EXCELLENT: Two Ribera del Duero wines

I’ve enjoyed nearly every Spanish wine I’ve tried, and these two Tempranillos were just lovely.

Wine has been made in the Ribera del Duero area for more than 2,000 years. Today, wines must be at least 75% Tempranillo in order to be released with the Ribero del Duero D.O. (Denominaciónde Origen, or geographic origin). The only grapes allowed for blending are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Garnacha, and Malbec. No white wines can be released with the D.O. designation, but Tempranillo produces a dry Rosado and that is allowed.

The area, 90 by 20 miles, is in north central Spain and is home to 250 winemakers, approximately half of whom export to the U.S. The area has a rather harsh climate, described as “nine months of cold and three months of hell” with very little rain. Irrigation is allowed, but it’s very expensive. Thus, the roots need to reach down into the soil, and a richer wine is the result.

Alconte2009 Bodegas y Vinedos Montecastro Alconte Crianza, 14.5% ABV, $24 SRP.

My first impression: licorice, gentle tannins. Something intense and special, even cheerful. It opened into a little white pepper with spice and blackberries.

Alconte is a new vineyard, with some older vines. The winegrower doesn’t use trellises, adhering to the bush vine approach. This particular wine was aged for 14 months in French and American oak. (Crianza has to be aged at least 12 months and no more than 23 months.)

NIGHT TWO: Cola, white pepper, red licorice. Very interesting.

BACK LABEL: This wine has been aged for 14 months in barrels made of French and American oak. Total production from the 2009 vintage has been 13,345 bottles. Imported by Classical Wines, Seattle, WA.

WEB: www.Montecastro.es

Valdubon2007Label2007 Bodegas Valdubón Valdubon Reserva, 13% ABV, $27 SRP.

First impression: Elegant, with raspberry. It opened into cherry and delicious, soft fruit and spice. This was aged nearly two years in 80/20 American and French barrels. It didn’t taste like American oak, though—it had the more tightly woven taste of French oak, but it wasn’t over the top.

Valdubón was established in 1997 and 100 acres are planted in Tempranillo.

NIGHT TWO: Subtle cedar on the nose.

FRONT LABEL: This noble red wine is produced entirely with Tinda del País—or Tempranillo—the predominant red grape of Spain. Densely flavored and brick hued, this wine is a true Reserva, patiently aged for almost two years in French and American oak with an extra year slumber in the bottle. The grapes used for this prodigious wine came from carefully manicured vineyards by the Riaza River, producing a wine of balanced acidity and concentrated fruit flavors. This wine complements roasted red meat, game, sausages, or even lamb kabobs.

WEB: www.FreixenetUSATrade.com, www.HeredadCollection.com

Samples sent for review.

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