Wine of the Week: 2004 Valderiz Ribera del Duero

“It’s not the size of the price on that bottle that counts, it’s the size of the wine in the bottle which makes all the difference." ~ Bill Eyer

Let's take a quick trip across the pond, over to one of my favorite wine regions on the Iberian Peninsula to a gorgeous wine producing region known as the Ribera del Duero in Spain.

Historically speaking, there has been vineyard activity in this region since the times of Roman occupation, talk about your ancient vineyard sites. But it was during the French Phylloxera (vine-destroying aphids) crisis that many grape growers and winemakers from fled from France and settled in Spain's yet untouched wine regions, bringing with them their winemaking practices and techniques which helped put Spain on the winemaking trajectory we see today.

The summers here can be long, hot and brutal, yet still capable of producing some extraordinary wines of soul and substance. Nearly in the heart of Spain, RDD is sandwiched between Madrid in the South and the Rioja region in the North and the Duero River flowing through its midsection. (see map). Many believe that the wine-making here goes back over 2,000 years in the Ribera del Duero, as some enterprising young geologists sites as evidence, the find of a 66-meter mosaic of Bacchus, "the god of wine" that was unearthed in a relatively recent dig at Baños de Valdearados, that's good enough for me.

Some wine enthusiasts like to think of RDD as the Napa Valley of Spain. That's because like some of the wines of Napa, the vino you find being bottled in Ribera del Duero is a bit on the hedonistic side, brooding big wines, sporting new French oak, and vivid fruit dominated wines. While many who encounter these wines for the first time may think "wow," this vino is big and powerful, while they also offer something familiar to the California palate, fruit-forward, plushness, but that's not the whole picture.

If you look, there many fine examples like the Valderiz here sporting soul and substance. A few self-appointed wine apostles liken the wines of this region to an international style of sorts, but my impression is that many of wines don't deserve the enormous broad-brush of the homogenized category, as some critics (Eric!) would have you believe.

These wines offer something many Napa reds typically don't, and that's sultry-bit of smoke, which speaks eloquently of their terroir. You may be thinking "smoke" why would I want that? Well think of it this way, when you encounter a whiff of smoke-goodness from the neighbor's BBQ, and you're thinking, "damn that smells so good," it gets your taste buds tingling. In general, the wines of Ribera del Duero, evoke memories of smoking fine Cuban cigars I purchased on my travels, these wines sport well-integrated tannins, with an abundance of seductive ripe dark/red fruit flavors and aromas.

It's my impression, that there's a sharp contrast in wine style between those of the Ribera del Duero and their neighbors in the Rioja region. Because what you will typically find in Rioja are red wines (Tempranillo), which are more traditional, less about ripe fruit, new oak, and more about acidity, minerality on the drier-rustic side of the equation, conveying the image of a dirty-sexy wine, that will require mondo amounts of decanting to fully be appreciated. Wines from the RDD are typically produced from Tempranillo or as it's known locally Tinto Fino, which arguably is the most famous of Spain's native grapes, with Garnacha now hot on its heels. It's a vibrant, aromatic varietal, capable of delivering a lot of bang for the buck on the flavor scale. Tempranillo is the workhorse grape of these famous Spanish wine-regions, Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

On the other side of the coin, the wines from Ribera del Dueros are fantastic from the first splash to the last drop and show Tempranillo's incredible range of flavors and styles. The perfect accompaniment to the summer grilling season, as these wines are dripping with abundant fruit-forward flavors (not overwhelming) and aromas and far-less about heavy-handed acidity and dry-dusty tannins that make your teeth feel like you have attached cotton-balls. The wines of Ribera Del Duero are vibrant and welcoming gaining further complexity and sophistication from a few years in the cellar. At the same time delivering real quality quaffing for pennies on the dollar in sharp contrast to a many Napa Cab.

Time for the review, in today's wine spot-light, is the 2004 Valderiz Ribera del Duero, a wine I picked up at Costco for the screaming (perhaps just shouting) low price of $25 many years ago now, the QPR is through the roof and won't last once this review hits the publish button, as this wine sells for $38 most other places (oops, they're all gone now). This wine deserves, no actually requires my "run, don't walk" buy recommendation, sadly tho, with the timing of this article, you'll likely have to settle for one of their more current vintages. Speaking of current, their 2014 release is available for a short time, at the same price I paid years ago (but not at Costco), and the scores are crazy good. Leave a comment if want to know where to find it.

Swirly-swish, Sniff and Slurp: Into the glass a beautiful nearly opaque purple/Burgundy colored core, a brush-stroke of brick on the rim. On the first sniff, evocative aromas of sweet-smoke, pencil shavings, dried red fruits, and black licorice. After the first splash down, more of the same from the nose, the red/dark fruit is a flourish of round, forward plummy sweet berries, licorice, a bit of leather, coupled with vanilla spices and just a dusting cocoa nuance. The finish is long and sumptuous. A real crowd pleaser, balanced, great structure and finesse.

The 2004 Valderiz spent 18 months in French and American oak, 60% new. While some may suggest further aging, but why wait, since it's drinking "fab" right now and is priced for the wine of the week quaff, so don't delay drink now and drink often (another of my favorite catchphrases).

What's the Score:  I gave this wine score of 92 points, it's a flat-out fantastic quaff. A real Spanish beauty you'll not only want to take out for a first date but possibly one to take home to meet the parents. The QPR is quite good, makes for a wonderful mid-week quaff that's licensed to thrill.

Other Tasty Quaffs: Other wines you may find tantalizing as well are the Arzuaga Reserva or Valduero Reserva. You will see many of the Ribera del Duero 2004's and 05's are drinking fabulously right now if you are lucky enough to have cellared some or can find it to purchase. Another couple wines from this fantastic region, which are immediately approachable on flavor and price [under $17] are the 2007 Creta Roble Ribera del Duero or the 2006 Emilio Moro (samples)  give all of these wines a swirl and let me know what you think.

I wish I could have found a much better video on the RBD, but the majority of them were of poor quality or really didn't have any "real" bearing on the subject. At least Gary V delivers some good alternative viewpoints (via Wine Library) on the subject and reviews a few different wines from this region, but the video is a bit long, I recommend a little fast-fwd action and skip the last 2 minutes. That's is all for today folks, I hope you'll join me next time as we continue to explore the wine strewn landscape and bring you the best of what is available. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

If you've ever got done reading an article on this site and wondered, "what is the purpose of this blog?" That's easy, it is wine, wine-travel, wine-pairing, and tasting discovery, making the complex knowable. To make wine more accessible to the masses. To shine a light in the dark cellars, uncovering wines which fit our favorite catchphrase "You can pay more, but you seldom get more." Life is short, drink like a prince on a paupers budget, drink wines of place and learn why wines of effort are just that.

All original content: Including text and photographs remain the copyright © of the author, (W.R. Eyer) and © Fotogui Photography except where otherwise noted.



I love the wines of Ribera del Duero - great writeup!
Will Eyer said…
I know huh, the vino from Ribera del Duero is some very tasty juice, with great QPR. Thanks for stopping by, cheers!

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