The Designation of Origin Ribera del Duero has given the green light to its white wines. We have already tasted the first ones and, attention, we have loved them.

When you hear the words Ribera del Duero what do you think of? Well, if you’re a member of the everyday casual drinking public, you probably think of ‘that other wine I’m offered in a bar that isn’t Rioja’. If you’re a more savvy drinker you may have noticed the fact that those red wines often tend to be heavier, darker, weightier, with a bit more dark fruit and punch than the more famous competition. But perhaps that’s it? But you do think of red wine.

Until recently even ‘wine people’ would have been saying the same. Me too. I remember when I first encountered the words ‘Rioja o Ribera’ about eleven years ago when I first moved here, and was intrigued to try something that wasn’t Rioja; the most popular red wine region in Spain, in the UK and in the rest of the world. I was enamoured with this dark and rich red wine. And up until a few months ago that was how that region had remained: Ribera del Duero = big heavy Tempranillo red wines.

I was surprised to find, as I had never thought to question what seemed to be the status quo of the reality of Spanish life, that the DO Ribera del Duero was originally conceived as a winemaking region to specialise in high quality rosé wines; similar to neighbouring DO Cigales. But, perhaps because the locals realised the potential of the grape, climate and land to produce exceptional red wine, the idea of focussing on rosados was somewhat shelved.

That is not to say the rosados aren’t there. Indeed Roselito (10.30€), made by cult heroes Bodegas Antídoto, is one of the most elegant value-for-money pinks in the country; beating the pale Provençal rosés at their own game. But it is fair to say that, especially from a visibility point of view, Ribera del Duero rosado is way down the list.

When you hear the words Castilla y Leon what do you think of? Possibility the vast swathe of meseta land – although it contains various mountain ranges – ranging from Galicia in the northwest, down to Salamanca, kissing the Northern limits of Madrid before crossing the country to bump into northeastern Rioja and País Vasco. It is the largest region of Spain by almost 10,000km2. There are 8 DOs in its limits and various Vino de la Tierra regions. One of which is the gargantuan Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León, which couldn’t sound more general if it tried.

There are white wines in the Ribera del Duero catchment area, and made by the DO wineries there, but they were previously labelled as VT Castilla y León; not being permitted in the DO. I never understood this reasoning, but rules are the rules. Then, finally, this year, after a lot of work, bureaucratic acrobatics and campaigning we finally have the wonderful news that white wines are allowed in the DO Ribera del Duero!

As long as the wines contain a minimum of 75% Albillo Mayor – the local grape par excellence – they’ll be admitted. There are only 500 hectares or so of white grapes planted there, so the wines are still quite rare, but my goodness they are delicious. Albillo is a hard to grow grape, but yields wonderfully balanced and full white wines; similar to those found in northern France.

We are proud to join in with this piece of news by stocking the Valduero Blanco de Albillo (14.50€); a superb wine aged on the lees with a nose that recalls a flinty Albariño and a full and unctuous palate. Pure elegance from a classic bodega that has been instrumental in the creation and evolution of the DO since its start in 1982.

We recorded a podcast tasting the wine you can hear here.

So, here’s to the changes! Long Live Ribera del Duero White Wine!

-Luke Darracott


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