Ribera Round II: Los Menores

Moving forward with my foray into the Spanish region of Ribera del Duero this week I’m focusing onlos menores, or the young wines of the zone that surrounds the Duero river.  When dealing with a country like Spain, you’re dealing with way more history than here in the good ‘ole USA, and their wines tend to be a little older as well.

In that vein, most of us have heard of the “gran reservas” and “reservas” that get good and dusty in cellars for centuries and go for thousands at auction–and have robust flavors to go along with that dust. This post is all about the opposite, the babies of Ribera Del Duero: Fresh, tender, irresistably yummy babies, with labels in Español like “joven” and “crianza.”

Across Spain, classifications exist to specify the aging practices that separate different wines. I’m sure the goal here was to make things easier, but if (like me) your Spanish is limited to “Donde” and “Hola” foreign labels just make things damn complicated. In essence, these labels identify how long the juice has been aging.

Joven literally means young, and these wines (like rosados) see little, if any, oak.  After 3-6 months in wooden barrels–which lend them complex flavors–they’re released to the public and usually drunk shortly thereafter. Because they aren’t as bold as older wines, joven wines are a great starting pointing for moscato lovers  drinkers who might be turned off .by more forceful reds.

Adarezo Vina Villano is a delicious un-oaked joven from Ribera that I think is a great starting point. Raspberry and blueberry flavors pop in both the smell and taste, giving the juice a surprisingly fresh finish.

Another one I’ve enjoyed is Hacienda Ernestina Solano Roble 2010–Like the Adarezo, it was light and fresh, absolutely reeking of hot summer days and juicy fruit flavors. (Think: biting into a really juicy blackberry after a long day in the sun.)

These are great wines alongside appetizers like Manchego cheese and olives, though I’ve also loved them alongside pizza (Whoever invented the pizza/beer combo clearly never had a Ribera joven around with pizza like this).

Moving on, Crianza wines are like toddlers.  They’re more stable standing on their own, and have spent 2 years aging–with at least one of them in a barrel. Similar to how an infant becomes more interesting (and has remarkably more attitude) as a 2 year-old, the same happens to wines as they age, making crianza wines more full-bodied than the gentle jovens.

Pagos de Valcerracin 2008 is a classic crianza where an intense earthy aroma transforms into rich fruity flavors with a nice hint of sweetness. Essentially perfect alongside peppery steak or paella. Most recently, I sipped this one alongside a mild jambalaya and adored it–the spicy-fruity-juicy-rich flavor mélange was awesome.

Lesson of the day: Never underestimate the potential of a younger wine. Like with kids, you never know how they’ll turn out–and even amongst the “Terrible Two’s,” you can find some real sweethearts.


Ribera Young Guns Uncorked:

Laura Loves: Using leftover joven wines for Sangria in recipes like this 

This amazing website for finding obscure and/or elusive wines in any neighborhood.

This extensive list of Spanish beverage terms. (Amoratado anyone?)

Fun Facts: Spain has the world’s largest area under vine.

Of the 12 most commonly grown grape varieties in the world, six are of Spanish Origin.

Spanish for Dummies: 

How much for that bottle- cuanto cuesta esa botella?

This wine tastes like dirty socks-Este vino sabe de calcetines sucios

Wine store- tienda de vino


  • June 13, 2012
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