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Ribera Del Duero

Ribera del Duero is an important wine producing area in Castilla y Leon, northern Spain. Its reputation is largely thanks to the high quality of its red Tempranillo based wines, the best examples of which are renowned throughout the world. The capital of Ribera del Duero is the historic town of Aranda de Duero, which boasts a series of antique underground cellars (bodegas) built to store wine. The interconnecting cellars reach a depth of 40ft (12m) in places. Despite a long history of winemaking, Ribera del Duero was not awarded DO status until 1982. A corresponding Consejo Regulador (wine regulating authority) was then established to administer it.

Ribera del Duero sits on the elevated northern plateau of the Iberian Peninsula at 2,800ft (800m) above sea level. It is divided by the Duero River (as its name would suggest – Ribera del Duero means "bank of the Duero"), which provides the local vineyards with a much needed water supply.

The region's inland location, coupled with the sheltering effects of the nearby Sierra de la Demanda and Sierra de Guadarrama mountain ranges, creates an extreme climate in which hot and dry summers are followed by harsh winters. Temperatures can range from -0.4°F to 104°F (-18°C to 40°C) and winter and even spring frosts are a real threat here. In the growing season, the high daytime temperatures are combined with considerably cooler nights – a condition which assists in the optimum accumulation of aromas and other chemical compounds (phenolics) in the grapes.

Alternating layers of limestone, marl and chalk under silt and clay topsoil add complexity and character to Ribera del Duero wines.

The leading local producer is Bodegas Vega Sicilia, which took the wine world by storm with its "Unico" wine. Tinto Pesquera is another renowned brand, created by the region's best known winemaker, Alejandro Fernández. The success of Vega Sicilia and Pesquera quickly turned local producers away from bulk rosé and selling to co-operatives and focused their attentions on making quality reds. Other prominent producers include Dominio de Pingus and Emilio Moro.

Nowadays, Ribera del Duero is almost entirely devoted to red wine, with Tempranillo the most widely planted grape variety. It is known locally either as Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais and produces wines which are deeply coloured, with a firm tannin structure and complex aromas of mulberry and blackberry. Most of the top examples age gracefully for years. According to DO regulations, Tempranillo must make up a minimum of 75% of all vinos tintos (red wines). The balance is made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec (varieties that were introduced by Vega Sicilia well over a century ago) or up to 5% of Albillo or Garnacha.

Garnacha is used for most rosé wines, and a few wineries employ small quantities of Bordeaux varieties in their red blends. Albillo is the only white grape grown in Ribera del Duero, producing wines for local consumption that don't qualify for the Ribera del Duero DO title, or in minor quantities as a softener for heavy reds.