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Ribera del Duero y Rueda: Iconic Sister Regions of Spain

Hidden in the high plains of Castilla y León in Northern Spain, the sister regions of Ribera del Duero and Rueda are located two hours north of Madrid and have everything you want in wine: character, originality and centuries of pedigree. The climate is almost inhospitable to human life - but in these harsh conditions indigenous grapes thrive. In Ribera del Duero, Tempranillo—a hearty, thick-skinned version of its cousin in Rioja — survives scorching summers and frigid winters to produce bold red wines of incredible depth and structure. In Rueda, the vines of Verdejo grapes feed off the rocky or sandy soils to yield herbaceous, aromatic whites.

Learn more about each region below.
D.O. Rueda
Rueda Verdejos reflect an ancient tradition and a pure sense of place, yet have a timeless appeal that knows no borders. The history of winemaking in Rueda has been documented as early as the 10th century. In 1980, it became the first D.O. in Castilla y León.

Rueda sits at half a mile above sea level, where the climate is extreme and cruel with cold winters, late springs and blistering summers; and while harsh for humans, Verdejo flourishes under these conditions, concentrating flavor. Roots are forced to dig deep through the sandy, stony soil for water and nutrients, giving the wines a slight minerality, while huge temperature swings between day and night help maintain the balance between sugar and acidity in the Verdejo grape. The D.O. Rueda recently updated its classification system to include village designations, simplify categories, denote older vines and aged sparkling wines, among other changes.

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The Verdejo Grape
Verdejo is Spain’s #1 white wine grape. Characterized by elegant tropical fruit and fragrant citrus notes, these wines are aromatic and medium to full-bodied with lively acidity. They are delightfully refreshing whites with crispness that appeal to the Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc fan looking for a new and interesting alternative. Rueda Verdejo pairs best with shellfish, salads, flavorful sauces and buttery dishes or spicy and Asian food, but and are extremely enjoyable on their own. That’s right: interesting, unique whites as game for oysters as they are for Pad Thai or unwinding on the porch.

Verdejo grapes are not grown extensively elsewhere, but its approachable and pleasing style has won over fans with even the most discerning palates. Most wine from D.O. Rueda is made in temperature-controlled stainless-steel vats, where it is stored before being bottled and retains loads of freshness and aromas. However, versatile Verdejo responds exceptionally to oak treatments, which add complexity, ageability and dimension to the wine. Lees aging is also very common, and the region is rich in old pre-phylloxera vines that produce beautiful wines of depth and character. The innovative spirit in D.O. Rueda has led winemakers to experiment with natural yeasts and fermentation in concrete eggs. The region also produces excellent traditional-method sparkling wines and fortified wines such as Pálido.

Simply put, Rueda wines are all about quality, value and character.

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D.O. Ribera del Duero
Ribera wines underscore the purest expression of Tempranillo, Spain’s most well-known grape - bold and textured, but with plenty of rich, old-world sensibility. Achieving D.O. status in 1982, the region is home to some of Spain’s most sought after and applauded wines, with plenty of cult favorites.

The semi-arid terrain, ample amounts of sunlight and extreme temperature swings from day to night create optimal ripening conditions for the Tempranillo grapes that define the character of Ribera del Duero wines. The local winemakers take nature’s challenges with a smile as they use the adversity to their advantage, utilizing local production techniques paired with centuries-old know-how to produce superb reds that are part of the great red wines of the world.

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The Tempranillo Grape
Ribera del Duero wines are generally crafted to age, developing complexity over time, yet balancing acidity and generous fruit. Unequivocally food-friendly wines, the spices, dark fruit and smoky flavors of Ribera enhance anything off the grill, roasted meats and rich pastas. Ribera del Duero wines can best be compared to Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley thanks to those rich and bold flavors, but tend to be more refined, showing more balance and well-integrated oak. There are also bright, juicy and refreshing Tempranillo styles that can be enjoyed young, with gentle or no oak treatments.

The Tempranillo grape is a matter of great pride for the Ribera del Duero region. Known locally as “Tinto Fino” to distinguish it from other nearby Tempranillo producing areas, it represents 95% of all the grapes grown in the D.O. Ribera del Duero. Old Tempranillo vines are the signature of Ribera. Vines 25 years and older represent about 35 percent of all vines planted — meaning a significant percentage of the vines have roots deep and nourished enough to survive the harsh climate and produce even yields with minimal worries compared to younger vines. With fruit that tends to be smaller in size, old vines have a reputation for producing splendidly structured and balanced wines.

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Learn more about Ribera y Rueda with these great resources:

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