July 14th, 2020
Master Sommelier Alexander LaPratt recently led two trade sessions on Ribera y Rueda wines during VinePair’s Great Drinks Experience virtual festival. The sessions provided valuable trade education on the regions, in addition to practical and usable advice on the key selling points of the wines and how to talk about them on the restaurant or sales floor.
Alexander shared that there’s more to Rueda than the well-known, stainless steel fermented Verdejo. And similarly, in Ribera del Duero, more than robust red wines with prominent tannins. Curious? Let’s dive in…
How to Hand-Sell and Entice Your Customer to try Ribera y Rueda:
- If your customer likes crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, a stainless steel, fresh Verdejo is in order. For those that love fuller bodied whites, an oaked Verdejo is similar to a Chablis, lees influenced Verdejo similar to Grüner and Muscadet, and more powerful styles of Verdejo similar to Assyrtiko.
- If your customer asks for a Napa Cabernet, they’ll enjoy bigger Ribera del Duero Tempranillo from classic producers. Those who love Pinot Noir, Cru Beaujolais or Burgundy will enjoy the fresher, lighter-oaked styles of Ribera Tempranillo, particularly those that come from a colder climate.
A Master Somm’s Thoughts on Ribera y Rueda:
- Rueda wines offer balance and refreshing fruit at an amazing value. The styles can range from classic, fresh stainless steel to fuller, richer, oak fermented styles as well as lees-aging, and wines from old-vine, pre-phylloxera vineyards. Wines that age well in the bottle, regardless of oak regime, also abound.
- Queen of Rueda, Verdejo is an indigenous grape varietal that buds early and is drought resistant. Most Verdejo’s are crisp, mineral-driven, food friendly, straight-forward, crowd pleasing wines.
- Rueda wines are beloved for their high price quality ratio and diversity in styles – wonderful options for by-the-glass specials or back bar.
- In the region, you’ll find mostly small growers. Surprising to some, organic wines are very popular here, though not many are certifying as organic as it is an expensive process. You’ll also find there are many growers looking towards biodynamic wines.
- 2018-2019 were very good, classic years for Rueda. Lots of sunshine and very dry which elevated the climate found in the high altitude and stony soils of Rueda.
- Alexander’s Key Takeaway: Rueda, hands-down, is one of the best values in the white wine world for the minerality and the style. Many of the wines are like ‘Wow, this is great,’ and then once you know the price, it’s a no-brainer. If I’m going to spend $12-15 on something, you might as well get a beautiful bottle of Rueda.
- Ribera del Duero:
- Ribera del Duero wines have an incredible affinity, complexity, age-ability and food & wine pairability. They work so well with so many different cuisines.
- Queen in Ribera del Duero, Tempranillo is elegant yet powerful, with a lot of structure and red/black fruit. Though you’ll find Ribera Tempranillos are really quite different with a unique story than the rest of Tempranillos in Spain. In fact, locals refer to it as Tinto Fino in which you’ll find the Ribera Tempranillo berries are bit smaller and their skin is thicker which means they have a higher skin-to-juice ratio. The flavor profile also changes quite a bit – as you move into Ribera, the Tempranillo grape shows more black fruit than red fruit. As you’ll move north through the region, you’ll find the black fruit is accentuated even further. Flavor profiles vary widely depending on elevation and the Western vs. Eastern areas of the region. You can think of the region as divided in thirds, with different styles in the West, center and East.
- Ribera del Duero wines are quite diverse. From young wines that can be decanted for a few hours to wines that grow in complexity and are meant for bottle aging.
- Most of Ribera del Duero’s vineyards are +45 years old and bush vines – so they’re getting a lot of concentration. You’ll find three variations of soil: chalky, limestone and clay soils, which imparts vital characteristics on what you’ll find in the bottle over time. The region gets lots of sunlight and little rainfall and holds some of the highest vineyard elevation in Spain.
- Alexander’s Key Takeaway: Ribera’s wines are balanced and well-integrated, with lively fruit. The elegant power and the structure of the region’s wines are a natural continuation of many of the classic styles of California, but after a while you’re looking for more elegance and depth and complexity, and that’s what you’re getting from Ribera. It’s also such a great value comparatively. It’s world-class vineyard. The amount of chalky soil and slopes and exposures, it’s incredible there’s still land that has not been planted vineyards.
If you missed the sessions, watch the full video recordings below. If you’d like to taste along with Alexander, grab your wines at Wine.com with a 10% off code using RiberaRueda.