When the Ribera del Duero region was awarded its own DO (appellation) in 1982, it had just 14 wineries. Today, approximately 300 firms are producing concentrated reds of intense colour and flavour, almost exclusively from Tempranillo. The region’s most famous wines – Vega Sicilia and Pingus – are among the most expensive and prestigious wines of modern Spain.
This all suggests that Ribera del Duero has ridden a wave of unqualified success. Its vineyards are found on both sides of the river Duero, blanketing a broad valley which stretches from regional capital Valladolid upstream to Aranda del Duero. A combination of extremely varied soils and high diurnal temperature variation has attracted an eclectic range of high-spending investors; Vega Sicilia’s owner Pablo Alvarez is no less ambitious, having planted white grapes to achieve his goal of producing “Spain’s first Montrachet.” If critics were to solely judge a region’s health on the basis of recent dynamism, then Ribera del Duero has good prospects.
However, the picture becomes more nuanced when the subject of export success comes into focus.