When a god has influence over your wine, it’d better be good. Centuries ago, the inhabitants of Spain’s Ribera del Duero region (an area about two hours north of Madrid) worshipped Bacchus, the Roman deity of wine who inspires madness and ecstasy. After 2,000 years of winecraft, things have become pretty refined. Aside from a strong relationship with the drinking god, the region is blessed with a dry climate and rich river-sediment soil, not to mention an abundance of Tempranillo grapes. To help decipher the delicious manifestations of Bacchus’ influence on today’s vino, we sat down with Allegra Angelo, sommelier at Michelle Bernstein’s Michy’s and Sra. Martinez restaurants.
Tinto Pesquera 2007 from Ribera del Duero
What sets the wine of the Ribera region apart? ALLEGRA ANGELO: It’s the specific combination of climate and soil, which has produced very old Tempranillo vines—some nearly a century old.
How do Ribera wines typically taste? AA: The region yields dark fruit wines with floral characteristics as well as a kind of scorched-earth taste. There’s more tannin in a Ribera than in a Pinot Noir. And Ribera wines are powerful! The finish lasts longer.
With what foods do they pair well? AA: Lamb. Also a great-quality squab and game birds like quail—nothing too complicated. A piece of game meat with a bottle from the Ribera region is a perfect match.
Who is your favorite Ribera producer? AA: I love the classic: Alejandro Fernández. He has four wineries and is a purist, making his wine with 100 percent Tempranillo.
What do you find most exciting about wine from Ribera? AA: Those ancient Tempranillo vines. There is a lot of depth in the taste, both fruit and earth. It’s also intriguing to taste wine from purists versus those who blend. You never know what you are going to get!