For many years Ribera del Duero has had bags of potential, in fact it has threatened to “take Rioja’s crown” in some instances. However, on previous visits we had found too many bodegas a bit inclined to think they were making Vega Sicilia, and falling somewhat short. My tasting of 220 wines happily confirmed that we are now seeing great improvement, and this has allowed us to buy from two outstanding new sources.

These wines are riper and silkier than I have previously tasted with softer tannins (although still plenty of it) and much better balance and length. Late frosts can restrict yields, but this tends to also ensure better concentration. Ribera del Duero makes serious, dark, intense reds that last for years, but now they seem much more approachable in their youth than I’ve encountered before.

Near Trevino in the Burgos sub-region, Dominio Basconcillos was started by José Maria Basconcillos in 2000 with the help of legendary Ribera del Duero winemaker, Tomas Postillon. The whole bodega is modern, large and surrounded by its own vineyards on the high plateau at 960m – crucial to allowing later ripening and a higher glycerol content (more density) in the wines. Organic in method, very clean, with more Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot planted than their neighbours, this is a top bodega with intentions to be at the wine world’s top table – a wine of reference in Ribera del Duero in my book.

Situated in Castrillo de la Vega, Abadía de Acón is much closer to the river compared with Basconcillos up on the plateau but both are still in the Burgos sub-region. Two brothers, Carlos and Jose, have improved their grandfather’s boutique winery with lots of modern kit, good quality barrels and smart, small vats to handle their different vineyard plots. Their wines have an effortless class about them.