In praise of Ribera del Duero
It's a funny thing in Spain, when you go out in 'local' mode and order a 'copa de tinto' (glass of red wine), they will either default towards local wines or towards Ribera del Duero.
If you are in the more touristy parts (I noticed this in Seville last Sunday) they'll pretty much immediately assume that you'll be on Rioja. Watch the eyebrows raise in surprise when you say, 'No, I'll have a Ribera'
Which is to say, in blunt and unscientific terms, locals drink Ribera del Duero and tourists drink Rioja.
I've been a huge fan of Spanish reds for some time but actually find that Rioja is about the least reliably good. Well, let me moderate that. The sort of Rioja that's constantly bashed out in UK supermarkets on special offer that tastes like an oak teabag. If you go upmarket and get a Muga Crianza, or if you go off piste and find the more modern styles of smaller producers in Rioja Alavesa then it can be heavenly. However, I just don't find them that exciting when there's so much variety in Spain.
The massive, fabulous reds from Priorat. Lesser known Catalan producers, Somontano, Navarra has some eminently drinkable wine, Valencia produces some lovely red, there's even places in Cadiz and across in the Alpujarras on the eastern end of Andalucia which are great for reds. However, I find myself increasingly appreciative of Ribera del Duero. I can't think of a time when I've been disappointed by a Ribera. Smooth, rich, dark, velvety, warm - it's the perfect wine for autumn.
So, please, take a break from Rioja and experiment with Ribera del Duero. I've noticed just this week that Sainsbury's have a Taste the Difference Ribera (and a Navarra and Priorat, praise be!). Aldi have one too so I'm off there now to pick some up and have a weekend of Ribera tasting. Perhaps at last, we're seeing all of Spain properly represented on the wine aisles?
Here are some ideas to start with but please send in your thoughts and experiences! I'd love to hear.
Pago de Carraovejas - top end at £20-30 a bottle so perhaps one to wait until you get to Spain where you will find it in restaurants for that amount or less. This is the one we've had chefs and sommelier friends tell us about. Feel free to send me a sample.
Legaris - Ocado do the standard version, roble(oak) for £10, as does the wonderful Henry Butler here in Brighton: www.butlers-winecellar.co.uk Crianzas and reservas end up being around double. Even the standard is very enjoyable so start there and work up if your palette is refined enough to deserve the investment! This is a wine you will see by the glass in El Rinconcillo bar in Seville, for not very much.
Cillar de Silos - Naked Wines, currently out of stock but usually around £10 or so. A wine to fall in love with. I remember serving this to a large, rowdy table full this past Easter day. It had that magic effect of making everyone stop as they realized they were drinking something far better than they had expected to taste. A sort of 'what just happened?' moment.
Taste the Difference Ribera del Duero - Sainsburys. Another one to start you off? I've had mixed success with the Taste the Difference wines, tending towards the very positive though so I reckon this will be bankable. Normally £9, currently down to £7.50. Minarete - Aldi. Haven't tried this one yet but intrigued at just £5.49 a bottle - could this be my first disappointing Ribera?
Which Spanish reds do you love most? Have you tasted any of these or have any other ideas of great Riberas? Or do you want us to take you to Spain to taste it all in situ?
The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.