Ribera Del Duero is renowned throughout Spain and the rest of the world, so much so that you cannot discuss the history of Spanish wine without mentioning this particular area. Although the Denomination of Origin was only ‘recently’ established (1982 in fact), grapes have been planted, and wine has been produced and consumed here for at least 2500 years. It is not surprising that this relatively new D.O. is regularly seen on the most prestigious tables and some Ribera Del Duero wines have received the highest of accolades.
Its popularity has grown to levels only previously achieved by Rioja. To this day if you ask a Spanish person to choose between a Rioja and a Ribera Del Duero you are very likely to be given a strongly opinionated response as to why one is better than the other.
To me, there are great wines from both D.O.s, full stop. There are some similarities between a Rioja and a Ribera Del Duero, but they are fundamentally different once the wine is in the glass.
I believe the variety and diversity of wines that you can find in these two areas are creating a healthy competition between the two, and that is ultimately beneficial to both regions. Another interesting thing that is happening in these regions, as well as everywhere else in the world of wine is the generational change. For a long time, there has been a status quo regarding what defines and what should be done to create a fantastic wine. The new generation of winemakers are introducing new perspectives and different approaches in the world of wine. Sometimes this can create family or business conflicts, but this is not the case with Bodegas Arrocal.
Situated in Burgos, this winery started with land inherited from the family. Rosa Arroyo and Moises Calvo set the basis for the winery and started commercializing their wine in 2003. They established a business model in the same way as many other wineries in the area and it proved to be a successful decision. They created intense red wines with strong character and barrel-aged influences.
They also used the typical structure of Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva, as well as a special edition here and there. This working model gave Bodegas Arrocal a certain prestige in the area without the need to become an industrial winery, and they always retained the familiar aspect at the very core of their business. So much so, that the two sons of Rosa and Moises are now involved in the business.
Whilst respecting what their parents have created, Rodrigo and Asier have come up with a different line of wines that speak to the modern wine drinker. These wines are more fruit-based and the use of oak barrels has been relegated to a secondary role. They have also used a combination of old and new techniques to deliver a different profile of wines. I think this alliance between generations is a great ingredient for a recipe for success. Ultimately, this type of alliance allows the new and older generation of winemakers to produce wines in the style they prefer, whilst attracting a wider audience. Bravo!
So, if you lean more towards a classic Ribera Del Duero, try the Bodegas Arrocal ‘Passion’ Crianza. This is a delightful example of a good Crianza from the region. It is rich, full-bodied, and with all the style and elegance that comes from Tempranillo grapes. If you prefer the modern approach to a Ribera Del Duero, try the Bodegas Arrocal ‘Gallinita Ciega’, named after a children's game. This is a lighter, fruity wine that will work with most dishes and tends to be a casual everyday wine whilst delivering freshness and mineral quality. It is a pure delight. Finally, if you would like to discover a wine that is a little more unique, try the Bodegas Arrocal "Y el Asno vio al Ángel" Magnum as this wine is a fun experiment. Every year this wine is made using Tempranillo grapes from a different plot of land. The grapes are also stepped on traditionally, and then fermented and bottled without the addition of any chemicals. However, the Bodega only creates 600 bottles so if you want to buy one, you should get your order in quick! Classic or modern, Bodegas Arrocal has the right formula, maintaining traditions whilst also being innovative. What more could you ask for?