What food to pair with Ribera del Duero
Advertising feature: As one of Spain’s most highly regarded red wines you want to pair Ribera del Duero with food that will fully show it off but as it comes at a number of different price points and styles what type of ingredients and dishes work best?
Tempranillo - or tinto fino or tinta del pais as it is alternatively known in the region - is one of the most forgiving of grape varieties with soft curvaceous tannins but also the power to handle big flavours and the capacity to age.
Meat - particularly red meat - is the obvious starting point - after all we are talking about Spain! Locally, it would mainly be grilled or roast lamb, often milk fed lamb with prized older vintages. But beef, especially steak, and venison are good too especially if accompanied by a rich red wine sauce.
As the wines age they become a flattering partner for aged lamb or beef such as Himalayan salt-aged lamb but also with the mature Spanish dairy beef that has become popular in recent years. They also work well with cured meats like cecina (smoked beef) and slow braises especially with intensely flavoured meats like beef shortribs, oxtail and ox cheek.
Younger, fruitier wines that are made in a more contemporary international style can also handle a fair bit of spice so drink them with dishes that include pimenton (chorizo being the obvious example), chipotle or even hotter chilli dishes such as lamb with Xi’an noodles. They’ll work with soy sauce and sesame too as you’ll find if you try them with Korean bulgogi. And if you want to push the boat out with an American-style barbecue they’re perfect - especially with ribs and brisket. If you’ve got meat, smoke and spice, think of Ribera.
These days vegetables too have their place on the grill so even if you’re not a meat eater you’ll find that grilled or roast aubergines, mushrooms and squash will work (it’s the charring that’s the key). And, as with other red wines, Ribera’s reds work particularly well with beans and other pulses which are popular throughout northern Spain.
Then of course there is cheese. Most Ribera wines are a great match for a cheeseboard although they go particularly well with the hard sheep cheeses of which the Spanish are particularly fond. Their sweet ripe fruit also makes them a good companion for a salty blue.
And finally, you might not think of drinking a red wine with chocolate but next time you’ve got some Ribera in your glass try it with a square of plain dark chocolate. You’ll be amazed!
So let’s put this into practice …
Six Ribera reds and what to pair with them
(Bear in mind these were current vintages and prices at the time of writing (May 2021) As they age and develop you might want to pair them with something different - see the suggestions above). Note that apart from the more inexpensive wines, producers often recommend decanting and serving at a cooler temperature than those to which you might be accustomed: 16-18°)
This vibrant juicy red, which spends just three months in oak, is a great introduction to the region and a versatile match for food. I’d pair it with meat-based pasta sauces (like a ragù bolognese), grilled chicken, a Friday (or Saturday!) night pizza or with tapas or you could just enjoy it on its own with a nibble of cheese. (It’s suitable for vegetarians and vegans too.)
Acón Roble 2018 Tempranillo Ribera del Duero 2018 14.5% £12.40 Tanners
Here the higher ABV and slightly longer time in oak (5 months) results in a lush full-bodied red with some lovely, ripe fruit that would handle sweet ingredients such as roast butternut squash, sweet potato and pomegranate molasses. So think of taking it to or serving it at a barbecue or with a spread of middle-eastern or Indian food (it would work really well with rogan josh). Also - try this - with dark chocolate!
Protos Reserva Ribera del Duero 2015 14.5% £26.50 exelwines.co.uk though stocks are low. imported by Bibendum.
A classic example of a more mature vintage that spends longer in oak (18 months: 50% in new French oak barrels, 30% in one year old French oak and 20% in one year old american oak then 24 months in bottle. So although it would go well with roast meats it would be particularly good with braises and stews like braised shortribs or ox cheek or a rich steak pie. Or with pot roast pheasant or pigeon (squab). It would also work really well with the cheese course which in Spain would generally mean sheep cheese (though it could easily handle a blue)
This would be the perfect wine for vegetarians and vegans. It’s organic and biodynamic , made with minimal filtration and aged for 12 months in 400 litre second and third fill French and Hungarian oak barrels (As with the other wines, you want to decant it). If you’re a lover of natural wines it should appeal. Think of drinking it with dishes with beans and lentils, robust vegetable stews and grilled vegetables though if you are a meateater and could get your hands on some, it would be amazing with wild boar!
Majuelos de Callejo Suelos Marginales Ribera del Duero 2018 14.5% (this vintage is not yet available in the UK but you can buy the 2016 vintage from iberiandrinks.co.uk. Retail price around £40-45
This wine is considered a "cru" of Ribera del Duero as it is made from a single vineyard based in Sotillo de la Ribera at the heart of the region. I was thinking how polished, elegant and Bordeaux-like it was so it was interesting to read that they’d spent some time working at Petrus. For that reason I’d be as inclined to pair it with classic French food as much as Spanish. It really is perfect for prime roasting joints and steaks - especially fillet steak and should age magnificently.(Majuelo by the way is a traditional Castilian name for low yielding vines that are grown in poor soils)
Carmelo Rodero Crianza Ribera del Duero 2018 14.5% This vintage is not yet available in the UK but you can buy the 2017 from AdVINture for £24 and other vintages from Iconic Wines https://iconicwines.co.uk/products/copy-of-dominio-de-atauta-6-bottle-case-75cl and North and South Wines
A voluptuously, velvety blend of cabernet sauvignon and tinta del pais (tempranillo) aged in French and American oak for 15 months and a further year in bottle - still youthful but already more than approachable. Pair with the best beef you can lay your hands on - a well-charred ribeye steak or wagyu beef for example or a top class gourmet burger as I did here.
It would also be magnificent with cheese, especially blue cheese and with grilled portabello mushrooms.
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