As I inquired about my mom what type of Spanish wine she liked she screamed enthusiastically, “sangria!” It’s true, Spain has much more to offer in the way of wine other than the delicious pitcher drink. There are so many amazing bargains in Spanish wine. Delicious (and inexpensive!) bottles to enjoy any night on the calendar. However, you’ll be rewarded if you choose to invest a bit more time and discover the traditional wines from Spain. If you tend to drink wines that come from the New World–for instance, South America, California, or Australia, Spanish wines are an excellent introduction for those who are looking to move into wines from the Old World.
The prospect of a new section in the local wine shop can be a daunting experience. We’ll help you discover the major Spanish regions of wine and grapes, so that you can be confident in choosing a few wines to taste.
What you’ll see on the Bottle
One thing that is what makes Spanish wine unique is the fact that numerous Spanish wineries age their wines for you, both in oak barrels, as well as in bottles. This gives you a chance to sample wines which have aged until they’re at their best without having to invest in storage space in your home. When you examine an Spanish wine and you see the names Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, they’re telling you how long ageing process was: Gran Reservas have been cellared longest, and bottles with Joven on the label did not spend more time in the winery.
Since Spain has joined The European Union, the wine labeling system is quite like that from France as well as Italy. The type you’ll typically see in your local grocery store is called the Denominacion of Origen (DO) that is equivalent to an Appellation of Origin Controlee (AOC) in France. Each DO (for instance, Ribera del Duero or Rias Baixas) has specific rules regarding the wines, including what grape varieties can be planted. If, for any reason, you are unable to locate an DO label on your bottle and it is possible that the “logo” that the DO has should appear displayed on the back of the bottle or on the cap over the cork.
The highest point on 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 classification, known as DO Pago, which is only for single estates.
What is the history of wine in Spain?
If you’re looking through the bottles that contain Spanish wine, expect to typically find the main grape prominently displayed on the bottle’s label or located on the back. One thing you’ll notice is that due to regional differences in language, some regions or grapes may appear just a bit different. Garnacha in Catalonia is an example. appears as Garnatxa.
Weather Influences the Wine
Because Spain is part of a peninsula the climate can vary greatly between regions. The majority of central Spain shimmers in the summer sun, and is extremely cold in winter. In the northern part of Spain known as Galicia cool ocean breezes and many rivers contribute to the name “Green Spain.” To the south, harsh desert and violent winds may prove to be too much for many grapes. In the Mediterranean towards the west provides cool breezes and warm temperatures and the Pyrenees along their border to France stop rain clouds from moving into the north-central part of the region.
Are you ready to get drinking?
Style White or sparkling.
The grape variety is a mix of Xarel-loand Macabeo and Parellada and many more.
Taste: Rich, crisp apple flavors.
Cava is the most well-known sparkling wine from Spain. The majority of Cava manufacturing in Catalonia in northeastern Barcelona. Cava is made using the traditional method of second fermentation inside the bottle to produce its bubbles–similar to Champagne and Champagne in France as well as Franciacorta located in Italy. Cava is white or rose , and typically made up of Xarel-lo Macabeo and Parellada grapes. However, some other varieties are permitted in the mix. Due to the long-term aging of the yeast that has been used up, many Cavas are incredibly rich and compliments the apple-like crispness. Cavas are typically dry, however, as the case with Champagne they will have a certain quantity of sugar contained in the dosage is listed on the label using such words like Brut and Semi-Seco. If you’re looking for a low-cost sparkling wine for a particular celebration (or for a casual dinner), Cava can be an ideal option.
Spanish White Wines
Fresh and salty
Get the fresh, salty Spanish white wines along with seafood.
Region: Basque, Rias Baixas.
Grape variety: Hondarribi Zuri, Albarino, Loureira, Treixadura.
Taste: Crisp, salty with hints of white flowers as well as stone fruits.
In on the Northern coastline of Spain close to San Sebastian is Basque country. Here you will discover Txakoli (pronounced ChaLK-ohlee) which is a refreshing wine with low alcohol levels and some spritzes made from the Hondarribi Zuri grape. Ameztoi along with Txomin Etxaniz are two producers that are easily accessible however, many others have been imported to the US in recent times and you will be able find this refreshing summer drink wherever you are. The region makes a small portion of red wine made from the Hondarribi Beltza grape that allows the production of rose. Txakoli rose is one of the most enjoyable things in the world. It’s fun and fresh and tastes similar to salted watermelon.
In the west coast, to the north of Portugal The western coast, north of Portugal Rias Baixas. The star of the area is Albarino which is accompanied by Loureira and Treixadura as backup dancers. In keeping with its coastal character it has the ocean’s brine to this wine. It includes hints of stone fruit and white flowers. Follow the locals and sip drinking this wine with seafood. A large bowl of steaming mussels perhaps?
Textured and rich
Region: Valdeorras, Rueda, Rioja.
Variety of Grapes Godello, Verdejo, Viura mixed along with Garnacha Blanca or Chardonnay.
Taste: Lemon, Cantaloupe with a refreshing minerality to Godello; Meyer lemon and almond for Verdejo and tannic full-bodied, full-bodied, and scented with curried apple, bruised apple and coconut to Rioja.
The small region of Valdeorras located only a couple of hours from Rias Baixas, makes several types of wines. The first is the white wine made from Godello grapes. Godello grape. Godello blends the flavors of lemon and cantaloupe with a refreshing minerality. The wines are supple enough to help you get through your meal, starting with a braised octopus appetizer to halibut that has been roasted.
The Southeast region from Valdeorras is Rueda that is located in the Duero River in the Castilla y Leon region. There are a few red wine is produced however the most valuable jewels are white wine made of Verdejo. When the wines are predominantly Verdejo it will read “Rueda Verdejo at the bottom of the bottle. In other cases, it may have an extensive amount from Viura as well as Sauvignon Blanc mixed in with it. The wines are incredibly fragrant, with a scent that is reminiscent of Meyer lemons and almonds.
Although it is also grown around Galicia as well as in Catalonia to be used to make Cava (under under the Macabeo name), Viura is famously called the white grape of Rioja. It is available to be bottle on its own, as well as blended into other varieties including Garnacha Blanca, or Chardonnay. Lopez de Heredia, one of the top wineries in Spain is a producer of an older Viura, dubbed ‘Vina Gradonia which is truly unique in its own class. They store it inside American oak barrels to age for many years before it’s released to the shelves until 10 years after the grapes are picked. It’s tannic and full-bodied and has an amazing flavor of bruised apple curry, coconut, and. It’s not the only white Rioja is produced in this manner however. The majority you’ll see, especially those that are young will be crisp but full-bodied, with a waxy fruit and pear aromas.
Spanish Red Wines
The cellars of Muga located in Rioja. Bodegas Muga
If you’ve been exploring Spanish wines, you’ve probably have had a glass at least Tempranillo. Tempranillo is among the top widely planted of the red wine in Spain and is available under various names, like Tinto Fino, Tinto de Toro, Cencibel, Ull de Llebre along with Tinto del Pais. The two regions most well-known that produce Tempranillo include Rioja and Ribera del Duero.
Grape varieties: Tempranillo blended with Mazuelo, Graciano, Garnacha, and Maturana Tinta The Cabernet Sauvignon may be added in small amounts.
Taste: Ripe plums and dried prune, with notes of leather and sweet-and-sour sauce.
Rioja is located in the north-central region of Spain located on the Ebro River. The wines from Rioja are an excellent combination of juicy fruit and earthy flavours. They are a part of the New World and one foot in the Old World. In Rioja the Tempranillo grapes can mix with Mazuelo Graciano, Garnacha, and Maturana Tinta. This law also allows some room for winemakers to incorporate 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 went over and above Spanish law and demanded additional time for their minimal age requirements. In many cases, winemakers permit their wines to be aged for longer than what is allowed by Rioja. In the case of red wine, Crianzas have been aged for at minimum two years in total (including the one-year in barrels of oak.) Wines from Reserva are aged for at minimum three years with one year of which in barrels. Gran Reservas spend at least two years in barrels before the remaining three years are spent in bottles prior to being sold.
There are some who call wines from Rioja traditional or’modern. What is the meaning of this? Traditional wines from Rioja are stored inside American oak barrels. These give hints of coconut and dill into the wine. Modern winemakers prefer to utilize French oak barrels that give a hint of sweetness and vanilla flavour. While some winemakers fall either in one or the other however, many make use of methods that are in the middle. There are wines that were stored in mixtures made of American and French oak barrels or in barrels constructed from both kinds of oak.
Are you looking to sample some delicious Rioja? The producers to consider are 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 premium Tempranillo. In this region it is the case that the wines are exclusively Tempranillo and not blended. Similar to Rioja many 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 use of oak by the winemaker can have a huge impact on the final product as well. While you’ll typically find American oak in the traditional Rioja bottlings, winemakers from Ribera del Duero tend to prefer to use more 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 polished black pumps. Rioja is the most appropriate pair of leather loafers.
Tempranillo isn’t only a drink for Rioja or Ribera del Duero. It’s grown all over the country, and even regions like La Mancha and Valdepenas offer inexpensive versions that are light-oaked and ready to drink immediately.
The steep vineyards of Priorat. Agricultura Generalitat de Catalunya
Grape variety Blend with Garnacha as well as Carinena with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and more.
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 This is an excellent area to explore. The majority grapevines of Priorat are steep enough to require terraces. It’s like turning this hill into massive stairs with rows of vines at every step. Priorat’s distinctive slate soil, called llicorella, looks like a broken chalkboard that is scattered around the hillsides. The rough terrain needs vines to dig deeply into the earth to find liquid water, as well as nutrients.
Most red wines from Priorat are made up of a blend made up of Garnacha and Carinena along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and many others. Alvaro Palacios was a pioneer in this area and, while the prices of Priorat in general have increased throughout the decades however, Priorat’s “Camins of Priorat” bottling is one of the most affordable in the world.
If you’re looking for wine like this but aren’t able to afford the mark, you can try searching 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 interested in trying Spanish wines on a budget It’s worthwhile to get acquainted with some other wines that go beyond Tempranillo.
I’ve mentioned Garnacha quite several times. It is an element of the mix of Priorat as well as in Rioja. Also known by the name Grenache in France this is the third most-planted variety of grapes in Spain. Garnacha thrives in warm climates, specifically in northern central Spain. It is commonly used for making roses, but can also be used to make deliciously fruity, ripe wines for a weeknight like Borsao’s ‘Tres Picos which is which comes from Campo de Borja.
Monastrell is the Spanish name of Southern France’s Mourvedre is found throughout the southern part of Spain. It requires a lot of sunshine to develop 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 notes of anise, blackberry and a distinct herbaceous aroma that frequently reminds my taste to Cabernet Franc. Although the Mencia grape is grown across Galicia and northern Spain, Bierzo is a excellent region to look for.