Types of Spanish Wine: A Beginner's Guide to Flavors and Regions
Learn which Spanish wine varietals to try, and start savoring.
Spain is well known for its passion for food and wine. When you think of Spain, images come to mind of sun-drenched countryside (perhaps grape vines) and family homes, where traditional meals and excellent wine abound. You might also think of a social scene in Spain, where tapas bars serve plump olives, salty Serrano ham, and almost more wine than you can drink.
While these hallmarks of Spanish culture (including many more, varying by region) go hand-in-hand with the wine that’s produced, Spanish wine is an art that is worth studying in its own right. And by “studying,” I mean “tasting,” so you’ll find that your research is pretty easy to manage.
There is a lot to learn about Spanish wine, from its history to Spanish wine varietals to how it pairs with food. You can spend a lifetime “studying” Spanish wine, but fortunately it only takes a few minutes to begin your discovery. Types of Spanish Wine: A Beginner’s Guide to Flavors and Regions will help you begin enjoying wines from this acclaimed region.
Learn Spanish Wine Regions
One of the best ways to learn about Spanish wine is to look at a map.
Visualizing Spanish wine regions can help you remember the different types of wine that you might want to try. Here are some regions to know. They produce some of the most popular types of Spanish wine.
Rías Baixas (pronounced Ree-ahs Bye-shus)
This region is known for producing Albariño, a bright, crisp, and mineral-flavored white wine. If you love complex, refreshing white wine, you’ll love this region.
Duero River Valley
This large region encompasses several smaller Spanish wine regions. The most popular Spanish wine grape, Tempranillo, is grown in Toro (the wine is called Tinto de Toro, or “red from Toro”) and Ribera del Duero. In Rueda, a white wine called Verdejo is popular for its dry, zesty flavor.
Have you heard of this one? Rioja is one of the most famous Spanish wine regions, and it mainly produces Tempranillo, Spain’s most famous red wine grape. You might see wines labelled Rioja, Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva, in ascending order of quality. The labels indicate how long the red wine was aged, thereby indicating its quality (and usually price).
Ready for a toast? Cava is Spain’s sparkling wine, and about 95% of it is made in Penedès, an area in Catalunya (Catalonia). Cava is fantastic on its own or paired with seafood. It is also perfect for topping off a batch of sangria.
Sherry (Jerez in Spanish) is a region in southern Spain that produces the dry fortified wine, Sherry. This tawny-colored wine isn’t the sweet cooking wine you’re used to. Most Sherry wines from Spain (try varieties like Fino, Amontillado, or Oloroso) are dry (not sweet), toasty, and full of flavor. Just keep your serving size smaller than your regular glass of wine, since it is fortified (i.e. mixed with a spirit, making it more alcoholic).
Learn Spanish Wine Varietals
As you may have noticed (or been wondering), a lot of Spanish wine is labelled according to where it was produced. Unlike in the United States, the name of the grape (Chardonnay, Merlot, etc.) may not even appear on the wine label.
So, you can shop for Spanish wine by knowing about Spanish wine regions. But to know what your wine will taste like, it’s good to know more about the grapes. These are some popular Spanish wine varietals.
You’ve probably heard of this Spanish red wine grape. It’s the primary grape in Rioja (Crianza, Reserva, etc.) wine, Tinto de Toro, and Ribera del Duero. Tempranillo is a medium-bodied, moderately acidic wine. It has moderate tannins and savory and fruity flavors. Looking for a great wine for paella? Tempranillo is delicious with this classic Spanish dish, as well as almost any other food.
This is another popular Spanish grape, sometimes known by its French name, Grenache. Garnacha is a light and fruity red wine that’s easy to enjoy. Garnacha is a great Spanish red wine for making sangria. It’s also a nice wine pairing for paella.
It’s hard to be unhappy when you have a glass of Txakoli (pronounced CHOCK-oh-lee) in your hand. While not a grape varietal (it's typically made with Hondarrabi Zuri grapes), Txakoli is a name you'll want to recognize on a wine label. This light, crisp, and slightly fizzy white wine has flavors of minerals and citrus. It is a home run with fresh seafood.
Another grape that’s called something else in France (Mourvèdre), Monastrell produces a dark and full-bodied red wine, with dark fruit and savory flavors. Decant this red, because its strong (sometimes gamey) flavors need some air before being enjoyed.
Just hearing “Tuscany” conjures images of sunlit vineyards, historic family homes, and outdoor tables where the food abounds and the wine flows. Learn more about this historic wine region. A Beginner's Guide to Italian Wine
Try Spanish Red Wines
The best way to discover different types of Spanish wine is to try some!
If you don't know where to start, Spanish wine enthusiast Anatoli Levine from Talk-A-Vino has some fantastic recommendations:
"For the best introduction into Rioja, start with the wines of Viña Real - White, Rosé and a whole range of reds, from Rioja Crianza to Gran Reserva - these are some of the best QPR wines you can get from Spain.
Second Spanish classic varietal is Garnacha (a.k.a Grenache) - Bodegas Borsao is your best bet to get familiar with a Spanish star grape without breaking the bank."
There you have it! You can start browsing those Spanish wine brands below, plus we have a few more suggestions. Whether you are new to Spanish wine, or love your go-to Tempranillo like a friend, you can find something to try here.
Viña Real Rioja Crianza
Bodegas Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha
Obalo Rioja Reserva
La Granja 360 Tempranillo
Try Spanish White Wines
Spain produces some fantastic white wines. If you love seafood or fresh, salty appetizers, you’ll be in heaven with these Spanish white wines. Here are some of our favorite bottles that are perfect for beginners and experts alike.
Vieira de Plata Albariño
Vetus Flor de Vetus Verdejo
Camino Roca Altxerri Txakoli
Doniene Gorrondona Txakoli
We all have our go-to white wines, but there's something magical about discovering something new that you just love. Find inspiration with these irresistible selections. 6 White Wines You've Never Heard Of
Discover Cava, Spanish Sparkling Wine
Finally, Cava is Spain’s sparkling wine. Typically very dry and fruity, aged Cava, like aged Champagne, may take on flavors of baked apple, almond, or toast. No matter which style you like, we have some great suggestions below. Enjoy on a special occasion, or serve with paella, tapas, or seafood.
Juvé y Camps Reserva de la Familia Cava
Mercat Brut Nature Cava
Codorníu Anna Brut
Campos de Estrellas Brut Nature Cava
What's your favorite Spanish wine? Let us know in the comments below!
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