The region is characterised by a largely flat, rocky terrain and is centred on the town of Aranda de Duero, although the most famous vineyards surround Valladolid and Roa de Duero to the west, where the regional regulatory council or Consejo Regulador for the denominación is based.
Ribera del Duero is home to the world-famous and highly-prized Vega Sicilia and Tinto Pesquera wines and is dedicated almost entirely to the production of red wine from the Tempranillo grape.
Official seal of the Ribera del Duero Denominación de Origen (DO)
The winemaking history of the Ribera del Duero goes back at least as far as the Roman era, 2,000 years ago, although the replantings of the medieval era were a time of impetus for the vine. Throughout the centuries, vinegrowing guided the life of the villages and monasteries, until the area saw its recognition grow with the formal recognition of the D.O. in 1982.
Vega Sicilia was established in the western part of Ribera del Duero in 1864, but although that bodega has been long established as Spain’s perhaps most notable winery, up until the 1970s the rest of the region did not receive much attention. Most of the other wine production at that time consisted of simple rosé wines from Garnacha produced in the eastern parts of the region. This started to change when Alejandro Fernández founded his bodega Pesquera and started to make red wines from Tempranillo in a more concentrated, full-bodied and fruit-driven style than most Rioja wines of the day, which were then virtually the only Spanish red wines found on export markets. Pesquera was well-received both in Spain and by many international wine critics, and wine-making in the region expanded considerably in the 1980s and 1990s, with many new bodegas being founded.
Ribero del Duero wines are currently enjoying greater popularity, thanks largely to the considerable interest shown in the area by experienced growers from other regions.
The D.O. Ribera del Duero covers a swathe of land 115km in length along the middle section of the course of the Duero River, falling within four provinces: Burgos, Soria, Segovia and Valladolid. It is a land with an extreme continental climate, which has a decisive effect on the qualities of the tinta fina, the traditional variety of the area.
Geologically, tertiary sediments, consisting of gently lenticular layers of silty or clayey sand, alternate with layers of limestone, marl and chalky concretions. The Duero valley, formed during the Miocene period, has a flat, rocky, gently undulating terrain, ranging from 911 m down to 750 m above sea level. The national highway N122 follows the river valley.
The region’s continental climate, with long, cold winters, and very large range in temperatures between day and night, has the effect of slowing down the lifecycle of the vine and favouring balance in the grapes. As a result, the fruit of the Ribera del Duero is exceptionally high in quality, key to achieving the elegance and contemporary style that defines the wines of Bodegas Viña Mayor.
Wines produced in the derive almost exclusively from red grapes. The Albillo grape is the only white variety grown, white wines being mostly destined for local consumption. The vast majority of production is dedicated to Tinto Fina (the local name for Tempranillo) which is very popular in the northern half of the Spanish peninsula. The much smaller quantities of Garnacha (grenache wines) Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot are mostly grown to blend with the Fino. Although the famous Tinto Pesquera, grown by Alejandro Fernández in Pesquera de Duero, is a 100% Tempranillo varietal wine. This was controversial to say the least, as the (possibly even more famous) Vega Sicilia wines traditionally followed the accepted blending with Merlot, Cabernet etc. popular in the neighbouring Rioja region.
The town of Pesquera is particularly noted for its wines and the area around La Horra (another small town in the region) is respected by locals for its consistent quality. Viña Sastre is one of the region’s more respected wine producers and the world-renowned Vega Sicilia easily the most famous. Vega Sicilia’s more eminent customers include Prince Charles of the British royal family. Other notable bodegas include, Dominio de Pingus, Bodegas Alion, and Hacienda Monasterio, all of which lie along The Golden Mile, Spain.
- Official Ribera del Duero “Denominación de Orígen” website (in Spanish & English)
- Ribera del Duero website (in Spanish)
- The wine region DO Ribera del Duero