Whether wine is produced in America, Spain, France or Italy, can we all agree that it tastes better with age? Bristol Bar & Grille Master Sommelier Scott Harper shares his knowledge of notable wine region’s in Spain, their aging process, and a few Spanish reserve wines to try.
Ribero del Duer0
Located on the eastern edge of northwestern Spain, the name Ribero del Duero comes from the Duero River. It sits within the region of Castilla y León or “land of castles,” named because of the fortifications that dot the landscape. These fortifications were built to hold off the Moors in the Middle Ages. The Ribero del Duero is one of Spain’s finest wine regions. People often mention it in the same breath as the other notable wine regions of Rioja and Priorat.
The most important quality wine grape in Spanish reserve wines to try is Tempranillo. It makes up the majority of the Ribero del Duero blend. Tempranillo also makes great wine in other regions such as Rioja. As in other countries, the same grape has different names in different regions. People in Ribero del Duero call the Tempranillo grape Tinta del País. People can add up to 25 percent of other grapes such as Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Up to five percent of Garnacha and Albillo Mayor may also be added. While Ribero del Duero makes mostly red wine, they also produce rosé, or rosado as the Spaniards call it.
Unlike American wines labeled reserve or grand reserve, Spanish law defines the terms Cosecha, Crianza, Reserva and Grand Reserva. Cosecha, also known as Vin Joven, ages the least, with no or less than a year of oak aging. Crianza ages for two years: one in an oak barrel and one in the bottle. Reserva ages three years with a minimum of one year in oak and two years in the bottle.
The winery’s very best wine is Gran Reserva. It must have the character to stand five years of aging. Out of these five years, it ages in oak for two years and three years in the bottle. This aging takes place in oak cask. It takes place in American oak, which the Spaniards love for its favor of vanilla, coconut and dill. It also takes place in the less assertive French barrels, and even a combination of the two.
To drink mature wine from most wine regions, you must age the wine yourself. However, the long aging of Ribero del Duero Reserva and Ribero del Duero Gran Reserva allows the aficionado to purchase mature ready-to-drink Ribero del Duero. For a very interesting tasting, acquire a bottle of each of the aging levels, preferably from the same producer. Then taste side-by-side a Cosecha, Crianza, Reserva and a Gran Reserva. This is a brilliant way to see the influence of oak barrel and bottle aging of four wines from the same region and same grapes. And in the case of the Reserve and Gran Reserve, you can even get the same vintage. The oak aging adds complexity of flavors of baking spices, such as vanilla, toast, cinnamon and nutmeg. It also adds cocoa, coffee, coconut and dill, among others. Oak barrel aging can also change the texture making a wine suppler.
Spanish reserve wines to try in Viñedos y Bodegas Gormaz
Vega Sicilia, Dominio de Pingus or Tinto Pesquera are three of the standard bearers in Ribera del Duero and command high prices. While quality Ribera del Duero is never inexpensive, the Viñedos y Bodegas Gormaz winery offers a relative value and reasonable availability of Spanish reserve wines to try.
The winery was founded in 1972. It was one of the original wineries when the Ribera del Duero region was officially established in 1982. It is the only winery in the province of Soria. Linajes, or lineage in English, is the name of the flagship wine of the Viñedos y Bodegas Gormaz. It is a tribute to the 12 Knights of Soria. This is represented by 12 shields in circular emblems on the label. The equestrian figure of Alfonso VIII surrounds these emblems in similar fashion to the Knights of the Round Table.
Dark red/purple with flavors of strawberry, red and black cherry, vanilla and roasted coffee beans in a medium-bodied wine that can benefit from some breathing to help smooth out its tannins.
This wine comes from the Tempranillo grape. it ages in French and American barrels for 14 months before it ages in the bottle for 12 months. Try with roasted herb-encrusted pork loin.
Dark red/purple with the flavors of blackberry, strawberry, chocolate and oak-induced baking spices. Excellent Spanish wine with a few years bottle age, exhibiting violets and lavender in a full, silky body with a touch of earth.
This wine comes from the Tempranillo grape. It ages 24 months in French oak barrels before it is ages for a further 24 months in the bottle. Try with grilled rack of lamb or a grilled bone-in ribeye