Spain 101: The Seven Enchanting Wine Regions
From Green Spain in the northwest to Andalucia in the south, each Spanish wine region has something unique to offer wine lovers. Each region’s offerings go beyond wine, including incredible architecture and design, sumptuous local foods and produce, and breathtaking vistas.
Here at Wines From Spain, we are breaking down the different Spanish wine regions and what each has to offer.
Spain’s Seven Enchanting Wine Regions
The northern and northwestern portion of Spain, exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, can be cool to cold, wet, and green—thus its name, Green Spain.
Albariño is a white grape that is grown along the coast, or along the rivers of Rias Baixas (“lower fjords”); this wine can vary from crisp and tangy to round and peachy. Treixadura and Loureiro are also grown in DO Rias Baixas and are often blended with Albariño.
Other white grapes fill the vineyards farther inland; the rich and even complex Godello grape rules in Valdeorras (the “valley of gold”, reflecting Rome’s interest in the place 2000 years ago). Godello, Treixadura and others serve the regions of Monterrei and the picturesque DOs of Ribeiro and Ribeira Sacra. But away from the coast temperatures rise, so red grapes do well too; the Mencia grape is arguably northwest Spain’s best red. Its lip-smacking raspberry tones and floral aromas are fun and bracing.
This cool region is also producing some of Spain’s “hottest” wines, from DO Arabako Txakolina, DO Bierzo, DO Bizkaiko Txakolina, and DO Getariako.
Duero River Valley
Comprising much of the Spanish heartland, this region’s high steppes see warm days and cool nights, producing some of Spain’s most renowned wines clustered along the mighty Duero River.
These famed wine regions in Spain reside in Ribera del Duero, such as Vega Sicilia and Pesquera, and regions such as Toro and Rueda are on the shortlists of anyone pursuing emerging Spanish brands.
Tempranillo the reigning indigenous red variety of Spain, produces wines of medium-full body, medium-high tannins and medium acidity that express the taste and character of the terroir it grows on. While there are many Spanish regions producing excellent Tempranillo-based wines, DO Ribera del Duero and DO Toro are the most well-known and widely available in the U.S.
On the other side of the Duero River, the Rueda DO has claimed its own international spotlight with the Verdejo grape, offering a white wine likened to (and occasionally blended with) Sauvignon Blanc.
Ebro River Valley
The Sierra de Cantabria mountains shelter some of Spain’s most important vineyards, including those in Rioja and Navarra. Farther south, Calatayud, Campo de Borja, and Cariñena offer great value. To the east, vineyards nestled along the base of the foothills of the Pyrenees hold vineyards as well, where tributaries of the River Ebro nurture the vineyards of DO Somontano and the rare Moristel grape that charms many tasters with its tangy fruit and easy ways, along with more muscular Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other red varieties.
The “tabletop” that represents the center of the elevated plateau that is Spain is not a uniformly flat, hot, and arid place.
Instead, there are significant mountainous spots that offer the possibility of making high–quality wines, based upon strong differences between daytime and nighttime temperatures (grapes seem to like diurnal temperature swings).
The Mediterranean Coast
The warmth of the coast from the French border to Almería can be mitigated by high altitudes, whether in Cataluña or in Valencia.
Throughout most of this area, world–class wines are appearing in places such as Priorat and Montsant, as well as established areas such as Penedés. Cava, the most famous sparkling wine in the world after Champagne.
With temperatures easily surpassing 100°F in the summer, this is an area ideal for fortified and dessert wines. Everything conspires to make a singularly successful fortified wine that comes in a plurality of styles.
Although we call all of them Sherry, each of these styles—Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, and Pedro Ximénez—expresses a unique set of aromas and flavors.
With the Canaries off in the Atlantic and the Balearics lying in the middle of the Mediterranean, both groups of islands enjoy temperatures that are relatively moderate. The Canary Islands’ remoteness have allowed for a number of indigenous grapes, such as Malvasía Volcánica and Marmajuelo, or those from mainland Spain, like Listán Negro and Listán Blanco, to evolve untouched and ungrafted over centuries, making it one of the most unique wine regions in the world.