The popularity of the wines of the Ribera del Duero has soared in recent years.  Driven by exceptional wines produced by a number of quality-obsessed producers,  Ribera del Duero wines are now widely acknowledged as fit to rank with the world’s finest. 

About The Wines Of The Ribera del Duero 

The red wines produced on this elevated, mountain ringed northern plateau in the Castile and León region are produced mainly from tempranillo – known here as tinto fino - with a supporting cast of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and malbec.

With such a line-up of grapes, comparisons with its near neighbour, Rioja, are inevitable if not that helpful.  Thanks to the extreme climatic conditions of Ribera, described by Tim Atkin MW as ‘9 months of Hell, followed by 3 months of Heaven’ and the extensive use of cabernet, merlot, and malbec, the wines are distinctly different.  The wines of Ribera – especially when it comes to the Reserva and Gran Reserva wines – are far more tannic, structured, and exhibit a more overt black fruit and mineral tone. 

While the official denominación de origen (D.O.) was only established in 1982, winemaking has been carried out in the region for thousands of years.   For a long time it was known to most wine lovers as the home of Vega Sicilia.  Indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that many wine lovers and even wine professionals would have struggled to name another Ribera del Duero producer.   This was because of the long shadow this extraordinary producer cast.  Like Petrus and Pomerol, Musar and the Lebanon, and Leeuwin in Margaret River, to most people Vega was Ribera del Duero, and everything else was, little known.  

This is no longer the case, and all at MWH Wines will agree that, that’s a good thing too.  While none of us will have a word said against the mighty Vega, unless you’re fortunate enough to have extremely deep pockets, it’s not a wine that many wine lovers will get to try.  The introduction of its scions Alion and Pintia, has given more people access to taste of the glories of Ribera del Duero, but it’s the emergence of a clutch of exciting new producers that has allowed the region’s brilliance to be enjoyed by a wide audience.

As long-time fans of the wines of Ribera del Duero we thought we’d put together our list of the ten best Ribera del Duero wines.  The following is based on numerous tastings, and while Vega Sicilia tops the list, we’ve highlighted a number of other far more affordable producers such as CVNE’s Bela, and Vina Major.  

Ribera del Duero’s Greatest Wineries

Here's our top 10 list, in descending order

10. PSI – if you’re looking for a taste of the mighty Pingus but you’re not a millionaire, then PSI could be for you. The latest wine from Pignus’s founder, Peter Sisseck, is a low-intervention wine that cuts back on the use of wood and gives a fresher, fruitier style of wine.

9. Bela – Bela is CVNE’s foray into the Ribera de Duero, and as one would expect the quality is excellent and the wines are affordable. The Arano Crianza, Bela Reserva, and Bela Roble, all exhibit a combination of elegance, depth, and concentration. 

8. Garmon –made by ex- Vega Sicilia winemaker Mariano Garcia, the first vintage appeared in 2014 and for us it was love at first sip. This is an unashamedly intense, full-on style of wine with wonderfully pure fruit and a supporting structure that allows for long ageing.

7.  Condado de Haza– a scion of Pesquera, this is a more easy-going style of Ribera wine, one that often offers generous quantities of sweetly toned fruit that envelopes a firm structure and well-judged oak.

6. Vina Mayor - great value wines that offer an affordable taste of the Ribera del Duero. Part of the Spain-wide producer Bodegas Palacios, these wines are a blend of modernity and tradition, with cold maceration extracting detail and year-long oak ageing adding depth and warmth. These wines often drink well young, but in great years are capable of ageing.

5. Bodegas Alto – a darling of wine critics, this is a modern incarnation of the region’s wines, with judicious use of oak allowing for the full force of the intense black fruits to shine.

4. Pago de Carraovejas-from 9 hectares of vines in the 1970s to over 200 hectares today, Pago de Carraovejas is a metaphor for the wider region.  A goodly amount of cabernet and merlot are used in their wines which, when coupled with extensive use of oak make for a traditional, long-lived wine.

3. Tinto Pesquera – another classic name, Pesquera was founded in 1972 with the first vintage appearing in 1975.  Despite Parker describing it as ‘the Petrus of Spain’ it remains affordable.  With its combination of earthy black berries, cherries, and spices, it’s an exotic, hugely drinkable incarnation of the region’s wines and an undisputed classic.

2. Dominio de Pingus – since its creation in 1995, Pingus has been a superstar wine (with a price tag to match!).  Tiny production gives the wines unbelievable levels of concentrated black fruits that are supported by a fine mineral undertow.  Flor de Pingus is an (almost) affordable taste of this estate’s mastery.

1. Vega Sicilia –hardly a surprise, but what a producer! Traditional classic wines such as the Valbuena 5, Unico, and stunning Unico Reserva Especial, are wines whose brilliance were integral to the forging of the region’s reputation. Often idiosyncratic, somewhat enigmatic, and always impressive, despite the class of the chasing pack, Vega remains Ribera del Duero’s crowned king.

Ribera del Duero Vintages

We’d caveat this list by saying that in common with many of the world’s great wine regions, vintages matter in the Ribera del Duero.  Even the most skilled producer can only work with what nature has given them and in poor years the standards of even the luminaries listed above can dip.  Recent good vintages include: 

2019 – Very good

2018 – Good

2016 – Very good

2015 – Very good

2014 – Very good

2012 – Very good

2012 – Very good

2010 – Outstanding, but the best need time

2009 – Very good, best are drinking well now

2005 – Outstanding, the best will go on for years

2004 – Outstanding, powerhouse wines that will go on and on

2001 – Outstanding, but now scarce

2000 – Very good, refined, and in need of drinking

Like Some Fine Wine Help?

We hope you've found this blog on the magnificent wines of the Ribera del Duero to be of interest.  If you would like some wine advice, then please do get in touch by calling Mike on 0118 984 4654 or by emailing MWH Wines here.  A recognised authority on wine, he'll be happy to advise you on which wine is right for you.