This month’s guru is Ralph Smith who, in 2008, founded Ralph’s Wines, based in Oxfordshire.. Ralph explains that his philosophy has always been to seek out hidden treasures from boutique vineyards, he looks for remarkable wines that have achieved high accolades but also aren’t too expensive.
There are millions of different wines produced around the world in each vintage, he explains, but of these only about 4% will probably be awarded 85 points or more and only 1% will achieve 90 points and above. Ralph’s focus is towards importing from Spain, France and Argentina but his primary target has always been Northern Spain’s regions where he says there are still many hidden Gold medal winners just waiting to be discovered.
The Spanish wine region of Ribera del Duero is one of the most prestigious wine producing areas in the world. If you love big, red wines, this is the region for you! Ribera del Duero´s vineyards blanket across the Duero river’s banks and now the Ribera del Duero region challenges Rioja as Spain’s premier red-wine producing area.
This is the land of the “Conquistadors” and castles and ruined fortresses punctuate the dry arid landscapes throughout the region. The most impressive is Peñafiel, shaped like a battleship and located majestically on the top of a craggy hill. Mythical wines made here include Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Abadia Retuerta, Pesquera, Viña Mayor, Carmelo Rodero, Pago de Carrovejas, just to name a few.
In 1982 Ribera del Duero became a denominación de origen, a move inspired by the quality of Vega Sicilia but not instigated by the legendary estate. It was in fact another proprietor, Alejandro Fernández of Pesquera, who was instrumental in this. Robert Parker took a liking to Pesquera and Ribera del Duero was suddenly not just on the map, but shooting to stardom.
It is within the famous “Golden Mile” that our most sought after and award winning collection of wines can be found. Founded in 1988 and set within 18 hectares, Hijos de Antonio Polo have produced a portfolio of wines that have topped Decanters World Wine Awards with five gold stars for the last few vintages. Their vines range from 15 to 100 years old and only the best grapes are carefully tendered from winter pruning until its vintage. The result is an elegant collection of intense reds available to buy only from Ralphs Wines.
Beautiful vineyards to visit in Ribera del Duero are:
- The Protos winery, designed by Richard Rogers
- The star-shaped, Norman Foster designed, Portia at Gumiel de Izán
And stay at: