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40 years Ribera del Duero

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

Vega Sicilia
Eloy Lecanda, the founder of Vega Sicilia: source: Vega Sicilia

This year, Ribera del Duero celebrates its 40th birthday. Since 1982, the wine region of Ribera got its own appellation. Before the region became a DO, most growers sold grapes to co-ops that vinified them and sold the wine in bulk. The appellation, as we know it today, arose from the initiative of a series of winegrowers and winemakers concerned with promoting the vineyards and the quality of Ribera del Duero wines. It wasn’t until the success of producers like Vega Sicilia and Alejandro Fernández that growers were inspired to vinify and market their own wines. On 21 July 1982, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food granted Ribera del Duero the status of D.O. and approved its first Regulations. Since then, the implementation of new cultivation practices, modern wine-making technologies, and rigorous testing processes applied by the Regulatory Board has made Ribera del Duero synonymous with quality.

Vega Sicilia
Source: Vega Sicilia

Meet the legendary Vega Sicilia and Alejandro Fernández

In 1864, Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, a Bordeaux-trained Spanish winemaker, established Vega Sicilia east of Valladolid. He planted his vineyards with Tinto Fino, as well as the Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. Tempos Vega Sicilia was set up in 1982 by the Álvarez family, its current owner when it purchased the legendary winery of the Ribera del Duero. The Álvarez family's business project is based on two fundamental cornerstones: consistency of the quality of the product as a guarantee for the different vintages, and dedication to the client as a benchmark in its routine activity. Vega Sicilia remains one of Ribera del Duero’s most notable producers today.

Another winemaker, Alejandro Fernández, saw potential in the region during the 1970s. He made wines from grapes grown around the village of Pesquera del Duero. His wines, brought to the U.S. market in the 1980s, were internationally acclaimed.

Thanks to the wines made by Alejandro Fernández, the head of Familia Fernández Rivera, word began to spread about Ribera del Duero's potential; so much so that in 1982, the Designation of Origin Ribera del Duero was created. The region has been on an upswing since. Ribera del Duero wines took off in Spain’s domestic market in the 1990s, and they’re becoming increasingly popular worldwide.

Alejandro Fernández
Alejandro Fernández, source:

Fun Fact: After receiving the DO designation in 1982, Ribera del Duero was approved, in 2008, for Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) status, but it never pursued the acquisition of the classification, so it remains a single DO appellation. There are no regional sub-appellations in Ribera del Duero, though a variety of qualities and styles can be found there.

Meet other Ribera del Duero heroes

Bodegas Emilio Moro

Bodegas Emilio Moro
Source: Bodegas Emilio Moro

Bodegas Emilio Moro is a family winery with a winemaking tradition of over 100 years that have passed from generation to generation and has become a benchmark in the Ribera del Duero.

Since Bodegas Emilio Moro started making wine, it was clear to them that tradition and family would be two pillars that they needed to pursue and maintain. Their dream is to continue executing that pillars and create an internationally known brand.

Bodegas Emilio Moro: ''We have that essence, the respect for viticulture, for the land, for the environment. The winery is what it is today because we maintain those values and we transmit them to all the people who are part of Bodegas Emilio Moro. ''

Source: Bodegas Emilio Moro

Bodegas Emilio Moro: ''Being part of Ribera del Duero is a pride and a privilege. It has given us recognition both in Spain and other countries and, working hand in hand, is a guarantee of quality for the future. Moreover, being part of it, we can be a support for those wineries that are just starting out. On the other hand, the location, the environment, the enclave in which Ribera del Duero is located is unique. This terroir allows us to produce wines of exceptional quality. It is a unique region where we started a path that other wineries have followed. ''

Bodegas Emilio Moro believes that the way of wine-making in Ribera del Duero changed over time. When they started, there were certain beliefs and standards with which intuition had a lot to do with. Bodegas Emilio Moro worked with the information they had, but now, thanks to technological advances, they know more about the soils, and the grape, and understand what it needs. Thanks to innovation they can optimize production processes in search of higher quality.

Bodegas Emilio Moro
Bodegas Emilio Moro - Malleolus

Bodegas Emilio Moro: ''At Bodegas Emilio Moro we make our red wines with the Tempranillo variety because it is the grape that best adapts to this environment and thanks to it, our references reflect the maximum expression of Ribera del Duero.

Our Malleolus range, made up of Malleolus, Malleolus de Valderramiro and Malleolus de Sanchomartín, is the perfect example of all that Ribera del Duero gives us. These are three wines made from the same grape variety, Tempranillo, but which come from three different types of soil -clayey, limestone, and stony- and which are subject to different climates as they are situated in different locations, although in the same territory. Thanks to this, we manage to give a unique expression to each of our wines.

Want to get to know Bodegas Emilio Moro and its wines? Visit their website here

Bodegas Bálbas

Bodegas Balbás
Source Bodegas Balbás: The 7th generation of Bodegas Balbás; Patricia Balbás

Patricia Balbás runs the family business. The seventh generation of the Balbás Family. She started to work in the Balbás cellar around four years ago, but since she was born she has been learning about the incredible wine world because of her family. Bodegas Balbás dates back to 1777, the year in which their ancestor Abundio Balbás began to make wine. Nowadays they are the sixth and seventh generation of the family Balbás managing the cellar. Working together with her father, Juan José Balbás, she feels like it's the best way for her to grow every day. The winery is proud of being a Ribera del Duero DO pioneer. You can imagine the happiness that they feel when they talk about their heritage. Her grandfather, Víctor Balbás, and a small group of wineries decided 40 years ago, to build the DO Ribera del Duero. It was their dream, and, today, there are more than 300 cellars in the region. So it means that they are a part of the legacy from the beginning. The reward is satisfaction and responsibility, passing on the tradition.

Patricia Balbás: ''We are in charge of directing and keeping alive this precious familiar dream. The pillars on which our cellar stands are the same that we had since we started. The family tradition, the daily effort, the patience of those who see the vineyard and the wine evolve, constant work and the innovation of those who look to the future without neglecting our past. Those would be some of the most important pillars. But, above them, the family, for sure.

Source: Bodegas Balbás

Patricia Balbás: ''We are really proud pioneers of the DO. Ribera del Duero, so you can imagine the happiness that we feel when we talk about it. When there where nothing here, my grandpa Víctor Balbás decided, 40 years ago, with a small group of wineries, to build the DO Ribera del Duero. It was their dream, and, today, we are more than 300 cellars in the region. So it means that we are part of this from the beginning. It means satisfaction, obviously, and also responsibility.''

Bodegas Balbás Reserva
Bodegas Balbás

Patricia Balbás: ''It's a real pleasure to have the opportunity of telling you something about our wines. Even that, the best way to understand the wines is by opening a bottle while we talk about them (we should do that!)

Balbás Reserva: Oak and time. You need to be really patient to make this wine because, it takes 24 months in the barrels room and, also, 24 months into the bottle for the wine to be ready. But this is our soul. Our family has been working with this style for more than 200 years, and it makes sense when you open a bottle of any of our Balbás Reserva and feel all the Tempranillo inside. It has the power and the elegance of the Ribera del Duero, but also, the personal touch of our family. This is, for sure, one of the most important Balbás wines around the world. Should try it by having a nice lunch with savage fish, stews, or roast lamb. Also, having a glass at the end of the day while you read a nice book... I love it!''

Want to get to know Bodegas Balbás and its wines? Visit their website here

Bodegas Comenge

Bodegas Comenge
Source: Bodegas Comenge, father and son

Meet Alvaro Comenge, owner and Sale Director of Bodegas Comenge. Established as a family-owned business in 1999, Bodegas Comenge is an organic winery focusing on wines’ elegance, naturalness, and quality. Its reputation and product is unparalleled within the industry as the wines are created with such a precise foundation; a combination of an expert understanding of the weather and soil and of course, love.

Located in the ‘Golden Mile’ of the Ribera del Duero, Bodegas Comenge is within the heart of the Spanish peninsula at an altitude of 900 meters above sea level and surrounded by pine trees and ancient castles. This picturesque view is ideal when touring the vineyards, all while customers can taste one of the most perfect wines from Spain- certified organic, handcrafted, and selected from the family itself.

Alvaro Comenge: ''Our farming practices are aimed at promoting and maintaining biodiversity, carefully working the lands on which our vines are based. We understand viticulture, and we take care of the vineyard as one more organism in our rich ecosystem, maintaining the natural cover of the soil throughout the cycle and renouncing the use of insecticides, or any other chemical product, in caring for the crop.''

The Comenge family has been within the industry for more than two decades. Since then, they have made it a priority to understand the land, surroundings, and magic that goes into making a robust and beautifully crafted bottle of wine. Since they started the winery, they have had an ongoing investigation program with the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid identifying and analyzing hundreds of different indigenous yeast strings from our vineyard with some very interesting findings. They also developed a worldwide patented fermentation system, which guarantees that the native natural selected yeast from their vineyards is the one that makes the fermentation, giving the wines a unique character and personality. They have a number of other research lines regarding yeasts and how to front climate change.

Jaime Comenge originally founded the company, and while he didn’t have any previous experience within this industry, he was linked through the family. Jaime’s father, Miguel, wrote the first treaty about the wine industry in Spain at the beginning of the XXth century. The book was a compilation of all the grape varieties that grew in Spain back then and all the wines that were made. All from a biochemical and bromatological point of view. This book, called ‘The Wines and Vines from Spain’, had enormous importance academically. It is still used as a reference book.

Source: Bodegas Comenge

Alvaro Comenge: ''Ribera del Duero is certainly a worldwide know and reputed Denomination of Origin. Hence, being circumscribed to it really helps consumers understand our wines will meet all the rigorous quality standards that the DO requires. ''

The Ribera del Duero region has been producing wine since before the Roman Empire, thus the tradition is there and has been transmitted from generation to generation for centuries. Some producers are basing their winemaking on all the traditions learned from generations. Being new in the wine scene more than twenty years ago, Bodegas Comenge decided to innovate in many aspects: their plantation system, manual selection phases, patented fermentation process, and a number of other innovations. However, although being very artisanal in the sense of doing all the processes by hand, including harvest and grape selection, Bodegas Comenge has been doing a lot of research on how to improve different aspects of winemaking while respecting naturalness. These lines of investigation have been mainly dedicated to our indigenous yeasts and climate change.

Ribera del Duero is a small Denomination of Origin in terms of size and vineyard hectares, however, there is a huge heterogeneity of soils. The altitude, one of the highest DOs in the world, the harsh continental climate, and the very scarce rainfall are elements that make winemaking very challenging.

Bodegas Comenge El Origen
Bodegas Comenge

Alvaro Comenge: ''Most of our wines are Tempranillo based, with all the power, muscle, and structure of this variety, but with a lot of finesse and elegance due to the calcium-rich soils and our very thorough manual selection grape by grape.

From our range, I would say Familia Comenge is a tribute to the old-style Reservas from Ribera del Duero, with a long aging, more than two years, in French oak barrels. Very powerful and yet very elegant. Ideal for hearty and flavorful dishes like roasted lamb or pig, game stews, etc.

Comenge El Origen, is also very Ribera del Duero. With a little over a year in French oak barrels, this wine is very elegant, versatile, and enjoyable. To be paired with steak, tapas, meat and vegetable paella, cold meats, or cheese.

Want to get to know Bodegas Comenge and its wines? Visit their website here


Do you want to find out more about Ribera del Duero? Make sure to visit their website for extra information.

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