September Red Wine Picks

Beer and Wine, Drinks, How-To, Wine 101
on September 13, 2011
Wine Cork

September sometimes feels like summer, sometimes like fall. Look to the Ribera del Duero region of Spain for two styles of red wine that will suit either mood this month.  

Ribera means “river banks,” and the region’s vineyards sweep and climb along a 100-mile stretch of the Duero River in northern Spain. This high-altitude plateau endures harsh weather, with freezing winters, infernal summers, loads of sunshine and very little rain. Yet the climate works its magic on the grapes (predominantly Tempranillo), especially during the growing season, when scorching hot days allow the grapes to ripen fully, while markedly chilly nights lend the grapes a balancing acidity.

Depending on how—and how long—they’re aged, Ribera’s wines range from vibrantly fruity and fresh to deeply rich and full-bodied. Two styles, in particular make good matches for the weeks ahead:

Start Young
While the weather still has us craving freshness in our wines, look for those labeled Joven, which literally means “young” and refers to wines that have seen no oak aging. Meant to be enjoyed in their youth, these bottles, at their best, bring beautifully mouth-filling berry flavors, irresistibly restrained by a bright, light hint of acidity. Generously fruity without being heavy, Ribera’s Joven make terrific end-summer wines—chill them up a bit before you take them out on the patio, where they’ll match up well with many foods, thanks to their beam of refreshing brightness.

Add a Little Spice
As late summer turns to early fall, seek out Roble wines from Ribera. Spanish for “oak,” Roble also points the way to youthful wines that have spent a short time (from three to six months) aging in oak casks. Like Joven, Roble wines have a youthful, fruity and vibrant appeal, yet they bring a little more heft, along with teasing hints of autumn-worthy spice.  

Labels to Look for:
Ask your wine merchant to point the way to Joven or Roble wines from the Ribera del Duero. A few labels to look for in particular include:

    * Neo “Vivir Vivir” Joven  ($12)
    * Viña Gormaz Joven ($12)
    * Martin Berdugo Joven ($14).
    * Neo El Arte de Vivir Roble ($16)
    * Creta Roble ($15)
    * Prado Rey Roble ($14)
    * Viña Pedrosa Roble ($25)

—By Wini Moranville, a food and wine writer in Des Moines, Iowa