There’s been a lot of talk about Ribera Del Duero eclipsing Rioja as quality Tempranillo production in Spain, and for a tiny–and quite young–region, that’s a bit of a big deal. And is it because of modernity? It is because RdD approaches a *worldly* palate more consistently? Is it Parkerization? So let’s put a couple side-by-side and see what happens. Basically the same price-point, the *baby Ygay* in one corner and a rather unknown bottle in the other. Both 2016, so an extra year of bottle-age at the bodega aside, fruit-selection between a big-house Reserva and a near-flagship Crianza from a much smaller winery remains the only variable.
Nearly identical color and density in the glass: dark, impenetrable ruby headed slightly garnet at the rim–the Rioja slightly more purple. The Ribera a dull BBQ: steamed hot-dogs and briary fruit, the Rioja channeling licorice and sharp mustiness along rustic lines, a bit of VA molding the dark cherry into the nostrils. The Ribera more fresh-baked-bread, toasty and still. Neither particularly exuberant in fruit, but the nod goes to the southerner in pure expression and quality exhibition. There’s a banana-tropical bothering me in the Rioja which the Ribera replaces with chalky drive and purity.
But let’s taste them. I don’t think I could have picked two more perfect comparisons, as their concentration and pure charisma align nearly indistinguishably. The cherry chalky and dry on the Rioja, the Ribera a speck chubbier but fleshes out along alcoholic lines *cleaner* than the Ygay. Both 14-5, both dark and concentrated, both young and needing age, glycerine on the Rioja turns sharp and bright where mineralific sharpness on the Ribera turns briarific and complex. Achingly dry and acidic–both; a roundness expressed on the Rioja the only thing keeping them apart. These wines are SHOCKINGLY similar and I honestly can’t call it. Both stunning wines, ridiculously young, and un-explainable texture the only difference.
2016 MARQUES DE MURRIETA Tempranillo Reserva Rioja Spain 14.5
2016 ASTER Tempranillo Crianza Ribera Del Duero Spain 14.5