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Spain’s Ribera Del Duero Region makes a strong impression

I recently attended an excellent tasting that featured wines from the Ribera Del Duero region of Spain. It’s always fascinating to taste a broad array of wines in one room from a specific part of the world. It allows side-by-side comparisons, and showcases how many excellent wines a region has. In the case of Ribera Del Duero the array of terrific wines I tasted in one day was a bit head-spinning, actually. While I’d had wines from this area before, I’d never sampled nearly as many at one time. A couple of producers kept reverberating in my mind days after the event, thus I decided to revisit a few of their wines so I could share my thoughts about them. Tempranillo has long been one of my favorite red varieties and this grape flourishes as well in Ribera Del Duero as anywhere.

The Bodegas Peñalba Lopez S.L. 2009 Los Cantos was produced from a blend of Tempranillo (95 percent) and Merlot (5 percent). The vineyards sourced were planted an average of 20 years prior to the vintage. Fermentation took place over nine days in stainless steel vats with native yeast. Barrel aging followed in French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $23. Lovely herb and floral aromas fill the nose of Los Cantos. The palate here is studded with layer upon layer of fresh, dark fruit flavors. This wine is marked by crisp acidity and refreshing flavors that beckon you back to the glass for sip after sip. Bits of French Roast coffee and sour black fruit flavors mark the finish; cherry and blackberry are of particular note and accompanied by minerals and copious spices. Los Cantos is a tremendous value in its price range. It’s the kind of wine you may want to buy a case of, to keep around for everyday drinking.

The Bodegas Peñalba Lopez S.L. 2006 Torremilanos was produced using Tempranillo (90 percent) and White Tempranillo (10 percent). White Tempranillo is a genetic mutation of the original Tempranillo grape and a relatively recent one. The vineyards sourced have more than 90 years of age on them. Fermentation took place in concrete tanks. Aging followed in a combination of French oak (80 percent), and concrete tanks (20 percent) over a period of 24 months. This selection has a suggested retail price of $30. Ripe black cherry aromas and bits of toast mark the nose of this wine. Spices such as cardamom and clove are present on the palate and support oodles of dark fruit flavors which are impressive in their combination of intensity and precision. Black tea, minerals and continued fruit flavors such as cherry are in evidence on the finish, which has excellent length and persistence. This wine will work wonderfully both on its own and paired with full-flavored foods, and is a real knockout.

The Bodegas y Viñedos Neo S.L. 2011 Disco de Neo was produced from 100 percent Tempranillo. The vines sourced had 40 years of age on them. All of the fruit was hand-picked. After fermentation, this wine was aged in a combination of French (70 percent) and American (30 percent) oak for a period of six months. Just over 5,800 cases of this wine were produced, and it sells for right around $20. This wine has a brooding, dark hue. The nose is studded with violets laced with wisps of vanilla bean. Cherries, strawberries and spice are in strong evidence on the palate. Sour cherries and pencil lead characteristics emerge on the finish, which has solid length. This wine, which has good structure and lovely texture, is well suited to pair with just about anything from your grill. It represents a nice value.

Finally, we have the Bodegas y Viñedos Neo S.L. 2010 Neo Sentido. This wine was produced from 100 percent Tempranillo. The fruit was harvested manually from vineyards planted between 50 and 60 years prior to vintage. After fermentation, barrel-aging took place over 10 months in a combination of French (70 percent) and American (30 percent) oak. Sentido has a suggested retail price of $30. Black raspberry and cherry aromas leap from the nose of this wine. The palate here is substantial and weighty with slightly brawny flavors that tickle and please. Black fruits such as blackberry, plum and black raspberries are the stars, but bits of red fruit flavors are interspersed as well. Earth, white pepper and oodles of dark dusty baker’s chocolate are all part of a substantial finish. This is an impressive offering in its price category.

If you’re not familiar with wines from Ribera Del Duero any of these four will serve as a fine introduction to the exciting things they have going on. On the other hand, if you’re already a fan of this terrific Spanish region, here are four wines you’ll want to add to your shopping list. Ribera Del Duero is a region that deserves attention and increasing shelf space with wine retailers. I encourage readers to try these wines as a jumping off point and then explore more wines from the area; that’s precisely what I plan to do.

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