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It is said that wines are one of the great heritages that Spain possesses, in fact, the Iberian Peninsula is positioned as the third country in the world in wine production. It is clear that in Spain we enjoy great wines created from long traditions, but do you know what are the best known types of Spanish wines?
History of wine in Spain
The history of Spanish wine goes back thousands of years, as Spain is one of the countries with one of the oldest wine traditions in the world. In ancient times, the Phoenicians were responsible for introducing the vine to the Iberian Peninsula in the 9th century BC. From here the Carthaginians and Romans continued to expand wine growing in religion.
During the Middle Ages wine production and consumption became a fundamental part of both Spanish culture and economy. With the use of wine by institutions such as the Church, wine production was greatly favoured, as wine was a fundamental component of masses. As time went by, during the 15th and 16th century wine became the product par excellence. Spain became one of the main producers and exporters of wine in Europe. It was at this time that the quality of the wine began to be related to its geographical origin, giving rise to the recognised Denomination of Origin.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the wine industry was affected by the crises and wars that Spain was going through, but Spanish wine continued to be one of the most sought-after, especially in Latin America. A century later, a phylloxera plague broke out and seriously affected Spanish vineyards at the end of the 19th century. The Spanish were forced to restructure and replant the vineyards with more resistant varieties.
In the 20th century, wine production finally modernised and more advanced winemaking techniques began to be used. Wine exports continued to grow and gain recognition in international markets until the present day. Today Spain is one of the largest wine producers in the world, as it has a wide variety of wine regions with different grape varieties.
Types of Spanish wines
In Spain we enjoy a good wine tradition, with a wide range of wines with characteristics that differentiate them from the rest. Some of the best known types of Spanish wines are:
- Rioja: Originating from La Rioja, it is one of the best known wines internationally. Wines from La Rioja are mainly red and are usually aged in oak barrels, which gives them an unequalled flavour and aroma.
- Ribera del Duero: From the region of Castilla y León, Rivera del Duero wines are mainly red and are made from Tempranillo grapes.
- Cava: Cava is called sparkling wine, a bit similar to champagne, whose main production area is Catalonia. This type of wine is known for being bubbly and made using traditional bottle fermentation methods.
- Sherry: Originating from the region of Jerez de la Frontera, in Andalusia, this wine is fortified and is usually classified in different styles (fino, amontillado, oloroso, sweet…). In short, sherry is a wine with a special production process.
- Priorat: From the Priorat region of Catalonia, these red wines are known for their intense flavours, rich textures and high alcohol content. In many occasions they can present dark fruit flavours and herbal notes.
- Rueda: Rueda white wines are from the region of Castilla y León, known for their characteristic freshness and fruity aroma. They tend to have citrus, tropical fruit and herbal flavours, which makes them the perfect companion for hot days.
- Albariño: Albariño is another of the most appreciated white wines in Spain, it comes from Galicia, specifically from Rías Baixas. Its freshness and acidity make it the perfect wine for many types of dishes.
- Garnacha: Garnacha is known worldwide, as it is produced in several countries. In Spain it is produced in several regions, and it is considered a red wine with a very good taste and high alcohol content.
Spanish grape varieties
Some of the best known varieties are:
- Tempranillo: One of Spain’s most emblematic red grapes, typical of regions such as La rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro.
- Garnacha: It is grown both in Spain and in other countries, and is very common in regions such as Priorat, Campo de Borja and Calatayud.
- Monastrell: It is a red grape widely cultivated in many regions of the world, however it has an outstanding presence in Spain. Predominant in Murcia.
- Bobal: Native grape of the Valencian region, well known for its intense red wines.
- Cariñena: This type of grape is grown in many regions of Spain, although it is often mixed with other varieties. The Cariñena grape enjoys great fame in Spain, with Zaragoza being its main producer.
- Mencía: This grape produces red wines that are as smooth as they are aromatic. It is mainly grown in the Bierzo region.
- Albariño: Grapes from the Rías Baixas region in Galicia and highly prized for their fresh, acidic white wines.
- Verdejo: With great predominance in the Rueda region, this grape produces wines with citric and herbaceous aromas, highly valued by white wine lovers.
- Macabeo: This grape variety is abundant and is used in many regions of the peninsula, especially in La Rioja, Navarra and Catalonia, where dry and fruity wines stand out.
- Airen: One of the most cultivated grapes in Spain, it occupies a third of the Spanish vineyard and is mainly used to produce young and light wines.
- Godello: Another native variety from the region of Valdeorras, in Galicia, which produces elegant white wines with good flavour.
- Palominio: It is the grape that gives rise to the famous Jerez wine, such as fino and manzanilla. Its production is located in the region of Jerez de la Frontera.
Did you like this article about the types of Spanish wines? Don’t put limits to your wine culture and take the next step. Learn to differentiate the types of wines you need to know to be an expert wine taster.