Along and beyond the Golden Mile of Ribera del Duero

“Just a note to thank you for a fantastic trip to Ribera del Duero. We really enjoyed the few days and thought it was put together so well. The welcome we had from all the bodegas was incredibly warm and friendly. We particularly appreciated the smaller set-ups, Bohorquez and Belondrade.”
Kim and Cyndy , October 2015

Our recent Good Wine Tours trip to Ribera del Duero in late September began as we left Madrid to cross the north-western corner of Spain’s great central plateau (the meseta) towards Valladolid. The journey takes you through rugged mountain ranges with extraordinary views, before descending into the Duero Valley as you approach the town of Aranda at the eastern end of the Ribera del Duero region. From here the road follows a straight line hugging the river through Peñafiel into the heart of Ribera and on to Valladolid at its eastern end.

Our first visit was Bodegas Arzuaga, right in the middle of the so-called Golden Mile –a strip of road (rather longer than a single mile I suspect) which houses some of Ribera’s highest profile wineries – Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Arzuaga, Pago de los Capellanes. It’s an unlikely strip of tarmac to be home to such stellar quality wine making.

Arzuaga is a large and well-respected Bodega just along the road from Vega Sicilia. We arrived, along with the first lorry load of grapes of the vintage, in brilliant sunshine. After a walk around the winery we went in to taste the wines with Ignacio Arzuaga in a peaceful private tasting room upstairs.
The range here extends to 8 reds and a rosé. For sheer exuberant drinkability La Planta (they call it their all-rounder) is irresistible – bright, fresh fruit from 20 year old vines rounded out with 6 months in French and American casks. The cream of an exceptionally good crop were the Amaya Arzuaga and Gran Arzuaga both made using an array of very old school techniques – co- fermentation, foot treading amongst others. The results are subtle, complex, rich yet elegant wines with wonderful ageing potential. A refreshing glass of the Rosae Arzuaga, their delicious Tempranillo based rosé rounded off a brilliant first visit.

The next day saw an early start as we left our hotel to visit Bodegas Bohorquez. Remnants of the famously cold Ribera nights were still in evidence as we set out once again in perfect sunshine.
The landscape in Ribera is distinctive – but hardly picturesque in the way that Rioja is .The headlands carved by the river’s path have a distinct form – the best viewed from the ramparts of Peñafiel castle where all the different geological layers are visible.

Bohorquez is a small Bodega owned by Sanchez Romate in a particularly pretty spot just outside the little town of Pesquera. The winery itself and the accompanying offices are beautifully crafted and finished and decorated with artfefacts.

They make only 2 wines – Bohorquez Reserva made in almost very year and Momo made only when they don’t consider the fruit good enough for the Bohorquez Reserva. Attention to detail here is phenomenal from denser planting to help reduce yields to stacking the barrels only two rows high so each matures at the same temperature. The aim to is create a balanced, elegant style closer to fine claret – all aged in an array of French barrels from top notch coopers.

We were treated to tasting of the current Reserva 2006 and 2007, which is about to be released. The character of each reflected that of the year -2006 is a warm vintage and the wine has richness and a silky mouth-feel but with Bohorquez’s signature elegance and freshness very evident. The cooler 2007 is much more delicate – the wine maker compared it to Burgundy –I’d be very happy if every glass of burgundy tasted that good! In a region where there are so many big, powerful wines this small but perfectly formed bodega offers finesse, elegance and longevity in its delicious wines.

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