A Concise History of Spanish Wines.Let’s start this history piece in the 1500s when wine started being produced the Spanish regions of Rueda and Toro. It is important to note that around this time England lost their access to French (Bordeaux) wines and turned their attentions to Spain. The real epiphany for Spanish wine makers was when the phylloxera bug hit French wines and the winemakers there began traveling to Spain to make Bordeaux-style wines. The Spanish learnt a lot from them – not least the importance of oak barrel aging and strict wine laws.
Classification of Spanish Wines.In 1932 Spain started their denominación de origen (D.O.). Each D.O. has a regulatory council and office. In Spain you’ll find over 60 D.O.s making wine in a large variety of styles. The lowest quality of wine of all is vino de mesa, or table wine. These wines don’t have any real laws and are not regulated. Typically, they’ll be the cheapest on the supermarket shelves in Spain. Cosecha is the next highest. These wines must come from a D.O., although there is no oak requirement. Crianza (means ageing) is the most popular type of wine in Spain for everyday drinking. It’s required to be aged a minimum of two years, usually one in oak and one in the bottle. Then we have Reserva, which requires a total of three years of aging: usually one year in oak and two in the bottle. These last about five years. Only in really good vintages will you find Gran Reserva, which requires a minimum of five years aging: two years in oak and three in a bottle. Spain does you a favour and ages the wine for you, when you buy a Spanish wine it’s ready to drink.
Spain does you a favour and ages the wine for you, when you buy a Spanish wine it’s ready to drink #greenacresirl
Click To Tweet
Joven – generally speaking, this is a wine from the current vintage and is to be consumed within a year to 18 months from being made. This is generally the same the world over for young wines. There’s also an unofficial type of wine called Roble, which literally means oak. This type of wine is cosecha wine left in oak for six months. — in between the rules for Cosecha and Crianza but not regulated as such.
Grape Varieties in Spanish Wines.I will give you a link to deeper analysis of Spanish wines from a more technical report in 2017 point of view here, but suffice to say that there are a lot of happy customers enjoying Spanish Wines for their quality, all over the world. You may have noticed that grape names are not really used on labels in Spain. Usually they are classified according to their region. So, I will introduce you to the main Spanish wine grape varieties and after that the main regions.
Main red grape varieties:
- Tempranillo – probably the most well known grape in Spain. Its home is in La Rioja and is known also in other regions as Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero, Cencibel in Lan Mancha and Ull de Llebre in Catalonia. The grape produces a fresh and fruity red wine, best when oak aged.
- Garnacha (Grenache) – Although grown almost everywhere in the wine world, the Northeast of Spain is its home. It comprises the majority of the best wines of Priorat and is also used as a blending grape in Rioja and in Cava sparkling wines. It produces dried red fruit flavours with herbal and spicy notes.
- Monastrell – (known in France as Mourvèdre), this grape is typically from the Murcia area (south of Valencia). A perfect wine with smoked meats and barbecue where the wine’s peppery flavours seem to vanish, revealing layers of black fruits and chocolate.
- Bobal – A relatively unknown grape outside of Spain, due to the fact that very little is exported. Still, this grape is one of Spain’s most planted grapes. It grows mostly in Central Spain where it’s prized for its deep opaque purple colour, high tannins, and black fruit flavours.
- Mencía – This grape produces a unique medium bodied wine that grows in Spain (and Portugal). Some wine collectors have likened it it to Grand Cru Burgundy because of its layers of red fruit, floral aromas and moderate mouth-drying tannins. It has flavours of pomegranate, and black liquorice.
Recent studies by the Spanish Federation of Wine report that among Spanish wine drinkers, 88% consume at least some red wine during a given year, while only about 40% drink any white wine #greenacresirl
Click To Tweet
Main white grape varieties:
- Verdejo – the most well know grape from Rueda. Verdejo wines are aromatic (with a tropical character), with body. Some producers opt for oak aging.
- Albariño – This grape is grown in the D.O. Rias Baixas in the Northwest of Spain, in Galicia. Albariño wines are aromatic, crispy and with a distinctive aroma. It produces acid wines, but also with high glycerine that gives them a silky texture.
- Godello – Another grape from the Northwest of Spain, it is a high quality grape that produces very aromatic wines.
- Palomino – Commonly called Palomino, the more precise name is Palomino Fino. In other parts of Spain, it is simply called Jerez. These grapes are very neutral in aroma, which is a downside for table wines but a great asset in sherry.
- Pedro Ximénez – Together with Palomino, Pedro Ximénez is another very traditional variety used throughout the Jerez region for ages. Its greater sugar content and higher levels of acidity are great for sweet wines.
- Xareló, Parellada and Macabeo (or Viura) – These are the 3 grapes traditionally used to produce Cava.
Did you know that the Spanish grape varietal Airen, is the world’s most planted grape. It was traditionally used for the production of alcohol that served as the base for Brandy #greenacresirl
Click To Tweet
Main Regions of Spanish Wines.
- Rioja – Of all the wine regions of Spain, none are quite as well-known as the Rioja wine region. This Spanish wine region is located in North-Central Spain, near the Ebro River. The wine is known for its structure and tannins, similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, but it also has a fruity characteristic. This is a wine perfect for a drinker who loves Cabernet but is also looking for the dominant cherry flavour that’s often present in a wine like Pinot Noir.
- Navarra – The sub region of Navarra is found in the Ebro River Valley. I’m mentioning it here because of its growing popularity and its age-worthy wines. Navarra is known also for rosado (rosé) wine made with the grape Garnacha (aka Grenache).
- Penedès – The Penedès wine region is located in Catalonia, North-East Spain. Its primary product is Cava, or sparkling wine made in the traditional method of “real Champagne” in Champagne, France. The Freixenet and Cordoníu wineries, both located in the medieval hillside town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, dominate Spain’s market for sparkling wine. This town alone produces 90 percent of the Cava bottled in Spain.
- Priorat – Priorat is a Catalan Denominació d’Origen Qualificada (DOQ) for wines produced in the province of Tarragona, a small but renowned red winemaking region located just south of Barcelona. Sun-dried red and black plum, black cherry, and cassis (red and black currant) dominate the aroma profile of a high-quality red wine.
- Jumilla – This wine region occupies a great deal of Murcia, a small region on the Mediterranean coast of south-eastern Spain and stretches into Castilla-La Mancha. Like other wine regions of the area, Jumilla specializes in wines based on the Monastrell grape variety.
- Jerez / Sherry – Sherry wines or Vinos de Jerez are Spanish fortified wines from the southern Spanish region of Cadiz. The wines come from what is known as the Sherry Triangle, three cities (Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria, and Sanlucar de Barrameda) that when placed on a map form a triangle.
- La Mancha – Located in Central Spain, this is the world’s largest continuous wine growing region. There are more than 300 wineries and 22,000 grape-growers in the region, which is known for producing delicious Tempranillo and Garnacha wines.
- Rueda – Located in Castilla y Leon, this wine region is famous for producing crisp, flavoursome white wines using the Verdejo grape. The continental climate and high sunlight produces quality white wines.
- Ribera del Duero – Located on the elevated plateau in the southern plains of Burgos province, it stretches along the Duero river. Most of the wine produced in this region is Tempranillo (known locally as Tinto Fino), with very little mixing or blending.
- Rías Baixas (ree-ahse by-shas) – The Atlantic Ocean creates a cool-climate pocket in the north-western side of Spain, which is where you’ll find the autonomía of Galicia and the Albariño wines. Albariño at its best smells of tart-sweet citrus (meyer lemon, tangerine, lime zest) and underripe stone fruits (white peach and nectarine), contrasted with a briny, refreshing sea-spray savoriness.
Some Food and Wine Pairings for Spanish Wines.
Rioja & Ribera del Duero (Tempranillo)
- Char Grilled Filet Mignon
- BBQ Pork Tenderloin
- Roasted Rack of Lamb
- Serrano Ham
- Braised Oxtail
- Smoked Beef Brisket
- Venison Tenderloin
- Braised Pork Cheeks
Rías Baixas (Albariño)
- Grilled Octopus
- Pan Roasted Cod
- Sashimi & Sushi Rolls
- Vinaigrette dressed salads
- Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp & Garlic)
- Chilled Octopus
- Crab Cakes
- Poached Lobster
ConclusionI’ll finish with a description from the Spanish Wine Week website which, for me summarises the overall experience when tasting Spanish wines …” designed for wine and food lovers of all levels, there is always an event to suit everyone. From wine masterclasses, to delicious Spanish supper clubs or flamenco classes, Spanish Wine Week brings together like-minded people who want to learn and have some fun.” For more on great wines from Spain, check out our extensive range of Spanish wines here. One last thing – did you know that we launched the Green Acres mobile app recently? Now you can bring us home in your pocket. Book tables, browse wines, learn of special offers, check events, connect with us, earn loyalty rewards and much more. We would really appreciate if you would click on either of the tabs below to download for free.
Talk to you soon – Cheers, James.