Spain is a wine lover's heaven, offering everything from Rioja and albariño to cava and sherry. You can find all the information you need about Spanish wine, including its fascinating history, significant regions, and well-known grapes, several FAQS that you may need, and our best picks here in our store in this comprehensive beginner's guide of ours! So read along to learn more.
Spain is a sizeable nation with a great deal of diversity. However, even a cursory look at its physical geography, especially its beautiful mountain chains, will help to understand the significant regional disparities brought about by many natural obstacles.
Spain's history is complex and challenging to understand, and it didn't even start to unite as a country until the late fourteenth century. The Romans (from the third century BC to the fourth or fifth century AD) and the Moors, its two leading foreign masters, built most of their infrastructure (from 711 till 1492).
Meanwhile, the world of Spanish wine is one you should discover if you haven't already. Spain, the world's third-largest producer of wine, has more territory devoted to wine production than any other nation. As a result, many distinctive Spanish wines are to be discovered, whether they are white, effervescent, fortified, or aromatised. Red wines may be the most well-known, but there are also many other types.
The richness of the wine culture in this nation is its best feature. Numerous wine-producing areas can be found here, and countless Spanish wine grape varieties can be found here. You'll never run out of Spanish wines to try or wineries to visit since each country has its distinctive types.
But to understand it further, let’s look at Spain’s wine history and how it has reached its present beautiful glory that we know today.
A Brief Glance at Spanish Wine History
Winemaking has a long history in the Iberian Peninsula. Although archaeologists have discovered grape cultivation artefacts from 4000–3000 BCE, the Phoenicians brought new winemaking techniques, came next, and then the Romans. Finally, Roman control saw a rise in wine production as wines from modern-day Andalusia and Tarragona were exported across the Roman empire.
The production of wine persisted even though there was less need during the subsequent Al-Andalus period, which started in the early 8th century. The export of Spanish wine to Europe and the Americas began. The phylloxera pandemic of the 17th and 18th centuries decimated French vines and led many wineries to turn to Spain as a replacement.
Due to the extensive upheaval that the Spanish Civil War and World War II generated, the 20th century was brutal for Spanish winemaking. However, as the global economy strengthened and wine exports rose in the second half of the century, the sector began to recover.
The Spanish wine industry grew and thrived when the Franco dictatorship ended in 1975. The nation made the transition to democracy, eventually gaining a reputation on a global scale.
Spain’s Wine and Grape Regions
Spain is known for its wide array of wines. There are 138 official wine designations, with 12 primary wine regions closely correlating to its 17 autonomous municipalities (as of 2020).
Thanks to the significant part of the numerous climates in which they are produced, the styles and qualities of these wines are tremendously varied. While the unique environment of western Andalusia offers ideal circumstances for producing sherry wines, the lush green scenery of northwest Spain is renowned for crisp white wines.
Although Spain has more than 600 varieties of grapes, the majority of wine is made from just 20. Airén (often used to manufacture brandy), tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell, Verdejo, and Pedro Ximénez are a few of the most popular varieties. In addition, various Spanish wine grapes are more prevalent in particular places, and many regions are well-known for distinct wine varieties.
Names and Classifications of Spanish Wine
Remember that the area, not the fruit, is typically the main focus of Spanish wine labels. For example, when you place a Rioja order, you request wine from the Rioja region (which is often made from tempranillo or Garnacha grapes).
But there are a few exceptions! First, although this is an apparent reference to the grape, no one will object if you order an albariño (most commonly associated with the Rias Baixas region).
Spanish wine areas are divided into various categorization levels under the DOP (denominación de origen protegida) system. DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada), the highest grade, is given to regions that continuously exceed stringent quality standards. Only Rioja and Priorat are DOCa regions at the moment.
Spain’s DO System
The primary definitions of Spain's DO (Denominación de Origen), its system for regulating wine quality, are listed below in descending order of quality:
Vino de Mesa
A fundamental table wine produced in unclassified vineyards, blendable, and lacking either vintage or specific grape type information.
Vino de la Tierra
Vino de la Tierra is the Spanish term for table wine. It is the counterpart of the French Vin de pays and is typically from a significant, autonomous region (such as Vino de la Tierra de Catalunya). It will indicate the vintage and provide information on the grape variety.
DO (Denominación de Origen)
DO (Denominación de Origen) refers to wines produced within the strict guidelines of particular Consejos Reguladores and is the equivalent of the French VDQS or AC and Italian DOC (regional regulating council).
DOCa (Deonominación de Origen Calificada)
DOCa (Deonominación de Origen Calificada) is referred to as before and primarily observed in Rioja, where it was first adopted several years ago to use it only for the very best producers. However, this led to so much resentment and hatred that almost all of Rioja is now DOCa.
Beyond that, Cava deserves special notice because it is the only DO found on winemaking technique rather than geography (basically, these are sparkling wines created using the traditional method).
The last two noteworthy categories are Vinos de Pago and Vinos de Pago Calificada, the most recent (pago is the Spanish term for vineyard). These pertain to single vineyard locations with an exceptional quality history and a distinctive microclimate.
As admirable as the system may seem, there is one significant drawback to the system's autonomy. There are more than 70 DOs. This is because DO status might be granted as a boost rather than as a reward for genuine efforts, advancement, and improvement.
Incredibly, the Canary Islands boast nine DOs, yet there are few wines of true quality and interest, save from a few lovely dry and dessert whites made from the malvasia grape. Likewise, Rioja is currently governed by no fewer than three autonomous governments: Navarra rules Baja, La Rioja governs Alta, and the Basques manage the Alavesa region.
Spanish Red Wines
Red wines from Spain are among the most famous wines in the world and for a good reason! They go well with substantial, fatty foods, a cuisine staple in central Spain, where many of the nation's best red wines are produced. Here are a few of the most popular vino Tinto varieties, organised by region.
The Priorat, one of Spain's two DOCa districts, is renowned for producing strong red wines from the Garnacha and Carina grapes. Low yields caused by its unusually dry environment and soil composition produce high-quality wines that rank among the most expensive in Spain. Although some of these Catalan wines might fetch thousands of euros, you can also buy perfectly acceptable ones for $20 to $50.
Ribera Del Duero
This red wine from Castilla y León in the north of Spain is most likely the second most well-known. Its location next to the Duero River gave rise to its name. Most red wine produced here is Tinto fino, a grape variety (the regional title for tempranillo). Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, and Garnacha are more varieties. Compared to Rioja wines, Ribera del Duero wines are often more robust.
Ribeira Sacra, which means "Sacred Shore" in Galician, makes sense, given that the Mio and Sil rivers dominate this area. Menca grapes, grown on tiny terraces, are primarily used to make the region's famed red wines. The wines produced by these challenging circumstances are among the best-kept secrets of Galician viniculture. It's also one of Spain's most excellent, least well-known wine regions.
Spain's wine is mainly linked with Rioja. One of only two regions to get the famous DOCa classification is the region of La Rioja, which is situated in northern Spain in the valley of the Ebro river. Its climate is perfect for the growth of graciano, mazuela, maturana, tempranillo, and garnacha grapes. The best Rioja wines frequently combine several of these grapes, but there are also many examples of single varietals.
Castilla y León's Toro wine area is situated on a windy, windswept plateau above the Duero River basin. Rich red wines with vivid colors are its specialty. Tinta de toro, a grape remarkably similar to tempranillo but not precisely the same, is used to make the majority of the wines in this region. They differ from other, more well-known wines from the adjacent areas because they frequently have a high alcohol concentration and are quite bitter.
Spanish White Wines
The red wines of Spain maybe its best recognisable varieties, but its white wines are as deserving of praise. They are made throughout the peninsula and exhibit various fruits, tastes, and winemaking processes. Although it's primarily used to make brandy, the airén grape is the most extensively grown variety in the nation. Here are some of the top white Spanish wines to sample.
Northwest Spain and Portugal are the two countries where Albariño grapes are produced. It is highly prevalent in Galicia's Rias Baixas region, where 96% of all planted grapes are there. The most well-known Spanish white wine outside of Spain is arguably this light, acidic, and slightly bitter beverage, which is even grown in some regions of the US Pacific coast.
Godello is a variety of grape cultivated in Galicia's lush, wet region, much like albariño. It is far more difficult to find, though, and is now making a comeback after nearly going extinct in the 1970s. Godello wines are frequently compared to chardonnay or white Burgundy since they are very alcoholic and dry if you want to try a more nuanced and unusual Spanish white wine.
Verdejo, a highly distinctive and recognizable wine, is produced in the Rueda region of Castilla y León. In this instance, the grape's name (verdejo) is frequently used in place of the location (Rueda). The full-bodied red wines in nearby regions contrast beautifully with the crisp, dry, and lemony verdejo. It is well-favored by many and is particularly good when served with grilled fish or seafood.
Without at least one glass of txakoli, which is pronounced "cha-ko-LEE," no trip to the Basque Country is complete. This delicate, tangy, softly effervescent white wine is a recognizable representation of the Basque wine tradition. It has been manufactured using Hondarribia Zuri grapes since the 15th century. It can originate from any of the three DO regions Getariako, Bizkaiko, or Arabako Txakolina, each of which creates a unique variation.
Verdejo, unique to Rueda, has earned its DO designation in the area. Despite some of them containing Sauvignon Blanc and Viura in the blend, Verdejo continues to be the wide grape variety in Rueda wines. The verdejo grape grows in small clusters and is picked at night to preserve its acidity. Usually, Verdejo wines are dry, light-bodied, and straw-colored. They smell strongly of lime and tropical fruit and taste of grapefruit and lemon.
Although Rioja wines are often red, many people are unaware that the region also makes fantastic white wines, known as Rioja Blanco. Viura grapes are typically used in their production, but malvasia, white Garnacha, and white tempranillo are also frequently used. White Rioja comes in two flavors—light and fresh or rich and nutty. The fuller-bodied versions are often matured for more than ten years.
When you think about sparkling wines, Spain isn't the first place that comes to mind. However, it should be! Sparkling wines from Spain soon become as popular as those from their French and Italian neighbors. So let's say you shouldn't toast a special occasion in this city with a bottle of Champagne or prosecco; instead, choose one of these regional substitutes.
The renowned sparkling wine of Spain is called cava. Cava is primarily produced in Catalonia to the northeast of Barcelona. Like Champagne in France and Franciacorta in Italy, Cava uses the conventional secondary fermentation process in the bottle to obtain its bubbles. Although a few different grape varieties are permitted in the blend, most cava is made from a combination of the grapes Xarel-lo, Macabéo, and Parellada. Cava can be white or rosé. Most Cavas have a richness that pairs well with the crisp apple flavors due to prolonged age with the wasted yeast. Cava’s are typically dry, but just like Champagne, the label will specify the quantity of sugar from the dosage with phrases like Brut or Semi-Seco. Cava might be a terrific option if you're searching for inexpensive sparkling wine for a special occasion (or weeknight supper).
This new DO was established in 2018 by nine independent cava producers. Exclusively produced in Penedès, the birthplace of cava, corpinnat must adhere to high-quality criteria. It must be created using at least 90% native grape types, completely organic, be hand-harvested, and matured for at least 18 months (among other requirements). The end product is an extremely rare, entirely local creation that epitomizes Catalan sparkling wine.
The popularity of Spain's fortified wines is something that every wine enthusiast should experience at least once! They have distinct flavours and are surprisingly diverse. Even if you are sure that you detest sherry or vermouth, their Spanish equivalents will likely pleasantly surprise you.
Pedro Ximénez has a low yield and is quite sensitive around the vineyards of Montilla-Moriles. The thin-skinned variety is dried in the sun traditionally, which causes the grapes to dry up and concentrate their sugar content to make up for its sweet, sticky, and dark flavor. The majority of the vineyard in Montilla-Moriles and Jerez de La Fronterra is planted with Pedro Ximénez. A considerable portion of the harvest is sold to businesses that create fortified wines in Jerez and Málaga.
Spanish Sherry Wines
Southern Spain and, more specifically, the "sherry triangle" villages of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Mara are identified with Spain's dry fortified wine.
White grapes are used to make Spanish sherry wines, fortified with grape brandy, and matured in a solera system that blends various vintages. The outcome can range from a crisp, light-colored fino or manzanilla to a darker and stronger amontillado, oloroso, or Palo cortado, based on the specifics of the fortification and aging process.
Spanish vermouth is a fortified, aromatic white wine that has been given a caramel, spice, and herbal infusion. Despite being prepared from white grapes, the most popular variety is Vermont Rojo, which typically has a dark reddish-brown tint. It is sweet, robust (about 15% alcohol), and best served straight up on ice; it is frequently topped with an orange slice or an olive.
Vermouth is typically served by the bottle at wine bars in Barcelona as opposed to Madrid, where vermouth on tap is the norm. In any case, it's a distinguishing feature of local establishments across the nation and a significant component of many Spaniards' Sunday traditions. Vermouth can be coupled with tapas or pintxos for an evening out, but it's typically consumed as an aperitif before a large afternoon dinner.
Additional Regional Varieties
Other than sherry and vermouth, different regions of Spain also produce fortified wines. Although mainly made from white grapes, they differ in terms of aging, production methods, and flavor profiles.
Some examples of sweet wines from Malaga include Pedro Ximénez from Montilla-Moriles and a range of other sweet wines, many of which are produced using regional Moscatel grapes. These are frequently used in Spanish dessert recipes as well as in the post-meal serving.
Valencia and Tarragona produce different local fortified wines, and Jerez and Penedès are common locations for the production of Spanish brandy. First, it's worth asking around to see if there is a locally-produced fortified wine you can drink no matter where you are in Spain.
The Best Spanish Wines at Kendrick’s Familia Imports
We have several Spanish Wines to offer here at Kendrick’s Familia Imports, and if you’d like to know which one is the best for you, then scroll along for further information.
Castelo de Medina Sauvignon Blanc 2020 from Valladolid in the Rueda DO is a delicate, fruity white wine with medium acidity and a satisfying aftertaste. With grilled fish, this Spanish white wine combines fantastically.
Region - Spain - Valladolid
Grape - Sauvignon Blanc
Alcohol - 13%
Size - 750ml
An experimental wine from Bodegas Mar de Frades, the Mar de Frades Albarino 2020 from Rias Baixas, Spain, was inspired by el mar (the sea) characteristics. Its flavors of melon and lemon burst forward to meet traces of salt, minerals, and smoke. This wine has a wonderful sense of balance and a lovely tongue-softening aftertaste.
Region - Spain - Rias Baixas
Grape - Albarino
Alcohol - 13%
Size - 750ml
The Red Vermouth Lacuesta Rojo is sweet ruby vermouth made in Spain's La Rioja region. This sweet red vermouth has cinnamon and dried Valenciano orange peel flavors. This beverage should be savored with an orange slice over soda and ice or in your preferred Manhattan. Macerating 30 different herbs and spices, make it with Spanish wine.
Region - Spain - La Rioja
Grape - Viura
Alcohol - 15%
Size - 750ml
Spanish Tempranillo wine from Castilla y Leon, San Roman Tinto de Toro 2018, a large and imposing Spanish red wine, is made from an ancient kind of Tempranillo grape that is heavier and richer than average. With a remarkable deep blue-violet hue, this "Vino Tinto" has a rich palate loaded with spicy wood flavors.
Region - Spain - Toro Region,
Grape - Tinto de Toro,
Alcohol - 13%
Size - 750ml
Aging: French and American Oak, 25% new.
Frequently Asked Questions about Spanish Wine
Are Spanish Wines Often Sweet?
There are several sweet Spanish wines, including various cava varieties, Pedro Ximénez sherry, and Moscatel wines. But Spain produces a wide variety of wines, from super-dry sherries to sweet dessert wines.
Does Spanish Wine Contain Sulfites?
Yes, sulfites are present in all wines. Some winemakers add extra sulfites to prevent spoilage. Wines with the "organic" label typically have lower sulfite levels. Numerous premium Spanish wines are organic or contain moderate quantities of sulfites.
How Much is a Glass of Spanish Wine?
Depending on where in Spain you are and the type of bar you're in, the cost of wine differs significantly. An average glass shouldn't generally cost more than 3–5 euros. In other locations, you can purchase a nice one for much less. Of course, luxury bars and eateries may bill much higher prices. Though some of the best Spanish wines are also reasonably priced, don't be tricked into thinking that the more costly something is, the better it will be!
What Are Dry Spanish Wines?
Albariño and Verdejo white wines and other red wines created from the Tempranillo vine are known for being quite dry—Cava, in its Brut Nature, Extra Brut, and Brut varieties. But manzanilla, a remarkably crisp Jerez that lies at the milder end of the sherry continuum, is perhaps the driest Spanish wine.
What Makes Spanish Wine Unique?
Because of its incredible variety, high standards, and reasonable prices, Spanish wine is exceptional. Spain has been making wine for thousands of years, despite its recent prominence in the wine industry. This means countless opportunities for wine enthusiasts to learn about new fruits, winemaking processes, and regional delicacies. Fortunately, Spanish wines are now widely available worldwide, allowing anybody to enjoy them.
Which Spanish Wine is Best for Sangria?
Any excellent wine can suffice, but a dry wine made from tempranillo or Garnacha grapes is a suitable choice for traditional red sangria. Use a bottle that isn't too pricey but isn't too cheap. Use a wine that you would be content to sip on its own, with a flavor that won't dominate the other ingredients.
Which Spanish Wine is Similar to Pinot Noir?
Mensa is a delicate grape that yields crisp, fruity red wines, earning it the nickname "Pinot Noir of Spain." Another choice is the widely cultivated Garnacha, renowned for its delicious flavor and pale hue.
Why is Spanish Wine So Cheap?
Spanish wine has an excellent price-quality ratio for a few reasons. First, it has a less established reputation due to its recent arrival in the international wine market, which translates into lower prices. Second, it has the ideal soil and climate for producing large quantities of crowd-pleasing wines. Thirdly, Spanish wine culture promotes creativity rather than sticking to time-honoured (and expensive) traditions.
As the years go by, along with the continuous production of wine, Spain prevails to prove that she is a force to be reckoned with, together with its many variations of wine. And if you’re looking for the right one, look no further because here at Kendrick’s Familia Import, we provide Spanish and Portuguese imports, and we guarantee that you’ll have several liquors to choose from!