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'TIS THE SEASON

Royal Riberas and Rising Ruedas

Ribera y Rueda wines are as premium as they get...

Article

Wine is sunlight held together by water.

Galileo

'TIS THE SEASON

Article by James Beard Award-winning author Laura Werlin @cheezelady

‘Tis the season to give great wine. Well actually, that’s true all year long. While most gifting happens during the holidays, the fact is that friends and family have birthdays and special occasions all year long. Companies have clients to thank throughout the year too. And because it’s safe to assume that a cellar doesn’t know the difference between November and July, it stands ready to be stocked anytime. Look no further than Ribera del Duero Tempranillo and Rueda Verdejo – the two stand-out regions whose wines are coveted by wine collectors the world over.

“Wine is sunlight held together by water.” – Galileo

These wines from Spain’s Castilla y León are as premium as they get, and because of their stellar (and cellar!) reputation and the fact that Spain’s most expensive wines come from this region, they have “gift” written all over them. These wines also have a surprise element to them because people are still becoming familiar with them. What’s certain is that after one sip, excitement will follow.

Many retailers are already hip to this. In these places, Ribera del Duero Tempranillos are keeping company with wines from Piedmont, Bordeaux, and Burgundy. Likewise, move over Sancerre, Chablis, and Bordeaux Blanc, and make way for lees- and oak-aged Rueda Verdejo. These regions of Spain are having their moment in the sun for one simple reason: excellence.

So too, food friendliness, which is particularly helpful with gift-giving since food and wine given together will thrill pretty much anyone. Gift a Rueda Verdejo Gran Reserva, and because of the wine’s complexity, depth, and texture, gourmet foods of all kinds are natural partners.

Rich, oil-packed tinned fish – a specialty item also taking up more shelf space than ever before – is a great place to start as it buddies up beautifully to a full-bodied Verdejo, Gran Reserva and otherwise. The wine’s texture and inherent acidity ensures this.

(Gran Reserva Verdejo is an official designation by the Rueda Denomination of Origin governing body referring to Verdejos that are made with grapes coming from vines at least 30 years old. Many Verdejo vines are actually much older than that as evidenced by their thick branches and short bush-like stature).

Many cheeses also happily share the table with a premium Verdejo from Rueda. Fresh and aged goat cheeses alike are matches made in heaven. So too are decadent double- and triple-crème brie-like cheeses, which steal the show with the depth and richness that only these cheeses can deliver.

No wine and food experience is complete without high-quality olives, especially when there’s an age-worthy Verdejo leading the charge. Just as with the tinned fish, olives of all kinds love the grape’s magnificent acidity and richness.

Finally, toss in a bag of salty potato chips and maybe a little crème fraiche and caviar for good measure. Yep – this classic combination is made for the very best Verdejos too.

Verdejo mastery

Vine age isn’t the only distinguishing feature of cellar-worthy Verdejos. Much of the magic in Rueda Verdejos comes from the winemaking itself. It’s no wonder that French winemakers were drawn to the region. They saw great promise in this unique white grape. Along with them came winemaking techniques that turned everyday grapes into conversation starters. The result is collectibles with creaminess from the lees aging and well-balanced oak in those aged in barrel. Concrete eggs are also readily employed in many Rueda wineries, adding breadth, complexity, and texture. The result is wines that out-punch their weight class every time and inevitably conjure comparisons with the best white regions in the world.

Royal Riberas reign in gifting

If luxurious red wine from Napa, Piedmont, and Burgundy in the 45-to-100-dollar price range is your game, then it’s time to look at the reasons why Ribera del Duero is producing some of the most coveted wines in the world.  While it’s unquestionably a year ‘round wine, buyers and sellers take note: Tempranillo is the king of grapes in Ribera del Duero and for that matter, all of Spain. Wines here are aged longer and made from grapes that are painstakingly nurtured from root to fruit under extremely challenging conditions. For these reasons, not to mention the pure pleasure that results in the glass, these are the wines that will bring the “special” to special occasions, important conversations, and well-deserved celebrations for closing big deal.

While the best Ribera del Duero Tempranillos can sell for north of a hundred dollars and sometimes far more than that (this region’s reputation for having the best red wines in Spain is hard-earned), the fact is that promoters of these wines are doing the wine-drinking and wine gift-giving public a huge favor. By offering wines that are ready to go and yet age worthy at the same time; wines that go with a wide variety of foods; wines that are as fitting on the kitchen table as in a three-star setting, and most of all, hold their own and then some against their classic counterparts for a fraction of the price, these wines are truly gifts that keep on giving.

Another great reason to consider Tempranillo as an alternative to Bordeaux and Burgundy is because the wines are almost “pre-aged.” That is, those with official Ribera del Duero DO back label designations including Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva are windows into the age and winemaking method of the wine. For example, to be called a Gran Reserva, it must be at least five years old with three of those years spent in barrel. Even the youngest of these designations – Crianza – must be at least three years old, of which one year must be in oak. Given this inherent age-worthiness and food friendliness of both Verdejo and Tempranillo, showing up with a mixed case of these wines for the wine lover in your life would instantly elevate your friendship status from great to legendary.

All of this is to say that Rueda Verdejo and Ribera del Duero Tempranillo are already the go-to wines at celebrations and holidays for those in the know. Now is the time to bump up your own celebrations by joining the Ribera y Rueda wine force and seeing what everybody is talking about. You’ll never look back.

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