Visiting wineregion Ribera del Duero - Spain June 2019
11/14 june 2019
Day 1 – 11 june 2019
An hour and a half's drive from Madrid you can find the Ribera del Duero region. Part of wineregion Castilla Y Leon with other DO’s like Toro, Rieda, Bierzo and Cigales. The Ribera del Duero wine-growing region covers around 20.000 hectares of land. In this area you will find exclusive red wines that can compete in terms of quality against the best Riojas. The Rioja area you can find about one hour driving from Ribera del Duero.
Ribera del Duero literally means: bank on the Duero (river in northern Spain). At an altitude of between 750 and 1000 meters, the area is blessed with hot summers and cold winters. And because of these differences (and the big differences between day and night) the grapes develop full and complex aromas.
The most important grape from this wine region is the Tempranillo (of course also known from the Rioja). Here, -ie Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais is mentioned.
Only this grape is found in most Ribera del Duero wines. But sometimes mixed with other well-known grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. Due to the blending and the wide variety of soil types, there are differences in taste. And we have not yet talked about the influence of the winegrower, altitude etc.
Only in 1982 did Ribera del Duero gain DO status (Designation of Origin). Before that time, grapes were grown for large cooperatives who sold wine in large quantities. A few local wine producers had big plans for this area and applied for a DO status for Ribera del Duero wines. There are some very famous wineries like Vega Sicilia, Pingus and Aalto but there are definitely more wineries to keep an eye on. When Ribera del Duero got DO status in 1982, there were only 9 winemakers. There are now around 270 wine producers in the area.
The first winery we visited was Monteabellón
The winery is located in Nava de Roa, between Penafiel and Aranda de Duero, in the centre of the Ribera del Duero appellation. Vineyards are spread around the Nava de Roa commune, ranging from vineyards on the valley floor used for Avaniel (rosato) and 5 Meses, to hillside vineyards higher up for the 14 Meses (Crianza) and highest for the 24 Meses (Reserva). Finca La Blanquera (picture) is a single vineyard with pure white limestone soil - hence the name – right at the top of the hills (altitude 950 m.). Next tot he vineyard they planted new vines and there is also a field with rosemary and thyme.
For many generations Garcia family have been fully dedicated to viticulture. Taking advantage of decades of experience in viticulture and wine-making, Bodegas Monteabellón was founded in the year 2000.
Nice fact is that the winemaking is in the capable hands of Isaac Fernandez, nephew of Mariano Garcia (the legendary ex-Vega Sicilia winemaker). Monteabellon is a nice discovery, a source of stylish, modern Ribera del Duero at very attractive prices. In the Netherlands available at Henribloem.
At the top of the hill (950 m.) we tasted theri Rosado (Avaniel), Finca Matambres 2015 and their flagship wine Finca la Blanquera.
After the visit we had a fabulous dinner in Fuente Aceña - Quintanilla de Onésimo with a beautiful selection of the Emilio Moro wines. Really an unforgetable tasting.
Website winery: www.monteabellon.com
Emilio Moro wines
Some of the wines we tasted:
Malleolus - Produced from old sticks (up to 75 years!), This wine has been in French barriques for 18 months.
Emilio Moro Malleolus de Valderramiro - The Valderramiro contains 4 hectares with the oldest sticks of this winery - up to 85 years old - that were used exclusively for this cuvée. In addition, the wine fermented in (new) American oak and was raised for a further 18 months in (new) French 'barricas'. The result is a wine that can last for a long time. This favorite wine from the king of Spain is frequently served with festive dinners of the royal house.
Emilio Moro Malleolus Sanchomartin - The absolute winner in the Emilio Moro range. Pricey, but compared to many grands crus classés from Bordeaux of the same quality, it is still an opportunity. The wine is very scarce because the vineyard is only 0.85 ha so a maximum of 3000 bottles are produced here. The vineyard is almost 70 years old and the wine ages 22 months in French oak.
Emilio Moro's focus on Research, Development and Innovation is impressive and the huge focus on quality is certainly an important factor in the high quality of all wines, but let's not forget that the old vineyards of Emilio Moro are located in the most beautiful part from the Ribera del Duero with a completely unique and extremely suitable terroir located at high altitude.
After the tasting with great Spanish appetizers we went to the Arzuaga Hotel. The Arzuaga winery is attached to this beautiful hotel. Hotel & Spa Arzuaga features a quality restaurant, full-service spa and an indoor swimming pool.
Website winery: www.emiliomoro.com
Day 2– 12 june 2019
Next day in the morning we started with a cycling tour through the beautiful vineyards of Bodegas Villacreces in Ribera del Duero. We visited the different plots (60 hectares of vineyards) which are spread over 15 different places. The winery is located right next to Duero, next to the well-known Vega Sicilia in the Golden Mile area. After 1 hour cycling we had a nice tasting in the garden of the winery.
The climate is extremely different, the temperature can go up to 40 degrees, but also fall to 10 degrees below zero. The nearby river; the Duero, ensures that the grapes survive the warm climate.
Finca Villacreses is a very popular winery partly thanks to the Pruno wine which offers an unprecedentedly beautiful glass of wine for the money. The fact that it has been repeatedly proclaimed best value wine by the Wine Advocate ofcourse also helps. Other highly recommended wines are the Finca Villacres wine and the cult wine the Nebro (the last two are only made in good years). According to Robert Parker. In fact, these bottles are not sold, they are already distributed before they are distributed.
My notes on the Villacreses.
Blend of 86% Tempranillo, 10% Cabernet and a splash of Merlot which aged in French oak barrels for 14 months.
In the glass a dark purplish red color.
On the medium+ nose dark plums, cherries with hints of tar, smoke, pepper and coffee.
On the palate dry, full-bodied with loads of dark druit and spices. Still tight tannins and acidity which will soften over te the years. A great red wine to put in the cellar for some years.
Website winery: www.villacreces.com
Second visit this day was at Emina Winery. President of Bodegas Familiares Matarromera, Carlos Moro began to sketch out his plan for the heart and soul of Emina at the end of the 1990s. In 2005, he built the modern Emina Ribera winery next to the historic Monastery of Santa María de Valbuena, on the banks of the Douro River. In 2007, he constructed the Emina Rueda Winery close to Medina del Campo; both wineries are less than an hour away from Valladolid and less than two from Madrid.
Emina is Latin for ‘loved’ and a hemina used to be the amount of alcohol monks were allowed to consume a day. The brand respects both its culture and their past, but simultaneously prides itself on its innovative viewpoint in terms of research and technological implementation. This is reflected in the various advances achieved by researchers in multiple vineyard and winery projects. Visitors can discover this innovative spirit for themselves during the enological experiences which they offer at the two wineries.
We started with visiting the museum which gives a good scope on the Ribera del Duero region. The tour is an easy and fun way to find out more about the history of ancient and modern winemaking. After the visit we got a wine food experience where we tasted blind several of the Enima wines in the winemaker's professional tasting room.
Website winery: www.emina.es
Pago de Carraovejas
Finaly we arrived at Pago de Carraovejas. One of the highlights for me.
Pago de Carraovejas is a project by the famous Chef Jose Maria Ruiz who pours this wine as house wine in his restaurant in Segovia under the name "Autor". Recently the famous winery Ossian has taken this bodega under her care. Pago de Carraovejas has unique wines, each with its own unique hugely fascinating personality.
The Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines are scattered on different slopes of Valley of Carraovejas located in a wilderness at an altitude of over 900 meters. The vineyards are planted on tertiary soil. On the surface loamy limestone appears, with the presence of clay, sandstone and plaster with the characteristic white hue. It is a sober soil that subjects the vines to an attempt to control the yield and give the best of themselves.
The grapes for the Pago de Carraovejas 2016 were harvested by hand after a thorough monitoring during the ripening period and after a first selection in the vineyard. After the picking, it remains in a temperature-controlled cooling room and from there after the selection tables for the 2nd selection. The grapes are badly crushed (gravity) and so use is made of the free flow juice to maintain its purest and freshest aromas. The wine is fermented with its own yeast under meticulous control and then undergoes malolactic fermentation with native microbiota from the estate. In December 2016, the wine was moved to French and American oak barrels, where it remained for around 12 months. The whole process was determined by calmness, precision and gravity and this makes the wine unique in its kind and certainly vintage 2016 is of an excellent quality.
The 2015 vintage has brought sweeping changes to Carraovejas. The family has decided to remove the ageing Crianza and Reserva categories and has released a single Pago de Carraovejas wine carrying the generic vintage seal normally seen on young wines.
Pago de Carraovejas produces two single-vineyard reds. In both cases, grapes are sourced from some of the highest plots in the property. Released for the first time in the 1998 vintage under the name Cum Laude, Cuesta de las Liebres is ripe and powerful. In contrast, El Anejón is arguably the freshest, most mineral and distinctive wine in the range. It comes from an unusual terraced vineyard planted following the Priorat model in highly steep terrain. Soils have a high lime content.
Website winery: www.pagodecarraovejas.com
After the tour through the vineyards and their high end cellar we had a fantastic lunch in the new restaurant called Ambivium which opened recently. The restaurant offers a sophisticated dining experience and includes a wine list with domestic and international wines. We tasted some of the best wines like Cuesta de las Liebres 2005 and 2009 and El Anejon 2009 and even their first vintage Tinto Cosecha from 1991 with a phenomenal dinner. Really a must visit fort his region.
The next step is to build a boutique hotel so visitors can discover the culture, scenery and gastronomy of the region.
Website restaurant: www.restauranteambivium.com
Next and last visit of this day was at the Arzuaga winery. This is also the place where we enjoyed the hotel and Spa for two days which is also part of the winery. A beautiful place to enjoy the wineries and the luxury comfort of a good hotel.
Founded in the early 1990s by the Arzuaga Navarro family, the cellar stands near the Duero River, adorning a road as Castilian as the one connecting Soria and Valladolid. With its 1,400 hectares, the entire Arzuaga domain is a fairly large wine-growing domain within the region. The vineyards are located 100 meters above the Duero River. The grapes were sold in the first years, only from 1993 the first own wine was made. Arzuaga Navarro has succeeded in a few years in achieving the best results in this beautiful wine region. The neighbors listen to the legendary name Vega Sicilia. Moreover, there is a close friendship and intense cooperation between the two domains.
The building of the bodega almost gives the impression of being a monastery. The interior and exterior finishes are taken care of to perfection. The reception room is certainly impressive. The same precision is reflected in the meticulously maintained vineyards, which produce top quality with a particularly low return. Harvesting is done, for example, with wooden crates of 15 kilos, so that the grapes reach the bodega almost bruised. This avoids early fermentation and acidification. Placed the grapes are stalked and bruised, and gently squeezed, made only the best juice can be brought into the fermentation kettles. The brand new stainless steel fermentation & storage tanks have a capacity of 1,000,000 liters, although the production is only half that.
The Arzuaga's family has owned Finca La Planta since 1980. First of all, it was a recreational estate where crosses of wild boar, deer, mouflons and roe deer roam freely on an area of 1500 hectares. A beautiful, idyllic area where especially the holm oaks dominate. In 1987, men are scattered in this great area after careful research into planting vineyards. There was a very selective assessment of which grape variety is suitable for the terroir and ultimately three grape varieties have been planted, usually tempranillo, followed by cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The La Planta wines have an unprecedented good value for money and experienced among our best selling wines.
After the visit we had some time to visit the Spa but I took some time to rest.
Website winery: www.arzuaganavarro.com
That evening we had a great dinner in their beautiful restaurant with a great view on the vineyards.
First wine of this evening was the Arzuaga Rosae It’s a varietal Tempranillo from vines over 25 years old planted on a single farm, Finca La Planta. The soils of Finca La Planta are calcareous clay and bedrock a few feet below the surface. As a result, the vines are underperforming due to poor soil fertility and the hard Castilian climate.
The grapes are selected upon arrival at the winery. They are carefully pressed to extract the desired colour. Fermentation takes place at a temperature not exceeding 12ºC. Once fermentation is complete, the wine is decanted and bottled cold, preserving vividness at all times.
Other wines we tasted where Laderas del Norte 2017, Amava Arzuaga 2014 and The Gran Reserva 2011. Amazing with the chocolate dessert. Almost 12 o’clock we finished this fantastic dinner and went to bed.
Day 3– 13 june 2019
After breakfast at the Arzuaga winery and hotel we headed to our first stop of this day. The Valsotillo winery.
Bodegas Ismael Arroyo S.L. is a family winery that is located in a town of Burgos called Sotillo de la Ribera, in the heart of the Denomination of Origin Ribera del Duero. This winery was founded in the year 1979. When there was not yet a denomination of origin. Ismael struggled along with a small number of people in order to create this Denomination of Origin Ribera del Duero, which was created in 1982.
The tradition of winemaking has been passed down from generation to generation in the family of Ismael Arroyo for 400 years. In fact, the winery preserves a document proving how Elpidio Arroyo, father and paternal grandfather of the current generation, won a prize in 1948 in the "Greater competition of Red Wines and rosés of the Ribera del Duero." Some other important documents preserved in the cave are a diploma by 1st class wine, granted in the year 1902 and drawn with fountain pen by the engraver Isidro Gil.
The underground cellar from the XVI century, which takes about 2,000 square meters of galleries, hand carved into the rocky soil by their forebears is really a must see!
These 400 years old caves are used as excellent ageing cellars because they keep a constant temperature of 11-12 degrees Celsius, so the wines age very slowly in oak barrels with a total absence of noise, vibrations or light.
We tasted a nice selection of wines like the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.
Website winery: www.valsotillo.com
At the beginning of the 90s, Faustino bought undeveloped land within the D.O. Ribera de Duero and a total of 160 hectares of vineyards were planted. Due to its location on the east and south, the vineyards receive a maximum of sunshine while the grapes have the opportunity to mature slowly and gradually. Once it was established that the wine met all expectations, top architect Norman Foster was invited, who was happy to accept the challenge of designing a bodega for the first time in his long successful life and career. The winery shows light, matter and soul; an architectural icon in the world of wine. We had the privilege to visit this beautiful building during the Press trip.
The winery is designed to take advantage of the sloping terrain, using gravity to aid movement of the grapes within the building, maximizing efficiency and minimizing damage to the grapes.
We first visited the vineyard conining with the vats, the oak barrel aging room, the bottling room, the bottle storage room and the tasting room. All beautiful designed in every aspect.
We finished with a great lunch and winetasting. We tasted the Crianza, Portia Prima 2016, Portia Summa 2015 and the Triennia de Portia 2014.
Website winery: www.bodegasportia.com
Bodegas y viñedos Neo
Last winery visit for me was Bodegas Neo. Since the Bodegas y Viñedos Neo entered the big stage of Spanish wines in 1999, it has turned the ribera world upside down. In the music studio of the winery great music and also the festival that takes place at the winery, has achieved true cult status. The young Équipe with her relaxed and cool style has touched the heart of a whole generation of wine drinkers.
They make wines also for the young people and their wines begin in the lower price region but also the higher segment. Everywhere inside the building you can find Star Wars creatures and space ships. The Cellar shows alot of wooden barrels signed by the people who recorded in their studio and we also had the honour for signing a barrel J
We tasted several of their wines and finished with Neo Punta Esencia 2014 and Neo 2010 which was an exclusive bottle J They printed all the names of our group seperately on that label.
Website winery: www.bodegasneo.com
Bodegas Dominio Cair
Last evening of my visit tot he Ribera del Duero we joined a dinner in Palacio de los Berdugo in Aranda de Duero. We started with a tour of the historic building and on the central court we started a tasting of the rosato of Bodegas Dominio de Cair.
Bodegas Dominio de Cair is the project completed in 2010 by Juan Luis Cañas, owner of two famous Rioja houses. Bodegas Dominio de Cair is surrounded by very old vineyards near La Aguilera (Burgos).
The Bodega was built under architecture and forms a great contrast with the sometimes centuries old vines that are still used here.
At an altitude of almost 900 meters, 85 hectares are cultivated, 15 of which are own vineyards. Harvesting is done exclusively by hand. During the harvest, the bunches and the individual grapes are checked twice. Before they enter the fermentation tub. Only the healthiest grapes are used.
During the great dinner we tasted the Cair Cuvée 2016, Cair and Tierras de Cair (100% Tempranillo) Plots of more than 60 years are selected for this wine, with very low productions, in high and poor areas, with the intention of showing the concentration and potential of the old vineyards of the La Aguilera area. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in wooden tubs and later, malolactic fermentation and aging, is carried out in new French oak barrels. Wonderful red one!
Tierras de Cair Reserva 2012 (92 TSW)
In the glass a deep dark ruby red color. On the medium+ nose aromas of black currants, ripe red berries, cherries, other dark fruits with hints of cigar box, vanilla and violets.
On the palate full-bodied, full and round with soft tannins, intense fruit, licorice, leather and ripe dark fruit. Very long finish. Top!
After the magnificent dinner we went to our hotel - an exclusive hotel, located in the winery of the same name. The hotel focuses specifically on wine lovers and features a wine-themed interior, such as wine barrel tables. The morning after I had a very early flight back home. The rest of the group stayed some more time. I had a great time in Ribera del Duero. A that I definitely want to visit again.
Website winery: www.dominiodecair.com
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