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The Spanish Series Part 9 – Wines from Hizan: A Final Ribera del Duero and a Stop in Rueda

We’ll finish our look into Ribera del Duero with one final wine.  You can read more about the region of Ribera del Duero by clicking here.  We’ll also take a short journey southwest to another designated area, this time one which specializes in white wine.  That D.O. is Rueda.  Both of the wines highlighted in this article are from the same company, which also has production in Rioja that we’ll visit in a later article.  But first, let’s talk a little about what makes Rueda special.

Hizan with Arrows

Rueda is highlighted in the center of the above map.  It’s character comes from a combination of the Verdejo grapes, its continental weather and gravelly soils. The Verdejo grape has been grown in the Denomination of Origin (DO) Rueda for many centuries. Its origins date back to the 11th century, to the times of king Alfonso VI, when the basin of the river Duero was repopulated with people from Cantabria, the Basque Country and the Muslim southern regions.  It was very probably the latter, the so-called mozárabes, who brought the Verdejo variety from North Africa, after a period of adaptation in the south of Spain.

You can learn much more about the DO Rueda, as we did, at

The only grape to remember when considering Rueda is Verdejo.  It constitutes 99% of the production of the region.  With a similar climate to nearby Ribera del Duero and very close by Toro, the vineyards see hot summers, cold winters and large temperature variations.  Rain is scarce, and modern drip irrigation techniques are now used to replace ancient methods of trying to capture and preserve rainwater at the vines.

casalbor logoWe have one wine each from Ribera del Duero and Rueda for this article, and they are courtesy of Casalbor Wines and Spirits, who we ran into at this year’s Mohegan Sun Wine and Food Festival.  We were impressed with the values both these wines represent, and wanted to include them here.

Casalbor is a well-established family business, engaged in both wine-making and the distribution of fine wines and spirit drinks. Their portfolio includes wines made in three of Spain´s best-known areas – the Protected Origin districts of Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Rueda.  In both Rueda and Ribera del Duero, Casalbor owns their own vineyards, with the wines made by local producers in the respective areas.  Their spirits are made by traditional craft methods of distilling and aging. All production is overseen by their own specialist winemakers and distillers.

Here are the wines, first the red from Ribera del Duero:

2014 Hizan Tinto Cosecha – this is a classic, young, 100% Tempranillo wine from Ribera del Duero.  An October harvest from old vines yielded hand IMG_2447picked grapes, which fermented for 9 days and then matured for another 10.  The wine is stirred frequently during this time.  This is a young wine.  Our thoughts:

This is a dark red wine with purple highlights.  There is a good nose of red and black berry fruit.  A tiny burnt oak note was subtle, like the smell from an old wood burning craft set if you have ever used one of those.  Chocolate made an appearance as well.  On the palate the wine is full bodied and quite robust, and is all about the fruit.  It is rich, with good acid, great balance and tannins which build throughout, especially on the tip of your tongue.  It is quite long.  The second day, after a bit of time in the bottle, this was more integrated and smoother.  If you prefer the rich and gentle version just decant it an hour or two.  This will be under $15 and an excellent value wine.

2015 Hizan Blanco – 100% Verdejo from the Rueda DO, the grapes here are always harvested at night to preserve their freshness, and are IMG_1107quickly transported to the winery.  It macerates for ten hours before pressing, and the slow fermentation takes place over 25 days.  Our impressions:

The wine is a light, golden yellow with green highlights.  The nose is vibrant, with apple, pear and citrus notes, along with some tropical fruits.  It is very bright on the palate, with wonderfully clean and fresh fruit flavors.  Crisp apple and pear take precedence over the tropical fruit.  On the finish, a fabulous lemon note rounds it out.  This has some weight and texture, and some body, which make it a serious wine even though it is very fresh and clean.  Good acid and balance carry it into a clean finish.  This is excellent, and a great value at around $12.

Verdejo is a very underappreciated grape. It is frequently compared to Sauvignon Blanc, but I find it to be a bit more fruity, with a touch of tropical fruit, and the citrus is less up front and in your face.  When done well, it has structure and mid-weight body, and makes a great alternative white for you to consider.

Both of these wines are going on our Value List.

We’ll revisit the wines of Casalbor a bit later when we circle all the way back to where we started, in Rioja.  For now though, it’s off to new areas and new wines, some of which you likely have never heard of.

To read the last installment in the Spanish Series click here.

To go to the beginning of the series click here.

You can learn much more about Casalbor Wines and Spirits on their website:

On we go.

A votre santé!



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