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"Time to grow up", Ribera del Duero. Wine Advocate

Luis Gutierrez, Robert Parker's disciple and Spanish wine reviewer for Wine Advocate writtes about Ribera del Duero. August 2014.

He compares the region with Priorat, early success followed by sudden growth that resulted in many vineyards planted in the wrong places and most wineries following the “more is better” formula, more ripeness, more extraction, more oak, more of everything. As Gutierrez states, this short-term strategy does not work anymore and the region needs improvement.

He considers it is a mistake to be spending 25 million euros in a promotional campaign together with Rueda, an appelation positioned as low-quality. Also he considers that Ribera del Duero is suffering from a structural problem of a huge diversity of soils and vineyards resulting in a big variety of qualities. They are selling the idea of homogeneity, killing the true terroir. But exceptions occur, and some amazing vineyards can be spotted, capable of producing world-class wines.

Vineyard or Winery or Oak?

Land under vine in Ribera del Duero increased from 6,000 hectares in 1985 to 22,000 hectares today, with the inclusion of high-yielding clones of tempranillo and new plantings. The big mistake is that producers thought the winery is more important than the grapes and the more oak a wine has the better it is. Gutierrez considers this to be a big mistake.

About pricing

Gutierrez considers there is little correlation between price and quality of the wines. Too many wines from same producer appear to taste very similar with different exposure to oak. Most of the wines offer ripeness, extraction and oaking which is far from what the markets are asking.

He considers the young wines (robles) to be too hard and extracted, when they should be clean and round. Rosés are making a bit of a comeback, since producers are using good quality grapes.

HighlightsHe talks about exciting new projects in Ribera del Duero, like Dominio del Aguila, Bertrand Sourdais, Goyo García Viadero, Hacienda Solano, Pagos de Matanegra and Vizcarra Ramos. He also highlights Emilio Moro and Telmo Rodríguez together with old-timers like Hacienda Monasterio, Vega Sicilia, Alión, among others.

Vintage, what vintage?

2013: cold, difficult and challenging vintage.

2012: warm, dry season with good potential. The results are less alcoholic, fresher wines.

2011: extremely warm, ripe vintage. Risk of overripe, jammy, low acidity, hich alcoholic wines.

2010: balanced with ripeness and acidity. Perfect conditions for powerful wines with good balance and ageing potential.

2009: warm, powerful vintage for bold, ripe, big wines.

2008: cold, difficult year.

2007: difficult year with frost.

He highlights that generalisations are unfair and some good wines are sometimes made from difficult vintages.