Spanish Wine Region, Ribiera del Duero

This part of Spain has a harsh continental climate. Despite an altitude of between 700 and 850m the summers can be very hot and the winters freezing cold. Frost is a springtime hazard. There is also a high diurnal temperature range, which is regarded as a positive influence on wine quality. The wines in the region are almost exclusively red. Tinto Fino is the local variant of the Tempranillo variety and makes up the majority of the wines produced. Small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec and Garnacha are blended into some wines. The white variety Albilo is used in tiny amounts in some red wine blends. The red wines of this region are full flavoured and rendolent of licorice, plums and dark berries. A feature is the soft tannins. Recent improvements to wine making techniques has lead to a general lift in quality.
The standout wine of the region is Vega Sicilia Unico, regarded as the best wine in Spain. It is blend of Tinto Fino with Cabernet and smaller proportions of Merlot, Malbec and Albilo. The wine is aged for about ten years before release. In poor years this wine is not produced at all, thus protecting the integrity and reputation of the brand.
The other producer of high quality wine in the region is Pesquera made at Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez. The winery was founded in 1970 and has done much to raise wine making standards and marketability. Bodegas Protos is a the foot of the castle at Penafeil. Their crianzas, reds aged for a minimum of two years, are made from 100% Tinto Fino. They are highly regarded, and considerably more affordable than those mentioned above.
Food in the Region
The rugged dry environment is ideal for extensive sheep raising so it is no surprise that the favourite dish is lechazo, roast milk fed lamb. This is cooked simply in a ceramic roasting dish and accompanied by a simple salad of tomatoes and lettuce, and of course some red wine. There is certainly no elaborate preparation.
Sheep milk cheeses are also popular.

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