An introduction to two of Spain’s great wine regions

Red or white, Spain has it all!

If you love wine, Ribera del Duero and Rueda are two great Spanish wine regions that you need to know.

About two hours northwest of Madrid lies a high plateau discovered by winemaking monks around a thousand years ago. (We could stop there and ask why it was the monks that were always making wine, but we’ll move on!)  No-one would have guessed then that today the regions of Ribera del Duero and Rueda produce some of the best wines in the world.

The terrain is difficult, nearly a half-mile high, and the climate can vary from hot dry summers to freezing, harsh winters. It turns out that this is just the kind of land and weather that forces character and flavor into wine grapes. If it’s great taste you want, you’ll find it in these regions, whether in the big, full-bodied reds from Ribera’s Tempranillo vineyards or crisp, aromatic whites from Rueda where the Verdejo grape proliferates.

ABOVE: One of Spain's tempranillo producing regions.


Wine with great character can’t be made anywhere. Difficult climates stress the vines, which forces flavor into the grapes. Not necessarily where you’d grow your summer corn but blazing hot days, cold nights and foggy mornings create an ideal environment for wine grapes if grown by experienced vintners. Fortunately, the winemakers of Ribera and Rueda have a passion for using the elements to give unmatched character to their wines. The history of the larger region of Castilla y Leon, where these wine regions sit, is filled with stories of people overcoming great challenges to succeed.  

You’ll find plenty of choices among the wines of Ribera and Rueda in any well-stocked wine store and they’re appearing on restaurant wine lists with increasing frequency. The best way to learn about these wines and compare them to your old stand-bys is to buy a few bottles, prepare some of your favorite recipes and enjoy.  Of course, that raises the question of what to prepare?

ABOVE: Spain's Rueda wine region.


The wines of Ribera del Duero are perhaps the best in the world for steak or any grilled meat. If you’ve been dinking cabernet sauvignon with these dishes, you’re in for a treat with these wines. They have more structure, better balance and fewer tanins (the elements of red wine that cause your cheeks to pucker). Rueda wines have flavors of citrus, melon and minerality and are the easy-drinking wines that you can enjoy with tapas, cheese, olives or any type of party food. They’re also great with sushi, other seafood dishes, salads, poultry or light pastas.  

(Source: SNOOTH