The third largest wine producer in the world after Italy and France, and the world's largest producer in terms of area planted with vines, Spain is an old-world wine region where winemaking has always been part of local culture. With a wide variety of styles, in reds, whites, rosés and sparkling wines, Spanish wines today are among the most competitive, offering a remarkable quality-price ratio.
Spanish wines come from various wine regions, extending from north to south and from east to west, each one marked by its own specific characteristics. Castilla la Mancha is the largest wine region in the world in terms of production area, with a total planted area of 200,000 hectares.
In the north, the Rioja region is renowned for the quality of its red wines made from Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache). Navarra, a neighboring province, has built its reputation on its Garnacha-based rosé wines, as well as its red wines that include Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the blend. Galicia stands out for its dry white wines, very aromatic and fresh, made from Albariño, a grape of Portuguese origin. These wines have enjoyed great success internationally, thanks in part to the DO Rias Baixas.
In the center, in the heart of the Castille-y-Leon province, the prestigious and robust wines of the Ribera del Duero continue to stand out among the most famous wines in the world, especially prestigious estates like the bodega Vega Sicilia.
Located in the province of Catalonia, the prestigious DOQ Priorat (Denominacion de Origen Qualificada) is considered a shining star on the international scene. A challenging wine region with very low yields, Priorat is renowned for its red wines, which offer a warm bouquet and incomparable texture. These wines are made from Garnacha (Grenache) and Carignan varieties. Catalonia is also home to the DO Penedes appellation.
Whether you are seeking a refreshing white to sip with seafood in the summertime, a classic red with enough tannins and body to age for decades in your cellar, or something totally new from a grape variety you have never tried before, Spain has something for every wine lover. The Iberian Peninsula is home to a fascinating landscape forged by magnificent mountain ranges and verdant river valleys, where the coastal influences of the Mediterranean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean converge with the continental conditions of a sunbaked central plateau.
While archeologists trace the history of grape vine cultivation in Spain back to sometime between 4,000 to 3,000 BC, wine-growing really began here with the arrival of the Phoenicians around 1,100 BC. The Carthaginians followed, introducing new viticultural techniques, including those of agronomist Mago. Between the 220 BC and 19 BC, the Romans conquered the Iberian Peninsula, naming their new province Hispania. Under Roman rule, wine was produced mostly in Terraconensis (Tarragona) and Baetica (Andalucia), and exported to Gaul, as evidenced by remnants of amphorae found in former Roman settlements across France. The quality of the wines varied.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, some Spanish wines (including Rioja and Sherry) were gaining in popularity, although they were for the most part still outshined by the French wine industry, which had been quick to adapt the technological developments of the Industrial Age. Nevertheless, the arrival of the phylloxera vine epidemic to France in the second half of the 19th century and the devastation of the French vineyards that ensued led to a shortage of French wine and a demand on the market.
Generally speaking, the cool climates in the north and northwest of Spain tend to result in light-bodied, crisp white wines, while the warmer and drier inland areas produce fruit-forward red wines. Mediterranean influence translates into powerful, full-bodied red wines, with the exception of regions that are situated at higher altitudes, where higher diurnals result in wines with a crisp natural acidity. With such a wide range of terroirs and microterroirs, it is no wonder that Spain is home to such a wide range of grape varieties.
Garnacha (or Garnatxa in Catalan or Grenache in French) produces fruit-forward and juicy wines with a high degree of alcohol. This is thin-skinned, late-ripening red variety, often blended with Tempranillo (in Rioja) or with Carignan (as in the prestigious wines of Priorat). Single-varietal Garnacha wines reveal delicious raspberry flavors, as well as hints of spice.
Monastrell (known as Mourvedre in France) is a thick-skinned grape that thrives in hot, dry climates and produces intensely hued wines with tons of mouth-drying tannin. Other important red grape varieties grown in Spain include fruity and floral Mencia and Prieto Picudo from Castilla y Leon and international varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot.
The most planted white grape in Spain is high-yielding and drought-resistant Airen, usually used as a work-horse in blends. The versatile Macabeo (Viura) grape takes on different styles depending on where it is grown, at times producing fresh and floral wines, at other times heavier, honeyed styles. This is the main white wine of Rioja, and is grown all over Catalonia, including in Cava where it is blended with Parellada and Xarello in sparkling wines.
Palomino hails from Andalucia, where it is the main grape variety used in the production of Sherry. This white grape is characterized by a relatively low natural acidity and low potential alcohol, neutral in flavor. The solera system is used to make Sherry in a wide range of styles using the oxidative method.
However, these regions can also be categorized into 7 main areas based on climate. In northwest Spain, the region of Galicia is home to five DO regions: Rias Baixas, Monterrei, Valdeorras, Ribeiro and Ribeira Sacra. Here, the landscape is home to mountains and very green valleys, where some vineyards experience a cooling maritime influence, as well as plenty of precipitation year-round. The major styles produced here are zesty, mineral white wines from Albarino and Godello, as well as elegant red wines with red fruit aromas made with Mencia. The Bierzo appellation (officially part of Castile and Leon) is especially well known for lively, fruity and mineral Mencia.
The Duero and Ebro Rivers flowing through Spain create unique microterroirs ideal for wine production. On the banks and in the valleys of these rivers, several grape varieties are planted, including Viura, Verdejo, Tempranillo, Garnacha and Carignan. The best known Spanish appellation is DOCa/DOQ Rioja, situated along the Ebro River and made up of three sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental. Most Rioja wine is made with Tempranillo and Garnacha, although Mazuelo and Graciano are also used. These wines are known around the world for their power, structure and remarkable potential for age.
Stretching along the Duero River in Castilla y Leon, Ribera del Duero is another famous appellation, producing mostly red wines from Tempranillo. Near Ribera del Duero, the Rueda appellation produces mostly lighter-bodied white wines from the Verdejo grape. Also nearby, the appellation of Toro produces red wines from 100% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) in many styles, ranging from young wines to Gran Reserva.
The southern Mediterranean region of Spain includes appellations like Utiel-Requena, Yecla, Jumilla and Bullas, producing fruit-forward wines from Monastrell, Bobal and Bordeaux red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. The red wines of Jumilla are especially representative of this area, offering a profile of lively fruit, along with earthy and mineral notes, evolving into ripe fruit and coffee with age.
Finally, the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands produce wines from grapes like Palomino, Callet and Listan Negro. The wines of the Canary Islands are particularly known for their rustic character, which comes from the volcanic nature of the vineyard soil.
And finally, the Sherry region also makes a range of Sweet Spanish wine, such as dessert wines Cream Sherry and Pedro Ximenez. These pair beautifully with blue cheeses, spicy Asian cuisines and desserts like dark chocolate brownies.
There are countless Spanish wine types produced from a massive range of indigenous Spanish wine grapes as well as international varieties, and all are worth exploring! In Spain, people tend to drink the wines from the region they live in. However, Rioja remains widely popular, as does Sherry. The reds of Ribera del Duero also have widespread appeal.
There are many delicious examples of sweet Spanish wine, but dry wines from Spain are by far the most popular and widely consumed. Most Spanish red wine is dry, as is most Spanish white wine. But as a rule, Spanish dry wine is any wine produced in Spain whose sugars have entirely or almost entirely been converted into alcohol through the process of fermentation. The most famous examples of dry Spanish wine include Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Toro, among others.
There are too many popular brands of Spanish wine to count fully. However, some of the most beloved include Rondel Cava, Borrasca Cava, Magic Box Red Blend, San Gregorio, Blue, and the wines of CVNE / Cune. Your best bet is to visit your local Total Wine and ask one of our highly knowledgeable associates for advice. 59ce067264