The reason why you will never find a definite guide about wines is because there are as many opinions about wine as there are trees in the Amazon. So, as we wait for the next guide to be published, we offer you a brief and basic introduction to the most common types of Spanish wine. Our goal is not to make you an expert (we are not experts ourselves), but to offer you some tips for when you are asked the question: What wine would you like to drink? Have a look at our quick guide on Spanish wine!
Spain is the third largest producer of wine on earth, after France and Italy. The leading wines come from the Rioja region, Ribera, Penedés, and Rias Baixas. But there are several other regions that produce excellent wines all around Spain. To give yourself an idea, there are 77 designations of origin (Denominación de Origen or just D.O in spanish) in Spain, and over 600 types of grapes.
Types of grapes
As we have just mentioned, there are hundreds of kinds of grapes in Spain. We will just focus on the most common ones:
First of all, if we are talking about the most common grape in Spain, we need to mention the Tempranillo for red wine (also known as Centibel or Escobera). It results in a very aromatic kind of wine, so that’s why it is so widespread.
Another kind of grape commonly used for red wine is the Merlot, particularly in the north of Spain. It comes from France, and it results in a wine with little acidity. If you prefer a more acidic and intense wine, try to find a wine made from the Cariñena grape. The Garnacha variety of grapes in the regions of Navarra, La Rioja, Aragón and Cataluña, and Monastrell on the east coast of Spain are also often used to make strong wines. You can also find a white variety of Garnacha grapes, called Garnacha Blanca.
And of course we can find other varieties of red grapes that are widely known all across the globe. These include Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
If you prefer white wine, then you can look for the Verdejo variety, which yields a very balanced flavor. It is used to produce the Rueda wines, for instance. In the region of Galicia (the north-west coast), the Albariño variety is quite popular, and yields a very aromatic and acidic kind of wine. However, the most popular variety is the Airen. It is especially common around Madrid and Castilla La-Mancha.
We also need to mention some other kinds of grapes that are common. For instance, if you try the famous Cava, you can find various types, such as the Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo varieties. Palomino, which gives a fresh flavor,is used to make the famous Jerez wine, although it is used in some other regions as well to produce different kinds of wines, like in Castilla y León. And if we think about Txakoli, a typical white wine from Euskadi, it is made with Hondarribi zuri.
Pedro Ximenez, Moscatel, or Malvasía are some other varieties that give a characteristic flavour.
Vinos con Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP)
Basically it means that 100% of the grapes come from the same geographical area, as well as the wine is produced in that region. They also carry special attributes and very high quality standards. Amongst many other wines, you can find some from Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Terra Alta, Toro, Penedés, Cariñena, Valdepeñas, Rias Baixas, Gran Canaria, etc. Within this category, you can find different labels. These are:
VP or Vinos de Pagos:
It guarantees that the wine comes from a particular place with some characteristics (climate, type of soil, etc.) that determines its high quality.
DOCa or Denominación de Origen Calificada
The wine is of very good quality and the quality has been ascertained for many years (at least 10)
DO or Denominación de Origen
Very good wines that come from a particular area, controlled by a quality board. Their quality has been ascertained for at least 5 years.
VC or Vinos de Calidad
The region they come from has a good reputation for producing wine.
We must remember that some kind of wines such as Cava, Jerez and Manzanilla have their own category.
Vinos de la Tierra (VdlT)
At least 85% of the grapes come from the same geographical region. Although their standards are not usually as high as the DOP, they also have interesting characteristics.
Vinos de Mesa
They don’t need to come from any specific region. They usually cost less.
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