RIOJA may be the most famous national wine region, but Ribera del Duero is no slouch.
A Spanish Denominacion de Origen (DO) located within Castile and León, Ribera del Duero is one of several wine-producing regions along the Duero river where the mainly flat and rocky terrain undulates between 750 and 911 metres above sea level.
The rainfall is moderate with long dry summers and temperatures of up to 40c, followed by harsh winters.
Viticulture arrived in the region with Benedictine monks in the 12th century although wine was produced locally 2,000 years ago.
Ribera del Duero DO wine is derived almost exclusively from red grapes, in particular Tinto Fino (local name for Tempranillo), and often complemented with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot.
These well-ageing, full-bodied and deep ruby colour wines with aromas of strawberries, fresh tobacco, leather and often highly oaked are excellent with grilled vegetables and red meats.
Whereas Rioja and Ribera del Duero are distinctive as a result of the different terrains, both regions produce wines selected for long ageing with complex vinification procedures.
These lead to intense, extremely long-lived wines.
The ageing requirements for Ribera del Duero are the same used in Rioja. Wines labelled as Crianza must age two years with 12 months in oak; Reserva for at least three years with at least 12 months in oak while Gran Reserva must spend five years ageing prior to release, including two in oak.
Famous regional producers are Viña Sastre, Vega Sicilia, Bodegas Arzuaga Navarra and Dominio de Pingus, with the British Royal family among customers.