Tasting Group: Spanish Reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero

By Kori ~ February 2nd, 2010.

One of our resolutions for the New Year is to explore more wines from around the world. Since we live in Washington State and often drink wines from Washington State, we want to make sure that we continue to hone our knowledge of the entire world of wine and maintain well-rounded palates in order to make us even more objective when we evaluate wines from Washington State. As a result, we have put together a Wine Peeps Tasting Group which includes what we think is an excellent peer group of knowledgeable wine lovers to taste, share, and learn more about wine together. Unlike our monthly wine tasting dinners in which the guests rotate, this tasting group includes people who are committed to getting together once a month which we hope will benefit all of us. In addition to trying varieties and regions that we do not taste frequently, the other main difference between this group and our wine tasting dinners is that each group member will bring a bottle consistent with the month’s theme so no one will know all the wines in the blind tasting.

Last week, we met for the first time and explored Spanish reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero. All of the wines were predominately Tempranillo. Rioja, located in north-central Spain, is probably the most well-known wine region in Spain. Red wines from Rioja are typically Tempranillo-based and may have some Garnacha (Grenache), Mazuelo, or Graciano blended in as well. Ribera del Duero is also located in north-central Spain but is south of Rioja. Red wines from Ribera del Duero are also typically Tempranillo-based but are often blended with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and sometimes Malbec. In Ribera del Duero, Tempranillo is frequently called Tinto del Pais or Tinto Fino.

Tempranillo is not particularly a fruit-driven wine, often showing aromas and flavors of wood and leather up front. Given this flavor profile, Tempranillo wines often seem older than they actually are. Taking its name from the Spanish word “temprano” which means early, Tempranillo tends to ripen early.

We tasted seven wines, but unfortunately, one of them was corked so it is not included in the tasting notes below. The consensus favorite was the 2006 Alejandro Fernandez Tinto Pesquera Crianza which garnered six out of seven first place votes. There were some other good wines in the tasting, but unfortunately, only the Tinto Pesquera had a high QPR.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

2006 Alejandro Fernandez Tinto Pesquera Crianza (Ribera del Duero, Spain): Medium, ruby red in color. Gorgeous nose with vanilla, cedar, and jalapeno pepper aromas. Red fruits and spice come through on the palate. Good acidity and medium tannins with a long finish. Extremely well-balanced.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $31; Available elsewhere, $23 to $39

2004 Cillar de Silos Altos de Revilla (Ribera del Duero, Spain): 100% Tempranillo. 60 year old vines. Aged 18 months in 100% new French oak. Deep red and very aromatic. Cherry Coke and root beer barrel candy on the nose; big, red fruits on the palate. Drying tannins and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Available from various retailers, $50 to $65

2004 Finca Villacreces (Ribera del Duero, Spain): Deep, ruby red in color. Aromas of tobacco and smoke lead to flavors of raspberry, spice, espresso, and cocoa powder. Medium-bodied with good acidity and medium tannins. Smooth.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Available from various retailers, $36 to $37

2005 Emilio Moro Malleolus (Ribera del Duero, Spain): 100% Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo). Aged 18 months in new French oak. Medium red with floral and spice notes on the nose. Red fruit and leather flavors come through on the palate. Medium-bodied and viscous with chewy tannins and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Available from various retailers, $59 to $72

2004 Lan Reserva (Rioja, Spain): Medium to deep red with some vegetal aromas and funk on the nose. Good fruit up front but trails off a bit in the mid-palate. Drying tannins and lively acidity.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR:  1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $17.50; Available elsewhere, $13 to $24

2005 Conde de Valdemar Crianza (Rioja, Spain): 90% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo. Aged 15 months in American oak. Ruby red in color. Tobacco, alcohol, and raisins dominate the nose. Bland and watery on the palate. Not much to it.
Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: NR (not recommended)
Where to buy: Available from various retailers, $11 to $19

Filed under: Red Wine, Spanish Wine, Tasting Group, Tempranillo, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. mrzitro | February 2nd, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Wow. What was the corked wine & what was its price range? Interesting, the two cheapest wines were at the bottom.

  2. Kori | February 2nd, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I’d rather not say what the corked wine was, but it’s price range is $25-$35. I, too, found it quite interesting that the two lowest priced wines finished at the bottom. That is certainly not always the case, particularly in blind tastings. Cheers!

  3. Eric Stern | February 8th, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    I’ve got a couple of the Pesqueras in my cellar. Hope they are not corked ; )

    Jalapenos on the nose…is that a good thing for a wine?!

  4. Kori | February 11th, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I’d love to hear what you think of the Pesquera when you drink it. Fortunately, it wasn’t the Pesquera that was corked so hopefully your bottles will be good. As for the jalapeno aroma, I thought it was a good thing. It seemed to be a bit vegetal but also spicy which is why I noted jalapeno instead of bell peppers. Cheers!

  5. Nigel | September 13th, 2010 at 5:17 am

    interesting to see your ratings on the wines above, Im particularly fond of the 2004 Lan Reserva and quite surprised you only gave it 3/5 for quality. It’s great with a cheese board.

  6. Kori | September 30th, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Lan Reserva. It is a good wine but did not show as well as some of the others in this tasting. Cheers!