It's still Tempranillo month
Although it has been a crazy mid-June, I am still trying to only drink/think Tempranillo.
Ribera del Duero vs Rioja A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a dinner with a bunch of guys who eat/drink/sleep/think Spanish wines. They wanted to do a big dinner and drink and compare some old Ribera del Duero and Rioja wines - so, I was all like, "um. hell yeas."
First, a quick note about the restaurant. It was at Apiary on 3rd avenue near 11th. What I didn't realize (and what I feel lame for not knowing) is that they do "corkage free" Mondays. We showed up there on the early side and had the place to ourselves. There were seven of us and we had about 10-12 wines and ordered their chef's tasting menu. The food and service were top notch. What was crazy was that by 8pm, the place was packed. Not only that, it was full of people doing the same thing. To our left were people who were drinking old champagnes. To the right, they were opening 80's era syrah from the Rhone valley (a lot of Hermitage).
It was nuts. It was a wine geek orgy. It was stupid amounts of awesome wine.
Debauchery was had.
So, right: Apiary. If you ever want to meet there for dinner on a Monday, I'll bring some wine.
Back to Ribera del Duero vs Rioja
Ribera del Duero and Rioja are both wine producing regions in Spain and they both primarily grow Tempranillo (although some blending with other grapes can happen). Here's my quick handy overview for each region
Centered around the town of Logrono in north central Spain near the French border, Rioja is mountainous with a generally dry climate. Due to being close to the french border and the influx of french winemakers escaping to Spain during the phylloxera epidemic, they have a history of french winemaking techniques. Interestingly, they haven't used a lot of french oak for their barrels, but have used American oak. My notes on why this is have physically escaped me, but I think it was due to moments in history when France and Spain weren't getting along. That's the story I'll go with.
Note that use of french oak is increasing these days.
Ribera del Duero
If wine regions were in a race, Ribera del Duero would be hot on the heels of Rioja.
This fairly high altitude region is southwest of Rioja and produces wines similar to it's neighbor, but tend to have more tannins, color, and firm flavors of sour cherries (sounds delicious, eh?).
The whole region - as you may guess from the name "the shore of the Duero" - hugs the Duero river that runs through Spain and into Portugal and has great temperature variability during the growing season with hot summer days that cool off quite a bit in the evenings (grapes seem to like this (I seem to like this as well)).
Both regions produces wines that age quite well and while both will blend some non-tempranillo grapes into the blend (Rioja uses Grenache/Garnacha - RDB uses Cabernet and some others) the wines that are the highest amount of tempranillo are the ones that traditionally age the best.
Hmmm. What else?
Or yes, ageing. Spainish producers can include a reference to how long the wines aged in bottle and barrel. The three main levels are: Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. Crianza is the least aged end and are great when drank young, whereas Gran Reserva gets the most ageing. Naturally, dollar amounts increase as the amount of ageing increases.
For both of these wines, but especilly (IMHO) for the RDB, I often find them a bit hot and think it's very important to serve them at cellar temperature. Or as I call it: twenty minutes in the refrigerator before dinner.
I love the Google Maps custom map thing. Here are the two regions... aproximately. Rioja is the one closer to France outlined in red.