This appellation, located on the northern plateau of Spain, on the banks of the Douro River, is characterised by a continental climate. The land is protected from oceanic winds by the mountains that surround it. Temperatures are therefore very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer, with a high degree of thermal amplitudes between the day and the night. The cool nighttime temperatures in this region are amplified by high altitudes, as the vineyards of the Ribera del Duero are planted 850 meters above sea level. The grapes can thus maintain great acidity and plenty of freshness.
Red wines dominate production in the Ribera del Duero appellation. Produced mainly from Tempranillo, a great Spanish red varietal, wines can also be blended with international grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. These are, however, quite rare.
Just as in the Rioja appellation, Ribera del Duero has a long tradition of ageing wines, and often in oak barrels. We therefore find non-mandatory terms, like Crianza (24 months of ageing, including 12 in barrels), Reserva (36 months of ageing, including 12 in barrels) and Gran Reserva (60 months of ageing, including 24 in barrels). While the wines from this region were previously very oaky, there is now a tendency to produce wine that more authentically express the soil and varietals, through a more limited use of oak. Barrel-ageing has thus become much shorter in modern times, and French oak is often preferred to the traditional American oak.
In the glass, these Spanish red wines, mainly made from Tempranillo, are very colourful and structured, with high levels of acidity and tannins. The Reserva wines are especially well developed for ageing in bottle, and are even more concentrated than the wines of Rioja. On the nose, these wines give off aromas of ripe and concentrated fruit, most notably black fruits, along with spicy and woody notes.