Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Perfect Pair: Ribera del Duero Wines

Capital Cooking Contributor

Wine enthusiasts and industry professionals recently gathered at DC's newest tapas hotspot, Boqueria, for a seminar and tasting of Ribera del Duero wines.

Ribera is an area located about two hours north of Madrid, and the main grape variety you'll find is Tempranillo, also known as Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais. The climate is extreme: vineyards at 2,500 to 2,800 feet above sea level, short summers that can run to above 100 °F during the day, little rainfall and varying types of soil combinations, from sand to clay to limestone. The result, however, is an extremely balanced wine, and a high percentage of quality bottles, even from recent vintages.

What makes Ribera wines so consistently good has to do with the Denominación de Origen (D.O., Designation of Origin) Ribera del Duero, which strictly regulates wineries during harvest. During that time, wineries are assigned a surveyor, who regulates where the grapes come from and the varieties used, percentages allowed, vineyard practices, the wine-making process, alcohol content and labeling. Wineries must perform in all of the categories in order to receive approval and proper labeling.

Ribera del Duero wines with a tasting plate by Boqueria restaurant
Guests of the event were able to sample three wines during the seminar-

Joven: This young wine, hence the name, has no oak at all. A "Joven Roble" or "Joven Barrica" are young wines that would have seen just three to six months in oak. These bottles are released soon after harvest and are fresh, light, and vibrant. This wine will have a lot of red berry notes, from raspberry to strawberry to cherry, and is meant to be consumed while it's young. It's perfect for an evening barbeque with friends on a summer evening, and its $10-15 price point allows for it. The Joven is a nice wine that can be consumed any night of the week.

Try pairing it with: cheese, cold cuts, pizza, barbeque

Crianza: This wine is aged for two years with a minimum of 12 months in, often American, oak. It has well-balanced tannins with notes of vanilla, spice, leather. The velvety mouthfeel gives a nice finish to this full-bodied red. A Crianza goes well with a nice dinner at home, and is priced reasonably at $18-30 per bottle.

Try pairing it with: lamb chops, roasted meats, grilled salmon

Reserva: The Reserva is a step up from the Crianza. With three years of aging and a minimum of 12 months in oak, these wines are bottle aged in cellars, making them ready to drink once they get into the market. This red is much more elegant and intense with cherry, dried fruit and tobacco notes. There are stronger tannins and a lingering aftertaste, begging for this wine to be paired with a fabulous meal.

Try pairing it with: roasted meat, mushrooms

Spanish tapas restaurant Boqueria is located at M and 19th Streets, steps from Dupont Circle.
With the D.O. Ribera del Duero overseeing the quality of the wine in the region, tempranillo drinkers can safely assume that drinking a Ribera, whether it's a young Joven enjoyed with friends or a Reserva on a special night with a loved one, the quality is almost a guarantee. And with a bottle available at every price point, it's one game that's pretty hard to lose.

Boqueria on Urbanspoon
 photographs by Samantha Grieder

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