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Ribera y Rueda: Food Friendly Wines From Spain

Winemaking in Spain’s most prestigious regions for red and white wines began almost 2,000 years ago. The flag of Castilla y León bears images of castles and lions—symbolism that represents the name of Spain’s largest region and a sense of purpose and prestige that has persisted to this day. It’s a wonder anyone would have thought to plant grapes in this place of extreme temperatures, blisteringly hot summers, bitterly cold winters, rocky terrain, and high altitudes, but a river runs through it, and with that, the key to vibrant vineyards and the stunning wines that come from them. Ribera y Rueda were bestowed the Denominación de Origen (D.O.) status in the 1980’s—and the rest, as they say, is history.

Ribera del Duero is home to more than 300 wineries, all of which have an almost singular focus: Tinto Fino, aka Tempranillo. Because many of the Ribera del Duero vines have been around for decades, they have adapted to the short growing season and develop their fruit relatively quickly. The result is complex wines with balanced acidity, a backbone of tannins, dark fruit, and sturdy structure. Read more.

Rueda sits at half a mile above sea level, where the climate is extreme with cold winters, late springs, and blistering summers. While harsh for humans, its native grape, Verdejo, thrives under these conditions, concentrating flavor. Characterized by elegant tropical fruit and fragrant citrus notes, the wines are aromatic and full-bodied with lively acidity. Read more.

©️2022 Roll Cut Studios/Huge Galdones

Verdejo: The World’s Next Great White Wine

Ask some of the world’s most famous winemakers inside and outside Spain to name their favorite Spanish white wine, and the answer is likely going to be the same. Winemakers from other parts of Europe as well as within Spain view Verdejo as a grape with huge potential. As a result, these winemakers have been quietly putting down roots – literally – for the past four decades in Rueda, Verdejo’s primary growing region.

©️2022 Roll Cut Studios/Huge Galdones

Rueda: Land of Lions and Verdejos

When winemaking began in Rueda around 1,000 years ago, it’s a wonder anyone would have thought to plant grapes in this region of extremes – blisteringly hot summers, bitterly cold winters, and a relatively high altitude. The prime grape of the region is Verdejo, to which about 40,000 acres of vineyards are dedicated. Because of the pebbly soil, the ground they’re rooted in seems pretty much inhospitable to anything but perhaps a dirt-loving reptile. Fortunately, these grapevines produce tasty grapes when they‘re forced to struggle, and in this fight, wine drinkers emerge the victors.

Photographed by Galdones Photography

Talking Tapas and Spain’s Most Prestigious Wine Region

In Southern Spain, order a copa de vino, and chances are a complimentary tapa will accompany your glass of wine. This can take the form of a dish of olives, a small bowl of potato chips, a few slices of chorizo or perhaps a small dish of paella. If this offering has a name at all (in Spain, this type of nibble is served without pretense or name), it will likely be called a tapa – a small bite meant to be eaten with wine. One thing is true: whether you call it a pintxo, tapa, or bar snack, these have nothing to do with pairings. Instead, they are as much an extension of hospitality as they are an alcohol buffer.

Perfect partners for cheese

Ribera del Duero Tempranillo and Rueda Verdejo love cheese. Luckily, cheese loves them back. And not just Spanish cheese! Part of this has to do with the many styles of Verdejo and Ribera del Duero-grown Tempranillo (also known as Tinta del Pais and Tinto Fino in this region). Those styles are the result of the variety of soils, higher altitudes, and extreme climate in the two regions. 

Photographed by Michele Cardamone Photography

In our exclusive guide, James Beard Award-winning author Laura Werlin shares tips on pairing Tempranillo (Ribera del Duero) and Verdejo (Rueda) wines with cheeses from around the world. Download it here

Introducing the Knock-It-Down program

culture is excited to be partnering with Ribera y Rueda in launching a pilot program to support cheese and wine retailers around the country—which is expected to expand dramatically in the coming months.

These high-value wines from Spain pair perfectly with a wide variety of cheeses (see above!) The Knock-It-Down (KID) program offers an opportunity for retailers to introduce customers to these food friendly wines AND increase register ring by selling more cheese. Download the one sheet here, and if you have questions, reach out to Stephanie Skinner stephanie@culturecheesemag.com or Greg O’Neill greg@riberaruedawine.com.

The following retailers have already signed up to participate:

Win a trip to Spain!

Experience the best bodegas (wineries), tour with winemakers and taste their best bottles while taking in historical sites. Stay in luxurious accommodations, and enjoy late lunches, tapas crawls, and fancy dinners. Enter here

Ribera y Rueda

Ribera y Rueda were bestowed the Denominación de Origen (D.O.) status in the 1980s. Rueda is home to Verdejo, Spain’s #1 white wine. Ribera del Duero produces Tempranillo, one of Spain’s most prestigious reds.

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