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A Beginner’s Guide to Spanish Wine

If I inquired of my mom what type of Spanish wine she drank she screamed enthusiastically, “sangria!” It’s true, Spain has much more to offer in terms of wine than that delicious pitcher drink. There are a myriad of excellent bargains in Spanish wine, including delicious (and inexpensive!) bottles that are suitable for any time on the calendar. However, you’ll be rewarded when you decide to pay a little more time and discover the traditional wines from Spain. If you typically drink wine that come from the New World–for instance, South America, California, or Australia, Spanish wines can be an excellent introduction for those who are looking to move into wine from the Old World.

The prospect of a new section in your local wine store could be a daunting experience. Today, we’ll assist you to learn about the most important Spanish regions of wine and grapes, so that you can easily pick a few bottles to taste.

What you’ll see on the Bottle

One thing that is what makes Spanish wine unique is the fact that the majority of Spanish wineries age their wine for you, both in oak barrels as well as in bottles. This gives you a chance to sample wines that have gotten until they’re at their best, without the expense of storage space in your home. When you examine the label of a Spanish wine and you see the names Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, they’re telling you how long the maturation took: Gran Reservas have been cellared for the longest time, while bottles with Joven on the label did not spend the same amount of time in the winery.

Since Spain has joined The European Union, the wine labeling system is very identical to that in France as well as Italy. The type you’ll usually see at your local grocery store is called The Denominacion De Origen (DO) which is equivalent to an Appellation of Origin Controlee (AOC) in France. Each DO (for instance, Ribera del Duero or Rias Baixas) has its own rules and regulations for wines, like which grape varieties can be planted. If, for any reason, it isn’t possible to find an DO label on your bottle and it is possible that the “logo” for the DO must be displayed on the back of the bottle or on the cap over the cork.

The highest point in the Spanish wine quality pyramid is Denominacion de Origen Calificada (it contains several abbreviations due regional dialects like DOQ, DOC, or DOC). There are just two DOCs: Rioja and Priorat. Spain also has its own category called DO Pago, which is only for single estates.

If you’re looking through wine bottles made of Spanish wines, it is possible to typically notice the grape’s primary vineyard in the center of labels, and, alternatively located on the back. One thing to note is that due to regional differences in language, some regions or grapes may appear slightly different. Garnacha in Catalonia is an example. appears as Garnatxa.

Click here for the history of Spanish wine.

Weather Influences the Wine

Because Spain is part of a peninsula the climate can vary greatly between regions. Central Spain shimmers in the summer sun and becomes extremely cold in winter. In the northwestern region of the country, known as Galicia the cool ocean breezes as well as numerous rivers give it the nickname “Green Spain.” The south is where the savage dry, deserted land and the fierce winds could prove to be too much for the majority of grapes. In the Mediterranean towards the west brings cool breezes and warm temperatures and the Pyrenees at their border to France stop rain clouds from moving towards the north-central region.

Are you ready to begin drinking?


Region: Catalonia.
Style Rose or sparkling white.
Wine grape varieties: A mix of Xarel-loand Macabeo and Parellada as well as other varieties.
Taste: Rich, crisp apple flavors.

Cava is the most well-known sparkling wine from Spain. It is most likely to find Cava production within Catalonia located in the northwestern part of Barcelona. Cava is made using the traditional process of secondary fermentation in the bottle to create its bubbles–similar to Champagne and Champagne in France as well as Franciacorta located in Italy. Cava is either rose or white and typically made up of Xarel-lo Macabeo and Parellada grapes. However, there are other varieties permitted to be included in the mix. Due to the long-term aging of the yeast that is discarded, the majority of Cavas are incredibly rich and compliments the apple-like crispness. Cavas are typically dry, but as similar to Champagne they will have a certain amount of sugar in the dosage is indicated on the label using such words such as Brut and Semi-Seco. If you’re looking to find a reasonably priced sparkling wine to celebrate a special celebration (or for a casual dinner), Cava can be an excellent option.
Spanish White Wines

Fresh and salty


Take advantage of freshly-salted and fresh Spanish white wines along with seafood.

Region: Basque, Rias Baixas.
Grape variety: Hondarribi Zuri, Albarino, Loureira, Treixadura.
Taste: Fresh, citrusy with hints of white flowers along with stone fruit.

In in the Northern Coast of Spain close to San Sebastian is Basque country. It is here that you can discover Txakoli (pronounced ChaLK-ohlee) A refreshing wine that is low in alcohol, and some spritzes made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape. Ameztoi along with Txomin Etxaniz are two producers which are readily available and many more have been imported to the US in recent times and you will be able find the perfect summer sipper wherever you are. The region makes a small portion of red wine made from the Hondarribi Beltza grape and also permits the production of rose. Txakoli rose is one of the greatest pleasures in our lives. It’s fun and fresh and tastes similar to salted watermelon.

In the west coast, in north Portugal The western coast, north of Portugal Rias Baixas. The main star of the region is Albarino and Loureira and Treixadura as the back dancers. True to its coastal ambiance there is the ocean’s brine to this wine. It is also awash with stone fruit and white flowers. Learn from the locals and sip the wine with seafood. A large bowl of steaming mussels perhaps?

Textured and Rich

Region: Valdeorras, Rueda, Rioja.
Variety of Grapes Godello, Verdejo, Viura mixed together with Garnacha Blanca or Chardonnay.
Taste: Cantaloupe, lemon with a refreshing minerality to Godello; Meyer lemon and almond for Verdejo Tannic full-bodied, full-bodied, and scented with crushed apple, curry and coconut to Rioja.

The small region of Valdeorras located situated just from Rias Baixas, makes several varieties of wine. Begin with the white wines that are based on Godello grapes. Godello grape. Godello is a blend of the flavors of lemon and cantaloupe with a refreshing minerality. They have enough body to sustain you through your meal, including a braised octopus starter to halibut that has been roasted.

The southeast region in Valdeorras is Rueda located in the Duero River in the Castilla y Leon region. There is a small amount of red wine is produced but the real treasures are white wines made of Verdejo. In the event that the wine contains predominantly Verdejo it will read “Rueda Verdejo in the label. In other cases, it may have an extensive amount that is Viura as well as Sauvignon Blanc mixed in with it. The wines are extremely flavorful, with aromas that remind of Meyer lemons and almonds.

Although it is also grown around Galicia also in Catalonia to be used for Cava (under under the Macabeo name), Viura is famously recognized as the white wine of Rioja. It is stored on its own and blended in with different varieties like Garnacha Blanca, or Chardonnay. Lopez de Heredia, one of the most renowned wineries in Spain produces an old Viura dubbed ‘Vina Gravonia It is truly an exceptional wine. They store it inside American oak barrels over the course of many years and it isn’t released on the shelves until almost 10 years after the grapes have been picked. It’s full-bodied, tannic and has a remarkably complex scent of bruised apples as well as curry and coconut. However, not all white Rioja is produced this way however. A lot of the Riojas you can see, especially those that are young are fresh, but full-bodied, with a waxy apple and pear flavours.

Spanish Red Wines

The cellars of Muga situated in Rioja. Bodegas Muga

If you’ve been exploring Spanish wine, then you’ve probably have had a glass one or two Tempranillo. Tempranillo is among the top widely planted of the red wine in Spain and appears under various names, such as Tinto Fino, Tinto de Toro, Cencibel, Ull de Llebre as well as Tinto del Pais. The two regions that are most well-known of Tempranillo is Rioja and Ribera del Duero.


Grape varietal: Tempranillo blended with Mazuelo, Graciano, Garnacha, and Maturana Tinta The Cabernet Sauvignon is a good addition in small amounts.
Taste: Ripe prune and dried prune, with some leathery notes and a sweet and sour sauce.

Rioja is located in the north-central region of Spain located on the Ebro River. The wines from Rioja are a wonderful mix of ripe fruits and earthy tastes. They are a part of the New World and one foot in the Old World. In Rioja the Tempranillo grapes can blend with Mazuelo Graciano, Garnacha, and Maturana Tinta. The law also provides the winemakers with a few options to include non-traditional grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon in small proportions. Classic wines combine dry prune and ripe plum flavors , with the scent of leather and sweet-and-sour sauce.

Rioja was above and above and beyond Spanish regulations and also added extra time in their age requirements. In many cases, winemakers permit their wines to remain in bottle for more than is allowed by Rioja. In the case of red wine, Crianzas have been aged for at the least for two years (including the one-year in barrels of oak.) The wines of Reserva are aged for for at minimum 3 years in total which includes one year in barrels. Gran Reservas spend at least two years in barrels before after that, three years in bottles prior to being sold.

It is possible to hear people call wines from Rioja traditional or’modern. What is the meaning of this? The traditional wines of Rioja are matured within American oak barrels. These add hints of coconut as well as Dill to the wine. Modern winemakers prefer to make use of French oak barrels that give a hint of cake spice and vanilla flavour. While some winemakers are in one direction or the other some use techniques that are in the middle. There may be wines that were stored in mixtures made of American as well as French oak barrels or in barrels made from both kinds of oak.

Do you want to taste some fantastic Rioja? Producers to look out for include Muga, Lopez de Heredia and CVNE.

Ribera del Duero

Grape variety: Tempranillo.

Taste the flavors of vanilla, cinnamon and clove.

Ribera duero another Spanish wine region that is known for high-end Tempranillo. Here the wines are typically 100% Tempranillo instead of being a blend. Similar to Rioja the majority of labels for wines of Ribera del Duero inform you of the length the wine was maturing by using the words Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva on the labels. The winemaker’s choice of oak can have a huge impact on the final product also. Although you’ll find a lot of American oak in the traditional Rioja bottlings, winemakers from Ribera del Duero tend to choose to use French oak, which means it’s more likely that you’ll taste vanilla as well as cinnamon and clove. In general, Ribera del Duero is more refined and luxurious as opposed to the earthy and rustic Rioja. I often think of Ribera of Duero as my black shiny pumps. Rioja is the most appropriate pair of leather loafers.

Tempranillo isn’t only a drink for Rioja as well as Ribera del Duero, however. It’s grown throughout the country and in regions like La Mancha and Valdepenas offer inexpensive versions that are slightly oaked and ready for drink immediately.


The steep vineyards of Priorat. Agricultura Generalitat de Catalunya

Grape variety A blend from Garnacha, Carinena with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and many others.

Taste: Earthy.

The wines of Priorat are incredibly strong and muscular. If you like sun-kissed, rich California wines, but are searching for a more earthy flavor it’s a wonderful area to explore. The majority grapevines of Priorat are so steep that they require terraces. It’s like turning hills into massive stairs with rows of vines on every step. The unique slate soil of Priorat, llicorella, appears like a broken chalkboard that is scattered around the hillsides. The rough terrain needs vines to dig deeply into the soil in search of the water as well as nutrients.

The majority of Priorat’s red wines are made by blending made up of Garnacha and Carinena along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and many others. Alvaro Palacios was a pioneer in the region, and even though prices for Priorat in general have increased in recent decades but Priorat’s “Camins in Priorat” bottling is one of the top value wines in the world.

If you’re looking for these wines but aren’t able to afford the cost, consider looking for wines from Montsant which has the appearance of a horseshoe around Priorat. The wines are full-bodied and flavored with rich black and red fruits dry tobacco, as well as earth.

More Values for Red Wine in Spain

If you’re looking to sample Spanish wine at a reasonable price it’s worth experimenting with a few other grapes that aren’t Tempranillo.

I’ve mentioned Garnacha numerous times. It’s an element of the mix of Priorat as well as in Rioja. It is also known by the name Grenache in France this is the third-most planted wine grape grown in Spain. Garnacha thrives in warmer climates, particularly in north-central Spain. It is commonly used to make rose, however it can also be used to make deliciously fresh, fruity wines for the weeknight such as Borsao’s “Tres Picos which is made from Campo de Borja.

Monastrell is the Spanish name of Southern France’s Mourvedre It is located in the southern part of Spain. It requires a lot of sunshine in order to mature and it certainly finds that warm sun on the Mediterranean coast close to Valencia. The wines are usually robust and full-bodied, with aromas of fresh red fruits, juicy pepper, and even meat.

The grape Mencia produces medium-to-full-bodied wines with the scent of anise, blackberry and a distinctive herbaceous aroma that frequently reminds my taste to Cabernet Franc. Although the grape is grown in Galicia and northern Spain, Bierzo is a great region to explore.