riesling, with fresh acidity and occasionally a salty tinge.

Godello can produce mineral tinged concentrated wines, though it can be reductive in winemaking. About 55% is in Galicia and the rest in Portugal, where it is usually called Gouveio or in Dão – Verdelho – although it is unrelated to Verdelho from anywhere else.

Mencia is a red grape historically used, particularly in Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra, to produce aromatic and fruity red wines. Higher concentration is possible, particularly from low-yielding schist soils in Bierzo – but care is needed to ensure that alcohol doesn’t go too high and acidity too low. About 20% of the world’s Mencia is in Portugal – principally Dão.

Tempranillo is an old favourite – and suffice to say that in Ribera del Duero  the wines are mostly varietal or blended with a little Cabernet and/or Merlot.

We will taste an Albariño from Rías Baixas, a Godello from Valdeorras; Mencia – blended from Ribeiro and varietal from Bierzo; and two Ribera del Duero.

Notes will be posted in 4 or 5 days time.

Until then…..


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