Ribera del Duero pairs best with aged cheeses, pork sausage, steak, venison stew, lamb chops and beef goulash. Ribera Del Duero is a full-bodied Spanish red wine made primarily from the Tempranillo grape (at least 75%).
High in tannin, aged Ribera del Duero is often complex and loud with flavours of black cherries, blackberries, black currants, strawberries, brown sugar, smoke, wild game, dark chocolate, earth, mocha, vanilla and licorice. Young Ribera del Duero, on the other hand is lighter and fruitier as it has seen less time in oak.
Not all Ribera del Duero are created the same, and below, we’ll explain the differences and what reds should be paired with what foods.
Crianza Ribera del Duero & Food Pairings
Crianza Ribera del Duero means the wine is aged for a year in oak barrels, making for a fresh and approachable red wine that is perfect with tapas, grilled burgers, ham, short ribs, or Chorizo sausage. As this wine is not aged long in the bottle, the flavours are more fruit-forward and bright, however, the tannin is still high, meaning you’ll need something meaty but simple.
Some wine enthusiasts suggest pairing Ribera del Duero up with tomato-based dishes like Spaghetti, Lasagna or Pizza. You can get away with that with Crianza, however, for aged bottles I tend to find the wine too high in tannin. Even with Crianza Ribera del Duero you’ll want have better success with meatier dishes where the tomato is kept to a minimum like pasta Bolognese, Chicken Tikka Masala, beef tacos or meat lovers pizza.
Reserva Ribera del Duero & Food Pairings
Reserva Ribera del Duero has an extra year of bottle ageing than Crianza, and this gives the wine an earthier layer that makes it excellent with stews, game, and steak. With high tannin, Reserva Ribera del Duero is excellent with roast beef, venison stew and meaty lamb burgers. The tannin in the wine softens under the heavy proteins of these meaty dishes allowing the complementary smoky, gamy and earthy flavours to shine. Meanwhile, the fruity blackberry, black cherry, and strawberry notes swoop in and offer up a refreshing contrasting kiss.
I would go with lean-to mid-fatty cuts of beef with Reserva Ribera del Duero, such as beef tenderloin, filet mignon, or a petite tender. While the wine is high in tannin, the flavours of Reserva Ribera del Duero haven’t fully developed and might be crushed by a heavy rib-eye steak or prime rib dinner. Likewise, Lamb Chops, where the fat has been trimmed, are a more suitable pairing than a roasted shoulder of lamb.
Gran Reserva Ribera del Duero & Food Pairings
Gran Reserva Ribera del Duero sees two years of oak ageing and then three years of bottle ageing, making this wine a concentrated powerhouse of dark fruit flavours, along with layers of vanilla, dark chocolate, leather, mocha and spice. You’ll want to pair Gran Reserva with special fare that is meaty and earthy, such as a roasted shoulder of lamb, prime rib, a rich and hearty venison stew or a thick and juicy porterhouse steak. With its robust fruit flavours, Gran Reserva Ribera del Duero has no issues holding up to a fruit sauce that might accompany a venison steak or a rabbit dish.
Gran Reserva Ribera del Duero is going to be pricy due to the amount of ageing and oak, and while they can be aged longer, they are often sold ready to drink.
Best Food with Ribera del Duero Red Wine
Excellent Producers of Ribera del Duero
La Pesquera, Pingus, Alión, Arzuaga, and Vega Sicilia.
You may also see Ribera del Duero referred to as Tinta del Pais and Tinto Fino which is what the locals call the Tempranillo grape. The label on the bottle may also indicate what other grapes may have been blended in to your Ribera del Duero. Typically, if your bottle isn’t 100% Tempranillo, you’ll see Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot Garnacha Tinto or Albillo (a Spanish white wine grape), blended in.
Ribera del Duero vs Rioja
The main difference between Ribera del Duero and Rioja is that Ribera del Duero is heavier in tannin, bigger in body, and denser with notes of ripe red berry fruit flavour. Meanwhile Rioja is more floral, elegant and light with a lower amount of tannin and more spice. This is difference is due to the Rioja region being cooler in climate and a limestone terroir.