It is no secret that Spain has a lush terroir; bringing us the world’s most interesting cultivars and high-quality wine. Spain is now known for being one of the world’s biggest wine exporters, the world’s largest organic wine producers and the country with the most grape vineyards. For more about Spanish wines, check out our classes on Spanish wine.
Spanish Wine Regions
It is unbelievable to think that Spain has 78 wine regions spread throughout the country – all with unique climates and terroirs – producing some truly unique wines. There are, however, five regions that any armchair sommelier should know.
Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez is known for producing some of the best Sherries in a number of different styles. The grapes grown for the Sherry production are predominantly Pedro Ximenez, Moscatel de Alejandria and Palomino Fino. The reason for the remarkable Sherry produced by this region is the uniqueness of the elements. The soil is either clay-like and chalky or extremely sandy. The ocean breeze that moves across this region helps aid the acidity in the grapes and the never-ending sunlight is what concentrates the juice within the grapes enough to create the sweetness needed to produce the Sherry.
The perfect combination of all these elements is the main reason this region can produce the Sherry it does today, an essential Spanish wine.
When it comes to word renowned white wines, Rias Baixas is at the top of the list. The climate in this area is exceptional – with winters not dropping below freezing, and summers just being hot enough to ensure proper development of the grapes. Being located on the coast of Spain, this area’s grapes develop a high minerality flavor – popular among those of Sauvignon Blanc lovers. Although this area does experience devastating winds and storms, the vines that survive produce exceptional quality.
Right up on the border of France, lays the Atlantic region of Pais Vasco. The unique characteristics of the region and quality grapes that are produced here have resulted in the region gaining quite the reputation. Although not famous for its wine as much as it is for its cuisine, the region has proven to develop some refreshing wines. Some of the varietals include Hondarrabi Zuri, Hondarrabi Beltza and Petit Manseng.
Ribera Del Duero
This region has a truly unique profile. Based along the Duero River, the soil in this region is made up of a combination of soils – including limestone, chalk, and clay – which gives it a real Ribera Del Duero touch. This region prides itself on the fact that it grows predominantly quality red grapes – with the wines being extremely complex and able to age well. Ribera is most applauded for their high quality, bold Tempranillo with most of their vines being more than 25 years old.
Costers del Segre
Incorporating both trellis and low bush in their production, Costers del Segre’s vines are able to endure a lot. Not only does this region experience extreme heat and extreme cold, it also has to endure hailstorms and periods of drought throughout the year. These harsh conditions, do, however, allow the grapes to become highly concentrated and flavourful. These varietals include Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Parellada, Merlot and Syrah.
The evidence shows that wine grapes were grown here for over 2000 years – and has continued to do it successfully all these years. It is Spain’s smallest wine region, but they manage to grow a variety of different cultivars here. The success of the vines in this harsh, dry climate, is thanks to the limestone soil that holds water throughout the dry season. In this region, you can expect to find predominantly Mourvedre and Grenache.
This Spanish wine region predominantly grows Tempranillo – being over 95% of the region’s plantations. The climate in the region allows the grapes from this region to generally develop high alcohol levels that also make the wines grippy and acidic. It wasn’t a well-known region, but with time, it has come to build itself a great reputation.
Priorat is well known for the fact that it holds rich, free-draining soil – and produces top premium grapes. Annually, this region gets up to 3000 hours of sunlight and less than 15 inches of rain. One of the most unique parts about the terroir here is that most of the vineyards are situated on extremely steep slopes that have incredibly dense soil – which is where the quality grapes are developed. This area does, however, receive shockingly low yields – but the quality of the grapes produced compensates for the lack in yield. This region produces the country’s top Carignan and Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah: almost always as blends.
Moving toward the central part of the country, some of the main varietals in this area are Maturana, Carignan, Grenache and Macabeo. The significance around this region is the Cantabrian Mountains that shelter the vineyards from cold temperatures and strong winds. This region’s soil is also rich in limestone, so the grapes have good drainage and are slightly sweeter. Wines from this area are famous for having firm tannins, exceptional fruitiness and, great aging potential. They are, however, mainly used in blending as the grapes from this region often have too much acidity and almost no aroma.
Spanish Wine Grapes
It isn’t a well-known fact that Spain actually grows over 400 different grape varietals – but only 20 of these varietals are commonly used to produce wine.
In fact, there is an entire festival to celebrate the grape harvest in Spain –which has different parades, competitions, and tastings throughout.
- Bobal: This full-bodied red is unique to Spain – it is regularly used to make sparkling wine as well as Rosé.
- Monastrell: A great full-bodied wine with immense meatiness and dominant herbaceous aromas.
- Mencia: Only found in 3 countries, this fruity, medium-bodied red is a great varietal for keeping long-term.
- Tempranillo: Probably the most well-known grape in Spain, Tempranillo is a full-bodied red that is not known for its huge aromatic or flavor characteristics. It is, however, the ideal match for rich, meaty meals.
- Grenache: Often a wine with many berry and spicy flavors, this wine is lighter in color in medium-bodied.
- Verdejo: A great light wine to pair with food, this varietal often has lemon, grapefruit and peach flavors.
- PrietoPicudo: A red wine, often used for blending or Rosé, this rare grape is similar to Tempranillo and has prominent flavors of berries and has noticeable minerality.
- Listan Negro: A wine commonly paired with lighter meats, Listan Negro because of its soft tannins and lighter body and has distinct flavors of banana and spices.
It is no wonder that Spain produces such fantastic wines, considering what a distinctive terroir and interesting varietals they have.