Your Summer Guide to Drinking Ribera Reds

As Mother Nature does her annual summer thing and unleashes all sorts of heat and humidity, you might be inclined to say something like: “I’m only drinking white wine or rosé until this literally chills out.” Don’t be so quick to write off reds in the summer; there are a few attributes to look for with Ribera del Duero reds that might change your mind.

For lighter Ribera reds, ask or look for Joven, Joven Roble or Crianza wines; or, if you want something meaty to go along with your fancy porterhouse, a Reserva or Gran Reserva will do you quite well.

With a little label know-how, you could be the red wine hero among men and women during cookout and picnic season. Ribera del Duero wines come in a handful of different categories, based on factors like how long the wine is aged in oak and in the bottle. The younger styles of wines like Joven (which means “young” in Spanish) and  Cosecha (“harvest”) and Crianza (“nurture”) are the wines with the least amount of age, made from grapes that the winemakers specifically select for their freshness and vibrancy — aka exactly what you’re looking for in the summer. Then you get into wines like Reserva and Gran Reserva, which, thanks to lots of time in oak, will tend to be on the heavier and more concentrated side, which might not be what you’re looking for on a hot day.

If you want to get specific, here’s the breakdown of Ribera del Duero red classifications and what aging details are necessary to earn that label:

Cosecha, Joven or Joven Roble: Often no oak at all on Cosecha, Joven, and Joven Roble — but they can see 3-6 months in oak and will be released immediately after without aging in the bottle.

Crianza: Aged at least one year in oak (French or American, or often a combination), and must spend at least one year in bottle before release. Depending on the winemaker and the quality of their grapes, Crianza wines can range from light and fresh to full-bodied and deep.

Reserva: Aged at least one year in oak, with at least two years in bottle.

Gran Reserva: Aged at least two years in oak, and at least three years in bottle.

So, what have we learned? For lighter Ribera reds, ask or look for Cosecha, Joven, Joven Roble or Crianza wines; or, if you want something meaty to go along with your fancy porterhouse, a Reserva or Gran Reserva will do you quite well.

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