Header image courtesy of Ribera del Duero and Rueda Wines
Castilla y León proudly flies the flag as Spain’s most prestigious wine producer. Its secret lies in the Duero River, which flows through the locale, providing the ecological support behind its vibrant vineyards and stunning wines. Since the 1980s, Ribera del Duero and Rueda have been bestowed with the prestigious Denominación de Origen (D.O.) status. Come along on a journey with us along the Duero River, as we explore what makes these regional grapes so wonderful.
Ribera del Duero wines underscore the purest expression of Tempranillo grapes, Spain’s most famous grape variety—big, bold, and textured, but with plenty of Old World sensibilities. Home to some of Spain’s most sought after and applauded wines, the region’s wineries are conquering the palates of international consumers.
Celebrating its fortieth anniversary in 2022, Ribera del Duero wines are still enjoying leaps in growth. In fact, the Ribera del Duero Control Board has uncovered that their export levels have grown by 20.1 percent over the past few years, compared to 2020. If you take into account the context of an international pandemic, this result definitely shows a cause for celebration!
Having officially implemented a pioneering self-monitoring system for the first time across its 300-plus wineries, Ribera del Duero concluded its 2021 harvest with a whopping over 109 million kilogrammes of grapes. Following their two “excellent” vintages in 2020 and 2019, the batch of 2021 vintage promises to deliver powerful wines with unlimited ageing possibilities. Four classifications of the D.O. Ribera del Duero Wines exist, each with differing features and production processes.
Under this first tier, Crianza wines are required to be aged for a minimum of two years, with one year spent in oak. One of the lighter versions on the list, there is a slight but not overpowering oak flavour which balances well with tannins that are still high. This is a fruity wine that is easy to enjoy, introducing a bright world of flavour that’s perfect for the upcoming summer evenings.
The categorisation of Reserva is assigned to wines that are aged a minimum of three years, with at least one year in oak and the remaining time in bottle. Pairing particularly well with tomato-based dishes, this delicious variety has bold characteristics to its flavour, but varies in terms of its finer depths depending on the time spent in oak.
Gran Reserva wines must be aged a minimum of up to five years, with at least two years in oak and the remaining time in bottle. Having spent more time in oak than the previous types, the combination of aged grapes and woody infusions lends to a signature argent-tinged fragrance that is both light yet multilayered.
When it comes to this last classification, the term Cosecha is broad in the sense that it can be used to mean everything from the youngest wine to the longest-aged. Cosecha wines are considered the most sophisticated, with differing varieties meeting the specs as long as they come from Ribera del Duero, and meet the standards set by the appellation.
At the same time, the Rueda Designation of Origin is renowned in Spain and worldwide as an area that specialises in white wines. Boasting outstanding natural resources for the production of high-quality wines, the Verdejo grape has been grown in Rueda for over 10 centuries. What makes it so special is the unique combination of its aroma and flavour, with hints of wild mountain herbs and fruit, as well as a refreshing acidity.
Wines made with Verdejo grapes taste harmonious, with a finish that leaves you wanting more—and their global reception definitely reflects that. Coupled with the excellent work done by the Rueda Control Board and its wineries through their international promotion campaigns, Rueda hit record sales internationally in 2021 with over 14.3 million bottles!
Rueda also ended its 2021 harvest with 124.5 million kilogrammes of grapes eligible for harvest, and the indigenous Verdejo variety accounts for 87.05 percent of the total production of white grapes, promises high-quality wines to come.
With vineyards in Rueda totalling 32,500 hectares, up to 28,800 hectares consist of Verdejo crops. What’s more, these grapes are harvested at night to allow the grapes to cool from the scorching summer heat. Like the D.O. Ribera del Duero wines, Rueda white are divided into categories, too!
Rueda is made with a minimum of 50 percent of the white varieties considered to be the main ones (Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc), as its key flavour profile needs to maintain a light and refreshing body. You would typically find aromatic notes of lime and lemon, melon, grapefruit, grass, peach, and even citrus blossom. There is a little zing of medium-high acidity to match, rounding off with a dry edge to leave you wanting more.
Rueda Dorado and Palido stand for liquor wines made from Palomino Fino or Verdejo grapes. Rueda Dorado points to fortified wine that incorporate oxidative ageing techniques, which means oaky touches that are fleshed out over a minimum of two years. The notes are toasty, and leave quite a powerful mark on the tongue.
On the other hand, Rueda Palido wines are aged through biological techniques, and are left in oak barrels for at least three years before being bottled up. It carries with it a yeasty aroma that comes with the longer time spent in a barrel, with nutty hints and flavours reminiscent of baked apple.
We all love a little bit of fizz, don’t we? Rueda Espumoso refers to sparkling wines made up of at least 75 percent of the main grape varieties. Most of these are made using “traditional” methods of fermentation that split the process into a second, bottle-stage fermentation that lasts no less than nine months. Its flavour is a refreshing, fruity burst of bubbles that tastes full in the mouth.
When it comes to the big stops, Gran Vino de Rueda is a new black label category. It is bestowed upon the top wines from vineyards that meet the requirements of being over 30 years old, with a yield of less than 6,500 kilogrammes per hectare and a processing ratio of 65 percent.
Consider also the pastoral Vino de Pueblo, which refers to wines with a composition equal to or greater than 85 percent being grapes from village municipalities of the D.O. Rueda.
For wine lovers, wines from Ribera del Duero and Rueda offer the perfect gastronomic match with many global cuisines, and their wineries are present in the most important Asian markets, allowing them to be readily available for tasting and enjoying.
In January of this year, Ribera del Duero and Rueda opened Hong Kong’s first Spanish wine pop-up store, aptly named Spanish Wine Passion. It made its debut at Fashion Walk, where it remained opened for three months. Offering a variety of discovery experiences for oenophiles from these two special Spanish wine regions, more than 100 labels were showcased and sold at the pop-up—some for the first time in Hong Kong!
Several local importers collaborated with Spanish Wine Passion to showcase their Ribera del Duero and Rueda wines, including 12 Bottles Cuvee, Amorosso Fine Wines, Anrise-IMC, Bottle Wander, Continental Wines, Fabulous Wines, Fiesta Food, Jebsen Wines, Kerry Wines, Links Concept, Los Ibéricos, Prince Wines, Summer Gate, Talking Grapes, Wine Couple, Wine Hut, Wine Ochos, and Wine Time.