Kravitz still has a knack for finding good wines at great prices – Robert Parker, Parker on Wine, BusinessWeek, 8/20 & 27, 2007

Hand Picked Selections in Castilla y León

East southeast of Galicia is Castilia y León, geographically the largest of Spain's 17 regions. There are four DOs here, one of which is among Spain's most important. 

Ribera del Duero was virtually unknown 20 years ago. Today it is among the largest, most famous and best DOs in Spain.  It is home to Vega Sicilia, which is probably the single most prestigious winery in Spain. This is Tempranillo country, though Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec are also permitted (incidently, Vega Sicilia is a Cabernet-based wine). The wines, whether priced below $10 or over $100 share a local character: unique high tones, with black fruit character but also a strong minerality. The word ‘aristocratic' sounds imprecise but often comes to mind.

The new DO is Toro, directly west of Ribera del Duero with similar terroir. The primary varietal is Tempranillo, with Garnacha permitted, but not important. The main difference between Toro and Ribera is that Toro's vineyards, a little further downstream on the Duero River, are a little lower in altitude. Summer days are even hotter than Ribera del Duero, the nights a little less cool.  The resulting wines tend to lack the ultimate finesse of the best Ribera del Dueros, although some top producers in Ribera have succeeded in producing very fine Toros. Prices for Toro are lower on average than those for Ribera although it's not hard to find $50 bottlings and a few have crossed the $100 barrier. 13,000 acres, not all of it in production, produce about 1½ million cases a year.

The older DO is Rueda and it is devoted almost entirely to white wine made from the indigenous Verdejo varietal. Until recently the wines were made in large old oak casks and aged until they were golden in color and totally soft on the palate, sometimes until they were oxidized. Today modern winemaking has greatly improved the wines; the best are exceptionally rich for dry whites but with enough freshness to keep them balanced. The local Viura varietal can be part of the blend and increasingly Sauvignon Blanc is an important component. 18,000 acres produce 3 million cases a year.

Cigales is a small DO adjoining Ribera del Duero. It has a longstanding reputation for nice rose and is starting to produce some good reds from Tempranillo blended with Cabernet and Merlot. Legally the Bierzo DO is part of Castilia y Leon but is included with Galicia, which is geographically more appropriate.

Beyond these 4 DOs, a good deal of table wine is produced under the broader "Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León" designation (similar to the "Vin de Pays" designation in France).


Castilla y León