Everyone says Rioja is the fine wine region of Spain. It's their Bordeaux. Their Napa Valley. Everyone means me too. So when the wine salesman offers me this incredible red ($85 retail!) from Ribero del Duero, of course, I jump on it. I have a reputation to protect. If the wine sounds incredible but the real story is that it will be extremely hard to sell, well then I'm all in! Let's do it!
So Oracula is now in the store. It is constructed with the Tinta del Pais grape which is one of the three dozen names for Tempranillo. Ordinarily the Ribero del Duero blend would be 75% Tempranillo with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Malbec making up the remaining 25%. Up to five percent total between Garnacha and the white grape Albillo are also allowed. Those are the historic standards for the region going back more than a hundred years. Oracula, however, is like an Italian Super Tuscan with no regard to the rules. It is overwhelmingly Tempranillo with some Garnacha.
Oracula is dark red in color. It has aromas of cherry, spice, toasted oak and cigar box. On the palate it is dense and layered with succulent, velvety tannins. It also has the requisite long finish. In other words, it's steak wine.
You ought to buy one, what with the holidays and all coming up. The packaging is smasho! Ask to see it when you're in the store.
If Oracula really is all it's cracked up to be, what makes it so? Ribero del Duero is located on the northern plateau of the Iberian peninsula 280 feet above sea level. The name means "on the bank of the Duero" which is the east-west river crossing Spain and Portugal. In Portugal it is called the Douro and that is the finest wine region of the country. On the Spanish side the river hosts seven DO's (denominacion de origen) or wine districts before it reaches Portugal.
Ribero del Duero is huge. It has two hundred wineries and a milllion acres in vines. It is the third largest wine producer in the country and almost all of the production is red wine. Two mountain ranges, the Sierra de la Demanda and Sierra de Guadararia, shelter the region making its Continental-to-Mediterranean climate possible. That climate means long hot dry summers with harsh winters. The soil is a silky clay over limestone with marl and chalk.
Is Ribero the real thing? Are they the best wine appellation in Spain? According to my current research, there is a groundswell of support for the proposition. Vega Sicilia (est. 1864) is the great winery of Ribero del Duero and its flagship wine, Unico, is considered by many to be the finest of Spain.
Ribero del Duero red wines are intense. They are deeply colored with firm tannins and structure with complex aromas of dark fruit.
You ought to try one. Perhaps the Oracula.
Speaking of great red wines, please join us this Thursday after 5pm when we open some Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. Cheri Rubio hosts our event. The specific wines are yet to be determined but they will be legitimate estate bottled Cabs.