In Spain there are many native grape varieties, reds like Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Monastrell, whites like Albariño from Galicia as well as the Cava‘s famous Parellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo.
Spain’s main wine regions are very diverse and unique, Rioja and Ribera del Duero are well known for their Tempranillo, Jerez de la Frontera is famous for the fortified Sherry, Galicia and Rias Baixas where the aromatic Albariño thrives and Catalonia is home to the bubbly Cava , great still wines are made in Penedes and finally the Priorat region with its bold reds.
The climate in Rioja is Continental and the region flows along the Ebro river sitting south of the Cantabrian Mountains Rioja is isolated and protected from the strong winds. La Rioja is divided in three sub-regions, Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. the first two are closer to the mountains with cooler temperatures and higher vineyards, while Rioja Baja is drier and warmer.
- Rioja Alta
The region is known for Old Style wine. With higher elevation and shorter growing season, the wines have brighter fruit flavors and lighter on the palate.
- Rioja Alavesa
In the Alavesa region the wines are fuller in body with higher acidity.
- Rioja Baja
The Mediterranean climate influence makes it the warmest and driest. The wines usually don’t have much acidity or aroma and are used for blending with other region’s wines.
Typically Rioja reds are a blend of mainly Tempranillo with the addition of Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano.
The Rioja Blanco (Viura grape also known as Macabeo) is usually blended with Malvasia and white Garnacha. The Rose’ wines are mainly made from the Garnacha.
Crianza must age for two years with 12 months in oak. Reserva must age for three years with 12 months in oak and Gran Reserva must age for 5 years, two of which in oak.
RIBERA DEL DUERO
Ribera del Duero is characterised by its the flat, rocky terrain. The wines produced here are mainly from Tempranillo red grape. Albillo is the only white variety.
The Tinto Fino (Tempranillo), is often blended with other international varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Thanks to its terroir the wines have great longevity. Aging requirements are the same used in Rioja. Crianza must age for two years with 12 months in oak. Reserva must age for three years with 12 months in oak and Gran Reserva must age for 5 years, two of which in oak.
Sherry is a fortified wine made with Palomino Fino grapes grown in the town of Jerez de la Frontera. They range in style, from light and crisp like Manzanilla and Fino to heavier and darker oxidized and barrel aged versions such as Amontillado and Oloroso, to finally dessert wines made with Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grapes. Sherry must be made in what is known as the Sherry Triangle, an area designated by the town of Cadiz, San Luca de Barrameda (DO) and El puerto de Santa Maria.
When fermentation is completed, base wine is fortified with grape spirit to increase the final alcohol content. Fino and Manzanilla are fortified until they reach a 15.5% Alc, and as they age in barrel, they develop a layer of yeast (flor) that stays on top of the juice and helps protect the wine from oxidation. Oloroso are fortified to at least 17% Alc. Wines from different years are aged and blended using a solera system.
PENEDES AND PRIORAT
Penedès DO has long been considered one of the country’s best wine-producing region thanks to its Cava (DO) production.
Cava is a sparkling wine that can be white or rose’. Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada are the most popular and traditional grapes to produce Cava with the champenoise method.
The majority of Cava is produced in the Penedes area of Catalonia, mainly in the town of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, home to the famous producers Cordoniu and Freixeneit.
The powerful red wines of Priorat are characterised by its unique soil called llicorella, made of black slate and quartz, and the warm mistral (see Cote du Rhone) winds coming from east. Priorat shares with Rioja the DOCa Status.
REST OF SPAIN
Rías Baixas is a DO renowned for its white wines made from the Albarino grapes around the city of Pontevedra. The climate here is Atlantic due to its proximity to the ocean.
The Basque Region is well known for Txakoli which is a slightly sparkling dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content .
Bierzo is a (DO) for wines coming from northwest of Leon, the soil consist in a mixture of slate and quartz, the most produced grape varieties are the red Mencia and the white Godello.
Calatayud is a (DO) for wines coming from the southwestern corner of Zaragoza, the climate is continental, the soil is stoney and loose. The main grape variety is the Garnacha Tinta.
Campo de Borja is a (DO) for wines coming from the Campo de Borja comarca. The climate here is continental with influence from the Atlantic in winter and the Mediterranean in the summer.
La Mancha is a (DO) located in Castilla la Mancha and is one of the biggest in the world. The climate is continental and the soil is mainly Sand-Clay. The main grapes are the red Cencibel (Tempranillo), and the white Airen and Macabeo (Viura).
Jumilla is a (DO) for wines from Murcia, including the town of Jumilla. The climate here is continental tempered by the proximity to the Mediterranean sea. The main grape produced are Monastrell, Tempranillo (Cencibel) for reds and Airen, Macabeo for whites. Aging requirements are slightly different from those of Rioja and Ribera del Duero.
Toro is a (DO) for wines coming from the area around Zamora, here the climate is continental with long hot summers and cold winters. The soil is made of Clay and Sand. The main red grape is the Tinto de Toro (Tempranillo) for red wines and Verdejo for white wines.