January-February 2010

Old World Meets New

By: Marguerite Richards
Photos by: Rob Bralow

Slipping into New York’s Ribera Lounge last fall, I felt relatively uneducated about Spanish wines—and certainly eager to learn more about Ribera del Duero, one of Spain’s most vibrant appellations.

There were no fewer than 37 wines to taste at this launch event for the important new “Drink Ribera. Drink Spain.” campaign, each representing a different winery in the Ribera del Duero D.O. (Denominación de Origen). This would be the beginning of an exploratory adventure, surely to be continued when the Ribera crew comes back to New York to host another big tasting on February 23.

When I was introduced to Eduardo Cano Uribe, Communications Director of Ribera del Duero’s official Consejo Regulador, I pulled out my rusty Spanish, hoping to score some points in exchange for his opinion on how Ribera is positioning itself these days the US market. “These are modern wines,” Cano Uribe noted, “that will be able to compete with high-end wines here—an excellent value for the quality.” As I discovered at the event, his comment was more than accurate.  
Eduardo Cano Uribe, Communications Director of the Ribera del Duero Consejo Regulador, talks with a guest at the “Drink Ribera. Drink Spain.” event.
Looking Forward

While Rioja has been a point of reference for Spanish wines in the U.S. for decades, its wines are generally traditional in style. Ribera del Duero, on the other hand—also a centuries-old winemaking region producing Tempranillo-based wines—has become known for its forward-looking stance and for modern-style wines geared crafted with a contemporary taste profile, with cleaner, more fruit-driven flavors.

Ribera also has a higher elevation and rougher temperatures, conditions that produce smaller, darker grapes, leading to higher levels of concentration both in the color and on the palate. This deeply concentrated style, as well as the practice of blending of international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon with the traditional Spanish Tempranillo, are proving easy for increasingly wine-conscious American consumers to comprehend. Ribera’s irregular climate also creates greater vintage variation, ensuring distinctive wines from each winery, and in turn bringing many more options to the table, both for restaurant wine buyers and for curious consumers.

From Cult to Cutting-Edge

Tinto Pesquera (left) was one of the first Ribera del Duero wines to capture the American palate. It joins other wines from the appellation on the bar at Ribera Lounge in New York.
Clay Daum, VP of Business Development for Aveníu Brands, importer of Legaris from Ribera del Duero, attests to how modern and cuttinge-edge these Old World wines can be. “Legaris takes the tradition of Tempranillo but spins it more modern in play," Daum says, not only through extensive experimentation in the area of cooperage, but also by incorporating other varietals such as Malbec and Cabernet.

While Ribera del Duero’s legendary Vega Sicilia was long ago a cult winery among the cognoscenti, the first producer from Ribera del Duero to be highly acclaimed stateside was Tinto Pesquera, “discovered” by Stephen Metzler and Almudena de Llaguna of importer Classical Wines, who unearthed the potential of the region decades ago and were instrumental in introducing the appellation to American wine drinkers.

Metzler confirms that Ribera del Duero is flourishing and that the prominence of these wines is increasing, with many discoveries awaiting curious buyers: “The American market is getting the deal of the day." Time to begin your own journey!


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