Grapes: 90% Tempranillo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Location: Ribera del Duero, Spain
Owner: The Balbás family
Winemaker: Juan José Balbás
Approximate Retail Price: $28
Color: Dark ruby, unfiltered and slightly hazy with a thin meniscus and slight gradation from the rim
Aroma: Slightly smoky at first, giving way to ripe black cherry, brûlée and molasses
Taste: Medium- to full-bodied, loaded with luscious ripe red fruits, a hint of dusty earthiness, good acidity and a lingering, pleasant finish
Ribera del Duero, located in the region of Castilla y León in Spain, has a winemaking history that dates back two millennia. However, winemaking as we know it did not reach the area until the arrival of Benedictine monks from Burgundy in the 12th century. In 1982, this wine region officially became a D.O. (Denominación de Origen, “Designation of Origin”), marking it as one of many growing wine regions in Spain. It is known for its tempranillo, the most common red varietal in Spain. In Ribera del Duero, locals refer to the varietal as tinto fino.
The region is now home to 270 wineries with 55,000 acres planted to vine along 70 miles of the Douro River. The elevation and drastic climate create a perfect environment for tempranillo and other thick-skinned grapes to develop complex flavor components while still on the vine. This allows for the potential to create ageworthy wines with as much depth and complexity as any good Bordeaux or brunello di Montalcino, though typically at a much more affordable price.
Founded by pioneer Abundio Balbás, the Balbás family’s winery has been producing vintages in Ribera del Duero since 1777. Although many tempranillo producers throughout Spain have adopted a more “new world” style of wine, which can be darker in color with bigger fruit and is usually meant to be consumed young, the Balbás family style remains more “old world,” with softer fruit enhanced with dusty earthiness, pepper and other spices, and detectable oak, which allows a hypnotic depth to their wines and an always pleasant experience.
Food Pairings: Although perfectly paired with a wide range of meats, this wine also pairs well with charcuterie and cheeses, heavy soups, flatbreads and tapas.
Certified Sommelier Stanley Browne owns Robust Wine Bar in Webster Groves.