There's More to Spain than Rioja: Try the Wines from Ribera del Duero
When most people think of Spanish wine, Rioja comes to mind. But don't write off Ribera del Duero, which is producing earthy wines with great minerality at very reasonable prices. The main grape in Ribera de Duero is Tempranillo, just as in Rioja. Except that, in Ribera, they call it Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais. The region's higher altitude -- vineyards, some of the highest in Europe, are planted between 2,500 and 2,800 feet above sea level -- results in wines that are not quite as big as those from Rioja, but all the more interesting. Light to medium-bodied reds express earth, clay, and spice, but also bright red fruit. At the 16th annual Great Match, a grand-scale wine-and-tapas pairing held yesterday at the Metropolitan Pavilion, several wines from the region stood out.
Pagos del Rey, Condado de Oriza Crianza 2006 ($10) This great-value wine, full of earth and slightly herbaceous, has just a touch of wood to give it structure.
Bodega COOP Santa Ana, Aventino Roble 2006 ($14)
Coming from vines more than 100 years old, this wine sees little oak, so the fruit comes through as clear as a bell.
Bodegas HNOS. Perez Pascuas, Vina Pedrosa Crianza 2006 ($22)
Medium-bodied and slightly rustic, this dark ruby juice has notes of tobacco, clay, and spice, balanced with bright fruit.