Things to do in Ribera del Duero
The harvest season is here and the vineyards are full of their brightest colours. Now is the time to collect the fruit that has been so carefully grown, tended and cared for. Even at night the vineyards are little hubs of activity, with the most dedicated winemakers harvesting the grapes in the low temperatures to protect the grapes from daytime oxidation.
Now is the perfect season to visit Ribera del Duero and its wineries and here are the top 10 things to do in Ribera del Duero as signalled by our local experts.
1) Walk along the River Duero
Ribera del Duero gets its name from the Duero River that runs throughout its vineyards, feeding its grapes at every step of the way. The Spanish ´Ribera´, means ´river bank´, meaning that literally the name of this wine region is the river bank of the Duero River. Majestic on its path through Aranda, and calm as it flows by Valladolid, the River offers beautiful opportunities to walk along its banks and appreciate the nature that surrounds it.
2) Sleep in, visit, and marvel at its castles
Ribera del Duero was a natural border fortress for centuries. A fantastic example of this is its wealth of ancient castles that still stand today. Visit the most spectacular in Peñafiel (Valladolid) and Peñaranda del Duero (Burgos). There is even a wine museum in the castle at Peñafiel, comfortably housed in its impressive stone walls and turrets.
3) Experience 4 Spanish provinces
Ribera del Duero has the intrigue of being spread over 4 different Spanish provinces, which offers the opportunity to experience 4 different areas of vineyards, wineries and wine makind traditions. Do not miss this opportunity to soak up as much local culture as you can, by extending your trip to include these 4 areas.
4) The Ages of Man
The Monastery of Valbuena (in Valbuena de Duero) has a collection of Christian art from the Middle Ages pieces that are part of an ´Ages of Man´ series. This collection is distributed across different areas in Castilla León, and brought back together for an exhibition once a year at different locations each time. In this sense, there is no permanent place to visit the collection. However, you can find when and where the exhibition will be by going to the official page (which is in Spanish). This autumn, the exhibition is in Aranda del Duero, from 6th May to the 10th November, and starts in the Plaza Mayor.
5) Explore the Gorges of the River Duratón and its surrounding Natural Park
On first sight, the River Duratón is set in gorge, surrounded on both sides by beautifully dramatic rock faces that are home to local flora and fauna, as well as animals and birds. The River has over time created this landscape for itself, which is today a place of refuge for fantastic forest birds of prey. You can tour the River with a guide either at the tops of the cliffs, or at the level of the River itself- a real treat for nature lovers.
6) Explore its historical villages
Ribera del Duero has a wealth of tiny and small villages that have so much untouched history to discover. There are so many places to visit, however we would suggest visiting the Peñaranda de Duero with its main square and castle and Aranda de Duero with its main square, churches and bridge that runs over the River Duero and Peñafiel with its spectacular castle and traditional Plaza del Coso main square (which is actually somewhat circular and used for local festivals and bullfights).
7) Visit Ribera´s wineries
The history of Ribera del Duero is inextricably linked with winemaking and wine culture. For centuries vineyards have covered the land, stretching as far back as the Roman times. Winemaking has been a part of Ribera culture and tradition throughout every period of history since, even acting as part of daily life for medieval monasteries in the area. In this sense, one cannot visit Ribera del Duero without finding some trace of ancient or modern winemaking culture.
Despite its long history, Ribera del Duero was not put on the wine map until Robert Parker gave one of its wines a Parker score of nearly 100; in other words, perfection. This score brought the world´s attention to Ribera del Duero, which has since shown the world the deep, complex and structured red wines that it produces each year.
The area has wineries for every person´s tastes: spectacular wineries such as Protos or Portia that offer vanguard architecture, chateau style wineries surrounded by vineyards and small family run wineries, each a testimony to Ribera´s incredible wine history.
8) See the Zarceras
What are the zarceras? The word zarceras is not a common term in Spanish, let alone English. The zarceras are visible to any person who visits Peñafiel or Pequera del Duero- they are mismatched stone domes, as tall as men, that pop out of the ground like giant mushrooms. Links to the outside world, the zarceras go deep underground into the ancient caves that used to be used to store wine in ancient times. Allowing air to enter the caves and CO2 to leave, the zarceras were a fundamental part of wine fermentation in times gone by. Look out for them as you pass through the region.
9) Discover Ribera´s wines
Wine is the driving force behind the economy in Ribera del Duero. What is the secret behind the wines of Ribera del Duero? Without a doubt the answer can be found in the region´s climate and soil which are perfect for growing the Tempranillo grape (or Tinta Fina as it is sometimes more commonly called).
Ribera del Duero is also located on an elevated plain; at night, the temperatures drop and it becomes very cold, and during the day the temperatures rise and rise. The grapevine receives a lot of sunlight in the morning, favouring a fast rate of photosynthesis. At night, the plant ´closes down´ and conserves the colour and flavour of the grape, affording the wines of Ribera their distinctive high level of concentration.
To visit Ribera del Duero with a senior wine guide, with winery visits, gastronomy, wine tasting and culture, see our Ribera del Duero tour.
10) Dig up archaeological ruins
The Duero valley has always been a place for human settlement, a fact we can see evidence of in the wealth of archaeological artefacts found in the surrounding area. If you are interested in history, you should know that there is an important archaeological site in the outskirts of Peñafiel. This site is key in discovering more about a Celtic tribe that used to roam the lands of Ribera del Duero: the Vacceos. During the summer months, the camp is open for work and can be visited by the general public. In Roa del Duero there is also another archaeological park, which has been created with children especially in mind. This is a real treat for history lovers and anyone interested in our ancestors´ past.
If you would like to find out more about Ribera del Duero wine region, you can also go to the official Ribera del Duero (DO) Designation of Origin page, in English. Here you can find out news, Ribera history, winemaking and much more.