The vineyard and wine-making region of Ribera del Duero lies on the vast plateau of north-central Spain, athwart the Duero River in the province of Castilla y Leon. The principal grape is Spain’s most famous, the red tempranillo, known, however, in Ribera del Duero as tinto fino. Tempranillo is also the primary grape of Rioja, to the northeast, in Navarra; while Rioja long held a reputation for fine red wines — or, to be honest, frequently long-aged, woody, attenuated wines — Ribera del Duero functions as the upstart, the relatively new kid on the block, at least in terms of gaining international renown. Traditionally matured in American oak barrels, the wines of Ribera del Duero have come under the spell of French barriques, and you will see some evidence of that influence in this report, though as usual in the Friday Wine Sips, I eliminate technical, historical and explicit geographical data. The wines of Ribera del Duero must contain 75 percent tempranillo grapes, the rest made up from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, malbec or the local albillo; most of the wines mentioned here are 100% tempranillo. “Crianza” indicates a wine that has undergone at least one-year aging in oak barrels. These are not wines of finesse and refinement, but when well-balanced by fruit, their power and presence can be seductive. With two exceptions, these were samples for review. It was particularly gratifying to taste examples from 2005, ’04 and ’03.
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Vivir, Vivir 2007, Ribero del Duero. (Bodegas J.C. Conde) 13% alc. Medium ruby-mulberry color with a darker center; soft, funky spicy nose, macerated red and black currants and plums; lovely ripe and fleshy black fruit character, vibrant acidity and fine-grained tannins; dusty graphite and underbrush, bittersweet chocolate, finish more austere and rigorous. Now to 2015 or ’17. Very Good+. About $12, so Run Out and Buy a Case.
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Damana 5 2007, Ribera del Duero. 14% alc. With 4 percent cabernet sauvignon. Med ruby color; red currants, raspberries and plums with that slight astringency of the tempranillo grape; high notes of wild berries and violets; dry and tannic, dried spices and a sort of distillation or intensification of potpourri and graphite; finish a bit rustic, glaringly dry and austere. Try 2013 to 2016 to ’18. Very Good. About $16.
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Aventino Tempranillo 2007, Ribero del Duero. 13% alc. First note: “this is great!” Dark ruby color with a garnet rim; terrific balance of power and elegance with all elements perfectly integrated; tobacco, spice, dried flowers and berries; deeply tannic and wood-influenced but all melded and meshed and layered; texture and structure one with the fruit and bright acidity; a few moments bring up hints of oolong tea, orange rind and fruitcake. Now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $13, an Absolute Freaking Bargain and Worth a Search.
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Ebano 6 2007, Ribero del Duero. NA% alc. Dark ruby color with a touch of magenta at the rim; give it a few minutes in the glass and it becomes quite appealing and drinkable; rich, warm, spicy, savory; red and black currants and cherries, tea and bittersweet chocolate; hefty, slightly grainy tannins are still fairly tight but unfold with airing in the glass; black and red fruit flavors open to hints of sour cherry and fruitcake; solid structure with some manageable woody austerity in the finish. Drink now through 2015 to ’17. Very Good+. About $18, Good Value.
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Tinto Federico Roble 2007, Ribero del Duero. 12.5% alc. Warm, fleshy, spicy, ripe, appealing; softly macerated red and black berries and plums, touch of tobacco and iodine plus the whole box of exotic spices; plush and velvety yet sustained by striking acidity and fairly resolute tannins; the woody, tannin nature comes out more in the dry, austere finish. Try 2013 to 2017 or ’18. Very Good+. About $18.
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Pagos del Infante Crianza 2006, Ribero del Duero. (Lynus Viñedos y Bodegas) 14.5% alc. Dark ruby color; cool, clean, scintillating inky graphite-like minerality, a touch of mint; more spice than fruit, though an intense concentration of black currants, black raspberries and plums with fruitcake, orange pekoe tea and quince paste; long, dense, impressive, avoids austerity through sheer power of personality. A modern style but more than merely legitimate. Now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $NA.
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Callejo Crianza 2006, Ribero del Duero. 14% alc. Lots of dimension without much detail; dense, dusty, chewy iron-like tannins; leather and brambles; even the warm spicy aromas feel as if they’re part of some rigorous architecture, etched with a smoke and charcoal edge; dry and austere. A big hmmmm. Perhaps try from 2014 to 2018. Very Good. About $30.
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Portia 2006, Ribera del Duero. 14% alc. Dark ruby with a slightly lighter rim; ripe, spicy, fleshy, warm; good balance and integration; tasty and appealing; moderate and well-integrated oak and tannins. Not exciting but drinks nicely. Now through 2014 to ’16. Very Good. About $30 (or close)
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Condado de Haza 2006, Ribera del Duero. 14% alc. Dark ruby with a slightly lighter rim; warm, spicy, toasty, earthy and a bit briery; plushly spiced and macerated black and red fruit; black olive and fruitcake; full-bodied, dusty, graphite-infused, pulsing tannins pack the palate with a velvety coat; high notes of wild berries, cloves and a hint of vanilla; quite dry, stuffed with oak and tannin and minerals; a long dense finish. Amazing tone and presence; not a lot of nuance but that’s hardly the point. Now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. I paid about $36 but nationally prices tend to run $22 to $32.
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Tinto Pesquera 2006, Ribera del Duero. (Bodegas A. Fernández, which also owns Condado de Haza) 13.5% alcohol. Wow, pure strawberries and black raspberries in brightly delineated focus; then it opens to fleshy, earthy, mossy layers with bacon fat, tobacco and spice box; extraordinary carriage and character, very impressive sense of confidence and elan; moves (as it were) on well-oiled, finely-milled tannins and fathoms of oak, yet for all its size — and this is a huge wine — plushness and resonance, it’s neither pushy nor overwhelming. Now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $36, about the national median (my purchase).
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Resalte Crianza 2005, Ribera del Duero. 15% alc. (!) Have mercy, how beautiful! Flair and personality galore; a welter of smoke, potpourri, lavender and violets; spiced and macerated black and red cherries and plums; intense graphite element; a sort of sour cherry-dried orange rind compote at the center; sumptuous as the deepest and cushiest velvet, but the luxurious fabric is filled with iron and bears a rigorous weave of graphite, that edge growing more prominent from mid-palate back through the fairly stern finish. Tried twice with similar results. Now through 2015 to ’18. Excellent. About $25, and A Good Deal at That.
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Montebaco Vendimia Seleccionada 2005, Ribera del Duero. 14% alc. Very dark ruby color; huge presence and very focused sense of tone and purpose; yes, you feel the oak, especially from mid-palate back, but boy the elements of black tea, orange rind, sassafras, sweet Asian spice, roots and leather and ripe black currants, black raspberries and plums feel hammered out in the forge of Bacchus himself; amazing purity and intensity. Again, a modern style but made with a great deal of thoughtfulness and restraint. Now through 2015 to ’18. Excellent. About $35.
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Convento San Francisco Crianza 2005, Ribera del Duero. 14.5% alc. 10% merlot. Dark ruby color; a real mouthful of tempranillo, very dry, heaps of oak and tannin, austere, yet with a warm, fleshy, floral spicy bouquet, really lovely; graceful but grainy and a tad gritty, develops more spice and emphasizes its exotic spicy and wild berry character as the moments pass. Now through 2014 to ’15. Very Good+. About $30.
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Recorba Reserva 2004, Ribera del Duero. 15% alc. (!) Complex, dark-hued aromas of black and blue fruit, dried spices and dried flowers, depths of earthy and graphite-tinged minerality and leather, intriguing exotic qualities, lively acidity, but the oak blunts matters; very dry and austere. A bit lurchy. Good+. About $21.
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Valdubon Crianza 2003, Ribera del Duero. 13.5% alc. Dark ruby with a tint of garnet at the rim; remarkably bright, fresh and vibrant; mint and minerals, iodine, blackberries, black raspberries and plums; lovely, lofty, high-toned; sweetly layered with cloves and cinnamon and sandalwood, lavender and violets and black tea; a revelation. Now through 2014 to ’15. Excellent. About $19, an Incredible Value.
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Miros de Ribera Crianza 2003, Ribera del Duero. 13.5% alc. This is quite attractive but it doesn’t possess the perfect balance and integration of the previous example from 2003; prettily twined fruit, mainly plums of myriad varieties; sweet Asian spices, slightly earthy and minerally in the graphite-iodine sense; but fairly tannic and oaky for an 8 1/2-year old. Now through 2013 to ’15. Very Good. About $17.
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