Grapes have been planted in the Spanish Iberian Peninsula since before the third millennium B.C., making Spain a country with a long and illustrious tradition in viticulture. Beginning in 1000 B.C., Phoenician merchants from the eastern Mediterranean introduced the art of winemaking to the area. At now, there are more vines in this country than anywhere else on Earth, and its annual wine production is third in the world, behind France and Italy.
Wine is produced in all 17 of Spain’s administrative districts, even the Canary Islands and the Balearics. Castilla-La Mancha is home to more vines than any other region, while Galicia (Ras Baixas), Catalonia (Cava and Priorat), Andalucia (Sherry), Castilla y Leon (Rueda, Toro, and Ribera del Duero), and Rioja also produce world-class wines.
In Spain, there are over 130 official wine denominations, and their locations range from the temperate northwest coast to the hot and arid plateau in the centre of the country known as the Meseta. There are six distinct geographical regions that categorise larger areas according to the climate and grape varieties grown there.
Spain may be found in the southwestern part of Europe, and it shares its borders with the North Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Biscay, and the Pyrenees Mountains with the southwest corner of France. It has a total landmass of 505,370 square kilometres and 4,964 kilometres of coastline.
The climate of Spain differs from region to region, which has an effect on the varieties of wine that are made in the country. Warmer and dryer locations further inland tend to produce red wines with a medium body and a focus on fruit, such as Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Bierzo. The chilly vineyards in the extreme north and northwest of Spain produce wines that are light and crisp. The summers are scorchingly hot and arid, with an average daily temperature that ranges from 22 to 27 degrees Celsius close to the water to 29 to 31 degrees Celsius further inland.
The geology of Spain impacts its wine-growing regions in many ways. Because of its location between mountain ranges, the wine region of Rias Baixas in Galicia, for example, has a cold Atlantic climate and Albarino-based whites. Limestone soils are also found in several wine districts around Spain, including Jerez.
Rioja is famous for its berry-scented, barrel-aged red wines made from Tempranillo and Garnacha. Rioja’s vineyards are located along the Ebro River and enjoy an Atlantic, Mediterranean, and continental climate. Rioja Alavesa is a Rioja sub-region located north of the River Ebro, bordering the La Rioja region and the Alava province within the Basque Country.
Ribera del Duero in Castilla y Leon is famed for its red wines and zesty whites. The region is still one of Spain’s most well-known wine regions. Tempranillo, which contains plum, tobacco, and leather smells, is typically found in Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines.
Spain has fewer wine grape types than European competitors. Since the Spanish wine business only recently started varietal-led winemaking and marketing, they also receive less attention. Spanish vineyards use hundreds of varieties, but only a few make wine.
Tempranillo, Bobal, Garnacha, and Monastrell dominate red wine acreage. Most popular white wines include Airen, Viura/Macabeo, Palomino, and Albario.
Tempranillo, also called as Cencibel, Tinta del Pais, Tinto Fino, and Ull de Llebre, is plentiful and high-quality. It makes up 20% of Spain’s vineyards and is important in its best wines (most obviously Rioja, Toro and Ribera del Duero).
Despite being less popular than Tempranillo, Bobal makes up 7% of the national vineyard acreage. Eastern Spain, particularly Valencia, Manchuela, and Utiel-Requena, grows it.
Garnacha is known for its high alcohol content and juicy, fruity flavour. It is utilised in the vividly coloured Navarra rosés, but it may be better with the more structured, darker-flavored Tempranillo.
Phoenicians brought monastrell to eastern Spain around 500BC. It is regaining ground after Garnacha, the second most planted red. Alicante, Yecla, and Jumilla produce wine. Dark, berry-forward wines are typical.
Airen, a lesser-known kind, is the most planted. Producers like this drought-resistant, high-yielding white wine, although its grapes usually go into brandy and blends.
Both still wines and effervescent Cava use Macabeo (Viura in Rioja). Palomino is mostly used in Sherry but infrequently in varietal table wines. Rias Baixas, Albarino’s most famous wine style, has made it famous.
Winemaking Styles of Spain
Spain is well-known for its different wine-growing regions and the broad variety of wine styles produced. Red wine varieties planted in Spanish vineyards include Tempranillo, Bobal, Garnacha, and Monastrell, while white wine varieties include Airen, Viura/Macabeo, Palomino, and Albarino. Riojas, both red and white, as well as Phoenician-style wines developed in Catalonia hundreds of years before the Roman Republic invaded Iberia, are iconic wine styles from Spain.
Merenzao, also called as Bastardo or Trousseau in northwest Spain, can be utilised to generate light red wines with a delicious and fragrant flavour. Priorat wines are made from the indigenous Garnacha and Carinea grapes, with some Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah from France, and have rich and intense flavours of black fruit and berries, as well as salty, spicy, mineral, and herbal aspects.
Garnacha is commonly used to make rosé, but it can also be used to make rich, cherry-fruited evening wines like Campo de Borja’s Borsaos Tres Picos, and it flourishes in warm regions, particularly in north-central Spain. Monastrell, the Spanish name for Mourvèdre from Southern France, is grown throughout southern Spain.
Airén wines are crisp whites, Albario wines are amber, and the La Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Bierzo regions offer fruity reds. Spain’s climate varies greatly, from hot days and chilly nights in Central Spain to significantly wetter and cooler northwestern Spain and high altitude grape farming near the Mediterranean Sea in northeastern Spain.
Cava is Spain’s most famous sparkling wine style, made from the traditional grape varietals Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo, however Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are also used in Champagne, are now being utilised.
Some Famous Spainish Wines You Must Try
2013 Alvaro Palacios L’Ermita Velles Vinyes, Priorat DOCa, Spain
Alvaro Palacios LErmita Velles Vinyes is a high-quality, prestigious red wine from the Priorat wine region in northeastern Spain. It is primarily made from Grenache (Garnacha) grapes. It has received high scores from wine critics and enthusiasts, with ratings of 94 to 97 points out of 100. The vintage of 2013 was rated 100 points when released. This wine is not suitable for aging and is described as having complex flavors.
2004 Dominio de Pingus ‘Pingus’, Ribera del Duero, Spain
The 2004 Dominio de Pingus Pingus wine is a red wine from Castilla y Leon, Spain’s Ribera del Duero region. Winemaker Peter Sisseck created it. This wine has received 95 points from critics and 4.5 ratings from users. The wine is composed entirely of Tempranillo from very old vineyards planted naturally. According to one assessment, the wine has considerable acidity, with some red fruit and charred wood showing after 75 minutes.
2018 Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva, Ribera del Duero, Spain
Vega Sicilia Unico is a red wine produced in the Spanish province of Ribera del Duero. It is crafted from a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec grapes. Before being released for sale, the wine is matured for a number of years to develop its well-known flavour and high quality. The wine has gotten outstanding scores from wine critics, with the 2011 vintage obtaining a score of 95 from Wine Spectator. It has been described as having abundant cherry and fig flavours, as well as faint tobacco aromas on the nose, and a substantial body. Some individuals think the price of $800 to be excessive. The Gran Reserva was matured in American and French oak for 24 months, followed by 36 months in bottle. The major red grape in the Ribera del Duero region is Tempranillo, often known as Tinto Fino, which is frequently mixed with minor amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Merlot.
The 2011 La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904
The 2011 La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904 is a red wine produced in the Northern Spain’s Rioja wine region. The wine has got an average score of 91.9 points from 159 community wine reviews and a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars from consumers on wine-searcher.com. Critics have given the wine 93 points. The wine is produced of 89% Tempranillo and 11% Graciano grapes with an alcohol concentration of 14.5%. It has a rich aroma with a combination of blackberry, raspberry, oak, vanilla, and spicy flavours.