A trip to Spain is the perfect opportunity to experience the wines of Spain, and discover their unique richness and fullness. Home to some of the highest vineyards in Europe, Spain’s wines are textured, complex, and classical. The country has more than 600 grape varieties. Many of them grow on steep slopes where the glorious Spanish sunshine is gentler. Due to the lower temperatures at high altitudes nothing else thrives there like the Spanish vines. Although Spain has so many grape varieties, including the Palomino, Bobal, and Tempranillo, the wine production is mainly based on about 20% of them.
The Spanish like to age the wine in oak barrels and bottles. You can easily identify the age of any wine on their labels. The wines of Spain can be Joven, Crianza, Reserva, or Gran Reserva. While a joven wine is the youngest of them all, the Gran Reservas wine has spent a lot of years aging graciously in the Spanish cellars.
You’ll find that the Spanish wines have similar labels to the wines in France. The most popular category is Denominación de Origen (DO), the equivalent of the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). However, the most appreciated type of wine in Spain is the Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOC or DOQ). The only two wines found deserving of this label are the Rioja and Priorat.
A Spanish wine experience is an incursion into the depths of Spain’s past and lifestyle. Discover the most popular wines and choose your favorite:
The passionate Tempranillo
This red grape variety promises a sophisticated wine experience. The wine produced from the Tempranillo grape variety is full-bodied and abounding in tannins. You’ll find it under several other names, like Tinto Fino, Tinto de Toro, Tinto del Pais, and Cencibel. This is the primary grape used in the elegant Rioja blend, a passionate dance of full flavors that bring out aromas of red berries and tobacco. Add to this magnificent mélange the touch of vanilla and spice notes originating from French or American oak, and you’ll comprehend the waltz of flavors. Like any other self-respecting red wine, Tempranillo too will make the perfect companion to steaks, chorizo, and aged cheese.
The powerful Priorat
Named after a Spanish wine region in Tarragona, Priorat is a rich and powerful wine. The Priorat wine has been awarded the DOC status and promises a full and memorable Spanish wine experience. With tales dating back to the 12th century, red Priorat wines capture the intensity of Spain. A muscular wine that reminds of the sun-kissed California wines, the Priorat adds a note of earthiness to the experience. Once you’ll see its incredibly steep and rough terraces, you’ll understand the wine’s muscular and full-bodied texture. Most Priorat wines have as a backbone the famous Garnacha and Cariñena grapes beautifully blended with some French Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. This splendid blend creates aromas of dark fruit and berries with delicate hints of spicy, mineral, and salty notes. Ideal for paella, spicy dishes, and the traditional aged cheese!
The lively Verdejo
Originating from North Africa and brought to the Iberian Peninsula, the Verdejo grape variety is mainly used in Rueda (DO). The wine created from the Verdejo’s fresh body is light, fruity, and lively. The connoisseurs will also detect subtle notes of citrus, fruit, and fennel, and the region’s gentle sunlight. The young Verdejo goes perfectly with salads, and seafood, while the old Verdejo, dressed in a delicate veil of almond flavors, brings out the flavors of paella and meat dishes.
The modest yet ambitious Mencía
A grape variety often produces in Galicia and Bierzo, the Mencía or Jaen is a medium-bodied wine enriched with notes of blackberries, anise, and a unique herbal flavor that might remind of the Cabernet Franc. Some say the Mencía also resembles the Grand Cru Burgundy due to its floral and red fruit aromas harmoniously blending with strong tannins. Although for many years, this grape variety was used for light table wines, some winemakers saw the grape’s potential and added more quality and good natural acidity to the blend to create a more complex wine with peppery and mineral nuances. While not as famous as the other Spanish wines, the Mencía deserves to be included on your list when you experience the wines of Spain, especially if you have tapas on the table.
The aromatic Amontillado
When you experience the wines of Spain, you should never miss the chance to taste its legendary sherry. Amontillado is the best example of a perfect sherry. Created from the Palomino grapes, the Amontillado invades your mouth with a rich and complex texture, especially dry, yet wrapped in a layer of flor.
The taste of the Amontillado depends greatly on its level of maturation, but each tasting experience is unforgettable. The color can vary from topaz to amber, while its notes are a joyful mix of nutty and herbal hints with gentle whispers of oak. Enjoy it with hard cheese, jamón Iberico, or vegetables.