To get ready for this weekend’s Winnipeg Wine Festival, which features Wines from Spain, I thought it might be fun to learn a bit about Spanish wines, it’s regions and the grape varieties that make up their wines.
Brief Spanish wine grapes
When it comes to learning about Spanish wine, it is important to get to know the different grape varieties that are grown in Spain as well as their geographic distribution.
In Spain, wines are classified into different wine regions, each with their own set of wine laws and quality standards. Currently, Spain has 69 major wine regions, the more correct term being “Designation of Origin” (D.O.).
You are most likely familiar with at least a few of them. Some of the most well-known wine regions of Spain are Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Penedés, Navarra, Rueda, Cava, Rias Baixas, Jeréz, & La Mancha.
Be careful not to mix up the name of the grape with the name of the wine region. It is quite common for people to confuse them. You should know that when asking for a “Rioja” you are referring to the Designation of Origin. However, if you order an “Albariño” wine, for example, you are naming the grape variety. The wine region is called Rias Baixas.
Let’s look at some grape varieties that come from Spain. Most people around the world would not necessarily recognize these names but they are the main force of traditional Spanish wine.
Grape names are not much used in Spain. In most restaurants or wine shops, wines are classified according to their origin. Spanish wine regulations limit regions, which means that in order to understand how a wine will be you should know something about that particular region! More and more producers do however include the name of the grape in their labels. We will list here the most important and common Spanish grape varietals.
Red varieties grapes
Tempranillo is the best known quality Red Wine Grape in Spain. “Temprano” means early in Spanish, and the name Tempranillo refers to the early time the grape has been traditionally harvested. Tempranillo is also known as Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero, Cencibel in La Mancha and Ull de Llebre in Catalonia. Its home is however La Rioja. Tempranillo produces fresh and fruit young red wines but it shows its best when oak aged.
A grape of Spanish origin despite most people associate it with the Rohne valley in France. This grape can be found in nearly all wine countries around the world. In Spain, it is found in the Northeast area, La Rioja, Navarra, Aragón and Cataluña. In Rioja it is normally blended with Tempranillo. This grape can produce fruity wines, with raspberry aromas.
Found mainly in Valencia, Bobal wines are full bodied and colourful. Their quality has witnessed a very important increase in the last years.
It is the typical grape of Murcia and the south of Valencia. It produces powerful wines with great structure and a strength somewhat higher than normal. A few years ago, these wines were very successful in Anglo-Saxon countries.
You are right, this is not a Spanish grape varietal! The increasing demand for varietal wines in importing countries has made many Spanish plant cabernet. As cabernet grows well nearly everywhere, the results have been very good in Spain. As Cabernet is fairly tannic it is often blended with other grapes to produce more complex wines. You will find Cabernet wines in different regions in Spain (La Mancha, Catalonia, Navarra, etc.)
Yet again another French grape variety in Spain. Merlot has also been quiet successful (though to a lesser extent than Cabernet) in Spain and can be found in many different regions.
Syrah has become relatively popular in Spain, mainly in La Mancha and in the Mediterranean areas. In Spain you will find a very different Syrah to the Rhone or Australian Syrah. Spanish Syrah wines are normally full bodied, high in alcohol.
Tinta de Toro is of the Tempranillo grape family and is most typically grown in Zamora.
The Cariñena and Garnacha grape varieties are both widespread in different regions of Spain and in other wine-producing countries around the world.
There are many more red wine grape varieties: Manto Negro from the Balearic islands, Negramoll and Listán Negro from the Canary islands, Prieto Picudo from León, Brancellaoand Caíño from Galicia. Also, in Galicia, Alicante, and Albacete, we can find the interesting grape variety called Garnacha Tintorera, the only variety of red grape whose pulp is also purple.
White grapes varieties
Typical grape of the D.O. Rueda. Wine from this grape have gained lots of commercial strength in the recent past. Verdejo wines are aromatic (with a tropical character), with body. Some producers opt for oak aging, and the results have been very good.
Sometimes this Spanish grape varietal is thought to be the name of the appellation of origin where the wines are produced (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.
Another grape from the Northwest of Spain, Godello is a high quality grape that produces very aromatic wines.
Used mainly for Fino production in the South of Spain.
Xareló, Parellada and Macabeo (or Viura)
These are the 3 grapes tradionally used to produce Cava.
Though unknown to many people, this Spanish white varietal is the world’s most planted grape in the world. The grape was traditionally used for the production of alcohol that served as the base for Brandy.
7 Types of Spanish Red Wine
- Tasting Notes: Sour Cherry, Plum, Spicy Black Pepper and Bay Leaf
- Average cost: $10–20
- Regions: Rioja Crianza, Ribera del Duero Roble and Crianza, Valdepeñas, Tinto de Toro, La Mancha, Castilla-León, Extremadura
A juicy and spicy style of Tempranillo that typically receives less than a year of aging. Because wines are not aged long, they are spicy, fleshy, and tart. Most value-driven Tempranillo tastes lighter-bodied and lacks the complex flavors of brown spices from oak-aging.
- Tasting Notes: Cherry, Dried Fig, Vanilla and Cedar
- Average cost: $25–35
- Regions: Rioja Reserva, Ribera del Duero Reserva, Toro Reserva, Aged Castilla-León
Bold high tannin wines that embellish Tempranillo’s best qualities that are aged for several years in oak and bottle. The aging of Tempranillo softens the variety’s spiciness and flavors become almost sweet and dried. The extended cost of aging explains why this style typically costs more. Keep your eyes peeled for wines labeled with Reserva and Gran Reserva.
- Tasting Notes: Strawberry, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Hibiscus and Black Tea
- Average cost: $12–18
- Regions: Calatayud, Somotano, Navarra, Cariñena, Campo de Borja, La Mancha
Garnacha is known as Grenache in France, but the grape originated in Spain. This fresh and juicy style of Garnacha is a bouquet of sweet red fruit and a smooth iced tea like finish. You’ll find this style of Garnacha in Northern Spain close to the border of France in the encompassing regions of Aragon and Navarra. Young Garnacha typically makes a wonderfully candied red fruit flavored Sangria.
High-End Garnacha and blends
- Tasting Notes: Grilled Plum, Red Licorice, Juniper and Crushed Gravel
- Average cost: $25–35
- Regions: Vinos de Madrid, Campo de Borja, Priorat, Méntrida
High-end Garnacha wines are bold and complex with high tannin and dark raspberry flavors. Wines are aged longer and typically come from old vines.
You can find single varietal Garnacha around Madrid, where old vines in high elevation vineyards produce concentrated wines. In Spain, the Priorat regionalso uses Garnacha blended with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cariñena and delivers bolder styles with blackberry and licorice. Incredible stuff.
- Tasting Notes: Blackberry Sauce, Chocolate, Potting Soil and Smoke
- Average cost: $10–18
- Regions: Jumilla, Alicante, Valencia, Bullas, La Mancha, Yecla
Monastrell is the same wine as Mourvèdre in France, but it’s actually a wine of Spanish origin. (Perhaps we should all be calling it Monastrell!)
Wines are intensely bold with high tannin, black plum, chocolate, and black pepper flavors. Monastrell is primarily produced in Central Spain.
Most wines are produced in affordable style and offer excellent value. Investigate the regions of Valencia, Alicante, Jumilla, Bullas and Yecla for amazing options.
- Tasting Notes: Pomegranate, Black Licorice, Crushed Gravel and Graphite
- Average cost: $20–30
- Regions: Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei, Valdoerras
Mencía (pronounced Men-THEE-ah) is a unique medium bodied wine that grows in Spain and Portugal. Wine collectors have likened Mencía it to Grand Cru Burgundy because of its’ layers red fruit, floral aromas and moderate mouth-drying tannins.
The wines are made in Northwest Spain around the encompassing region of Galicia and in Portugal in the Dão region.
Wines from Bierzo and Monterrei tend to be more full bodied and wines from Valdoerras tend to be lighter. The Monterrei and Ribeira Sacra regions sometimes blend Mencía with other local grapes including Bastardo.
- Tasting Notes: Black Cherry, Dried Green Herbs, Violet and Cocoa Powder
- Average cost: $15–18
- Regions: Utiel-Requena, Manchuela
A relatively unknown grape outside of Spain due to the fact that very little exported. Still, Bobal 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 flavors.
Some producers have figured out how to manage the bold tannins in this wine and deliver smooth reds with blueberry notes.
Be sure to pair with a richly flavored meat, like carne asada.
Below are listed the Spanish wineries coming to this weekends event. I can’t wait to try some of these out and maybe add a few to my wine cellar.
Anciano 7-Year Old Gran Reserva Tempranillo
Anciano 10-Year Old Gran Reserva Tempranillo
Aniciano Clasico Garnacha
Aniciano Old Vine Garnacha
Araex Spanish Fine Wines
Villa Conchi Brut Seleccion Cava
Villa Conchi Brut Reserva Cava
Gran Sello Rose
Gran Sello Tempranillo Syrah
Bodegas Franco Espanolas
Rioja Bordon White
Rioja Bordon Reserva Red
Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva Red
Finca el Encinal Crianza
Bodegas Gran Feudo
Baluarte Gran Feudo Verejo
Baluarte Gran Feudo Rosado
Baluarte Gran Feudo Roble Navarra
Baluarte Gran Feudo Roblw Ribera del Duero
Praderey Origen Roble
Praderey Finca Valdelayegua
Praderey Adaro Crianza
Bodegas Ramon Bilbao
Ramon Bilbao Verdejo
Ramon Bilbao Rosado
Ramon Bilbao Crianza
Ramon Bilbao Limited Edition
Volver Single Vineyard
Bu & Liberaso
Bu Viura Airen Verdejo
Liberado Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc
Liberado Cabernet Sauvignon Tempranillo
Campo Viejo Tempranillo Blanco
Campo Viejo Reserva
Campo Viejo Gran Reserva
Campo Viejo Wine Maker’s Art
Familia Castano Dominio Espinal Blanco
Familia Castano Monastrell Ecologico Orangic
Familia Castano GSM
Familia Castano Solanera
Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava
Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvee Brut
Freixenet Cuvee DS
Freixenet Elyssia Pinot Noir Rose Brut
Gil Family Estates
Juan Gil Rosado
Bodegas Ateca Honoro Vera Garnacha
Bodegas Tridente Entresuelos Teampranillo
Bodegas Tridente Gota de Arena
Beronia Rueda Verdejo
Beronia Gran Reserva
Beronia Tio Pepe
Gran Castillo de Rocia Cava Brut
Goates del Mar Albarino
Manos Libre Organic Tempranillo
Radio Boka Tempranillo
J. Garcia Carrion
Pata Negra Organic Cava
Pata Negro Verdejo
Pata Negro Toro Roble
Antano Rioja Reserva DO
Jorge Ordonez Selections
Botani Old Vines
Trition Tinta de Toro
Juve Y Camps
Juve Y Camps Cinta Purpura Brut Reserva
Juve Y Camps Reserva de la Familia
Juve Y Camps Gran Reserva
Juve Y Camps Brut Rose
Les Vins Bonhomme
El Petit Bonhomme Blanco
El Petit Bonhomme Tinto
El Gran Bonhomme
Caminos del Bonhomme Cabernet Sauvignon
Marques de Caceres
Marques de Caceres Rosado
Marques de Caceres Crianza
Marques de Caceres Gaudium
Marques de Caceres Reserva
Marques Del Puerto
Marques Del Puerto Rose
Marques Del Puerto Bentus
Marques Del Puerto Crianza 2014
Marques Del Puerto Reserva 2010
New Vingergia 2005, SL
Camps D’Estels Brut Rose
Campos de Luz Garnacha
La Sorda Vendimia Seleccionada Rioja Alavesa
Lo Tros Priorat
Lolea No. 2 White Sangria
Lolea No. 5 Rose Sangria
Lolea No. 1 Red Sangria
Lolea No. 1 Red Sangria Minis
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva
Segura Viudas Brut Rose
Segura Viudas Heredad Brut Reserva
Segura Viudas Gran Cuvee Reserva
Vina Esmeralda Rosado
Celeste Crianza Ribera del Duero DO
Gran Coronas Cabernet Sauvignon Penedes DO
Mas la Plana Cabernet Sauvignon