Bodegas Arrocal Ribera del Duero 2005
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Bodegas Arrocal Ribera del Duero 2005 Tasting Notes

Straightforward, delicious, harmonious and all of $13, the 2005 Bodegas Arrocal Ribera del Duero brings a lot to the table for that price. The wine is 100% tempranillo from the producer's own vineyards. Four months in mixed new and used French and American oak is all the wood aging the wine sees, all it really needs.

The wine is a virtually opaque purple, yielding just the slightest pale rim. The nose is well focused, bringing a brambly black raspberry, with cassis, orange rind, cedar and a fragrant spiciness, followed by a wider range of less defined fruit. Fruit, in fact, is the operative element over the full experience of this wine; you get plenty, and it is authentic. The wine gives you the feeling that you are ingesting a respectable dose of bioflavonoids without the expense of all those vitamin capsules.

The wine is dry and a little hot at 14% alcohol. The acidity, though slightly north of medium, is helpful rather than obtrusive; the tannins are soft and yet on the job at all times. The fruit is wide-reaching in this wine: black plum, raspberry, cranberry, cherry, and stewed prunes, with a light licorice and some baking spice giving it all depth.

The wine combines excellent balance with a fine level of extraction for the money. On the slightly puckering finish the woody tannins, which have been skulking behind the scenes, become more pronounced, adding a good deal of length, accompanied by pervasive fruit.

This type of wine represents a choice by the winemakers—I think a winning choice—to marry fresh ripe fruit with just enough wood under circumstances of…let's just call it clarity. Ribera del Duero uses the same grape—tempranillo—as Rioja, but the clones are different; in this particular wine, there is a tangible adherence to place, rather than a Rioja-like imperative to blend. The wine may be a bit brash, but this can be forgiven; it brings a fine balance, a direct terruño punch (that's Spanish for terroir), and think of all those bioflavonoids.


Verdict: Honest essence
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We have a tendency to think of Spain as the Old World, but put yourself in the place of a Spanish winemaker, surrounded by gleaming modern equipment; you may find certain distinctions blurring a bit.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

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