Rioja--Ribera del Duero: Mano a mano.

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IT IS THE SAME varietal: Tempranillo. Both the Rioja and Ribera del Duero growing regions are similar in type of soil, climate, vinification techniques and age of vineyards. One is near the Ebro river and the other to the Duero river and yet, their wines are so different in personality. Many would say is just a matter of perception, with some agreeing on the description of Riberas as intense, powerful and full bodied. Rioja fans would describe these wines as ample, fruity and complex. In both regions there are always experimentation and new "styles" that are producing more impressive, voluptuous and jammy wines.

I have always had a lot of friends who would prefer Rioja: classic, delicate and with excellent new styles like the fantastic Remirez de Ganuza or Vinedos de paganos' La Nieta or el Puntido. But I have always had friends who prefer Riberas above all, with fruity and powerful tastes. There we will find the legendary Vega Sicilia or his little brother ALION and many others.

So, listening to the voices that were cheering one or the other, I decided to organize a "mano a mano" contest to compare both regions. Rioja was definitively bright, nutty, fruity and wide in notes of red ripe fruit. Riberas were muscle driven, deeper, perfumed and elegant. We all decided not to name a "winner' but the one that got the notoriety of the night was a fantastic Marques del Riscal 1952 Reserva, which also showed how beautiful Riojas can age.

RARTADI Pagos Viejos Reserva 1995

Region: Rioja Vaiietal:Tempranillo Price: $95 Aromas: Licorice, currant, guava and walnuts Flavors: Black pepper, ripe plum, lactic Impression: Great character, silky, subtle Structure: Medium body, past its best already Drink with: Manchego...

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