The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2012

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WORKSHOPS Ribera del Duero samples at the work- shop in San Francisco. Wine at theExtremes W TREND-SPOTTING IN SPAIN'S RIBERA DEL DUERO by Deborah Parker Wong e continue to look to "extreme" regions—those that push the limits of terroir—for wines of undeniable character. There are a number of factors that can defi ne a wine-growing region as extreme: elevation, rigorous climate, soils and vineyard aspect, to name a few. For the wine buyers and sommeliers attending Spanish wine expert April Cullom's recent San Francisco workshop on the wines of Ribera del Duero, images of barren, high-altitude sites and a demonstration of the region's powerful, elegant wines—including those from iconic producer Vega Sicilia—made a case in point. Cullom, who lives part-time in Spain and applies the context of Spanish culture to her evaluation and discussion of the wines, showed two of Ribera's fi ve age categories— Crianza and Reserva—using wines bottled under the Consejo's label. "Our goal is to demonstrate the quality and characteristics that defi ne each category without calling out an individual producer," confi rmed Cullom. Ribera del Duero's Reserva-level wines (aged for three years with one year in barrel) are released in October after the third year of harvest and are widely cited as representing some of the best quality for value on the global wine market. More than 40 producers were represented in a walk-around tasting of new releases that substantiated several key points made by Cullom. Ribera del Duero's high-elevation sites, the highest average in Europe, com- bined with a short, hot, dry growing season 54 / the tasting panel / march 2012 marked by dramatic shifts in temperature and a diversity of soils are the region's most defi ning factors. While wine styles can vary within each age category, quality is universally high across the board, with the youngest Cosecha or Joven wines (no oak) and Joven Roble or Barrica (three to six months in oak) typically showing youthful, grapey, primary fruit that is concen- trated on the mid-palate. With the next step up to Crianza (aged for two years, one in oak), the wines show more structure from wood tannin and more complex notes of coffee and toast on the fi nish. Only in select vintage years do producers make Gran Reserva wines (fi ve years, two in oak barrels with additional time in bottle), though the region has had an outstanding run of good vintages over the last decade resulting in more Gran Reserva–level wines available in the market. It's not uncommon for producers such as Vega Sicilia to cellar their wines and release them as much as ten years later, as with the 2000 vintage of Vega Sicilia Gran Reserva Único presented by Cullom. Impressions gained from the walk-around tasting were particularly upbeat, with a nod to several importers seeking distribution in the United States for wines that showed restraint and decidedly softer tannins. Of the four 2005 Reserva wines presented, those sited to clay showed a marked mineral quality and confi rmed this taster's perception that Ribera del Duero continues to captivate both our intellect and, more important, our palates. Are You Going to WSWA? If so, then save the date! THE TASTING PANEL is proud to present an incredible tasting of wines from the top producers in Ribera del Duero on April 2, from 1–3 p.m. at Jaleo Restaurant in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Email rsvp@tastingpan- with any questions, and we'll see you on The Strip! Open to all trade buy- ers and importers. PHOTO COURTESY OF DRINK RIBERA. DRINK SPAIN

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