The SOMM Journal

August/September 2014

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Page 97 of 119

Spain's Duero River Valley is perhaps one of the most unlikely places on the planet for growing vines. It's a dry, hot, dusty, rural region north of Madrid that pioneer producers Vega Sicilia and Pesquera helped put on the map back in the 1970s. With 270 wineries holding court over vines clus - tered along the Duero River, alluvial and riverbed deposits lend extreme diversity to the soils, which in turn translates to true diversity in the wines. "It's time to start thinking about Ribera del Duero as a style, in terms of climate and origin, rather than simply as Tempranillo," says Andrea Robinson, MS, holding out a glass of shimmering ruby-red wine to perhaps emphasize the idea that Ribera is literally in the midst of change, just as is the wine in her glass. Change in the form of experimentation—such as oak aging (specifically French oak), a widely-used technique that Ribera producers are embracing while still working to maintain a regional distinc - tion in their wines. If the style is reflective of the region's climate, the key to understanding Ribera's wines is acknowledging the diversity of that style. Extreme desert conditions reign over the region, which receives just 16 inches of rainfall per year. Enormous diurnal temperature swings from day to night allows for prime acid retention in grapes that are planted as 2,500 to 3,100 feet above sea level (compared to Napa, which tops out vine plantings at around 2,000 feet). But back in the valley, "the reflective power of the water itself is critical to some of the micro-climates in the region," says Robinson—and micro-climates mean diversity. The joven, crianza and reserva wines coming out of the four provinces of Castilla y León that Ribera reaches into—from Burgos and Segovia to Soria and Valladolid—are as diverse as wines being produced halfway around the world. And for Robinson, style isn't just about the juice inside the bottle. Indicating the lineup of 15 wines we were about to taste for the first por - tion, Robinson pressed that the sense of style "is evident across the board," pointing to the many labels facing us. "Nobody's the same here, but they all present classic labels, showing clean and confident facings, making simple, by Jonathan Cristaldi / photos by Cal Bingham WINES FROM RIBERA DEL DUERO HAVE STYLE INSIDE AND OUTSIDE OF THE BOTTLE It's Time to Drink Ribera Drink Ribera ambassador Andrea Robinson, MS, leads top Los Angeles sommeliers and wine buyers through a tasting of 30 Ribera del Duero wines showing a breadth of style.

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