Aster Ribera del Duero 2008
Ribera del Duero is one of Spain's most prestigious wine regions, producing intense, concentrated wines mainly from Tempranillo (locally called Tinto del País). It's inland, in the middle of Spain's hot, arid, continental climate. It would be too hot there to produce quality wine were it not for altitude: the best grapes are grown at up to 850m where the nights are much cooler. This leads to a longer, more gradual ripening, resulting in more complex wines than the simple wines produced at much lower altitude.
It's still hot, and Ribera del Duero produces different wines from Rioja, fruitier, more tannic, and more likely to be 100% Tempranillo. But they're just as ageworthy, time softening those tannins - I prefer to drink Ribera del Duero when it's older as the wines can be closed and tight when young.
Which is why I enjoyed the Aster Crianza 2008, a fine example of an older Ribera del Duero at a good price. Owned by one of my favourite Rioja producers, La Rioja Alta, it has the classic characteristics associated with quality Spanish wine. The grapes are grown at 780m altitude and although it's technically a Crianza it was aged for a lot longer than the minimum requirements - despite now being nine years old, it was only bottled 18 months ago. The wine has a tannic, oaky structure, spices, and rich, ripe red fruits, all of which have been mellowed with age and made more complex by mature, earthy aromas. Very drinkable and food friendly.
Grape Variety: Tempranillo
Region: Ribera del Duero, Spain
Ageing: 70% new French oak for 22 months; bottled in 2016
Food pairing: steak, game