The Essentials: Spanish Wines
In the grand scheme of wine producing power nations, Spain comes in at third. Although it is the most widely planted wine-producing country, it’s actually only the third highest producer, after France and then Italy.
There are over 400 varieties planted throughout Spain but because of infertile soil, not all of the plants get turned into liquid wine. Out of these 400 varieties, 80% of Spain’s wine is produced from 20 specific grapes including Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell, as well as three types of Cava and others.
One of the special aspects of Spanish wine is that the cellars age it for you in oak barrels or in the bottle, meaning you get to enjoy it whenever you’d like, without having to invest the time to age it yourself. Many of these will be labeled with certain terms to tell you how long it’s actually been aged: Gran Reserva means the bottle was cellared for a pretty long time, while Joven indicates that the bottle didn’t spend too much time at the winery.
Similar to the wines of France and Italy, Spanish wines are labeled first by the region in which they were produced, with the grape varietal second. Due to Spain being a peninsula, the climate changes from region to region, producing a wide variety of wines, even those from the same grape.
Also like France and Italy, the wine-producing regions of Spain are many and it would take quite a while to detail them, so instead we’re going to discuss the common types of wine found in Spain.
Cava: Just like France has Champagne and Italy has Prosecco, Spain has their own sparkling wine called Cava. It’s made primarily from Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarello grapes. The Macabeu is soft and floral, the Parellada is highly acidic and citrusy, and the Xarello is aromatic and fruity, so all together they create a well-balanced, fruity sparkling wine similar to Champagne.
The Reds: The Spanish people are known for their spicy nature and exciting culture and so are their red wines. Tempranillo, one of the most popular red wines of Spain, is a black grape with deep fruity flavors and heavy notes of smoke and cedar. A majority of Spain’s red wines come out of the region of Rioja, especially the Tempranillo.
The Whites: Although reds are more popular in Spain, the white wines have their fame too. Like the reds, Spanish white wines are a bit more unique than traditional European wines, especially because of the unique climate. The coastal regions produce fresh, salty wines while the inland vineyards produce grapes that have a citrusy, melon flavor like Godello.
The moral of the story here is that Spanish wines may not be the #1 of Europe but they’re full of flavor and excitement and are a little different than what you may be used to.