Home Winners > Winners 2013 > SPAIN: Duero Valley, including Rueda, Ribera del Duero

Winner Details

Spain: Duero Valley, including Rueda, Ribera del Duero 

A shocking performance from most of the region’s whites, but some magnificent stuff in the tinto spectrum

This is a part of Spain that usually manages to scatter its medals more or less evenly between light, aromatic Ruedan whites and serious hairy-chested reds. Well, not this year. The whites were awful, with a paltry three medals.

Our tasters detected two problems: first, that the trademark aromatics often disappeared altogether on the palate – and our tasters felt they deserved better for the prices being charged; and second, way too many winemaking faults. Some wines were described as ‘undrinkable’, which was very rare this year – even for the cheapest flights of wine.

‘I was bored by wine 5,’ sighed Charles Pashby-Taylor of Dabbous. ‘Most had a brilliant nose, but fell short of the mark; no fruit, acidity too high or none at all.’

It’s hard to know what went wrong, given that many of the wines would have been from the highly rated 2011 vintage. Certainly, the intriguingly named Heights of the Charge Verdejo/Viura, a bargain at £6.85, showed the kind of quality to price ratio that should have been more generally available.

‘It was a unique wine, full of spicy, citrus peel character,’ said Morgan Vanderkamer from Butlers Wharf Chop House. ‘Really well balanced, something which would be a great point of difference on the list and a very versatile food wine to match a great variety of dishes.’

The reds, however, had their best ever Sommelier Wine Awards. Too often in the past, their contribution to our final list has been limited to a cheap and cheerful effort from Toro and something big and expensive from Ribera del Duero.

Well this year our tasters managed a high quality ladder of reds from £7 up to £15 that totally delivered and never threatened to be at all over-priced.

‘We found good stuff all the way through,’ smiled The Marylebone Hotel’s Mark Deamer, surveying an impressive spread of medal winners. ‘And more would have picked up medals, but a fair few very good wines needed several more years before they’re ready to drink.’

Mostly from the 2009 vintage, there was plenty of fruit, but it was not baked or overworked; plenty of tannin, but ripe and balanced; and – perhaps most importantly of all – a significantly lighter touch when it came to the use of oak. For a region that has sometimes shown the kind of relationship with the barrel that schoolchildren do with tomato ketchup, this was a welcome development.

Extra congratulations to the Quinta El Refugio for standing out in a strong section. This was its third impressive showing on the trot, with a Silver last year and a Gold in 2011. Without getting too alliterative, it looks like being another of those Boutinot bankers like the Bodegas Borsao.

High quality stuff, then. And from a part of Spain that our tasters didn’t think they’d have any trouble selling to the public either.
‘A lot of people know Ribera as a great place for steak wine,’ said the Ubiquitous Chip’s Richard Masterson. ‘Some will be looking for a specific producer, but others are happy just to experiment within the appellation.’

‘The reds had great value at the bottom end, and real class at the top – ripe, muscular and concentrated.’
Christine Parkinson, Hakkasan

‘Traditional customers would know what Ribera is – and be happy to pay good money for it.’
Gustavo Medina, The Tate Group