A Beginner’s Guide to Spanish Wine

Written by
Vintage Cellars
September 4, 2017
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Spain is renowned for its many and varied wine regions, producing some of the most unique and delicious varietals in Europe. In fact, behind France and Italy, it ranks third in world wine production. But to those unfamiliar with Spanish wines, figuring out where to start can seem very intimidating.

From the regions to the most popular varieties on offer, here are a few key terms to remember when dipping your toe into the world of Spanish wines. Aclamaciones! (Cheers!)

Cava

Cava is Spain’s famous dry sparkling, full of crisp apple flavours. Cava is produced in the same way that champagne is made, but with different grapes – the three main grapes being macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo – and is mostly found in in Catalonia, in the northeast by Barcelona.

Cava can be white or a rosé, but it isn't usually sweet. Instead you’ll often find that it has pear and melon notes, with faint floral aromatics. Aside from tasting delicious, cava is also renowned for being great value for money. Keep it in mind for your next celebration!

Rioja

Rioja is the region in north-central Spain and is the country’s major red wine region. The main grape in Rioja is tempranillo, where it is often bended with garnacha, mazuelo, graciano, and maturana tinta.

Wines from this region exhibit hints of leather and dry fruit. An interesting thing to note is the difference between traditional and modern Rioja wines; with the traditional drop being aged in American oak barrels and its modern counterpart aging in French oak barrels.

There are four tiers of Rioja reds. Rioja is aged up to a year in oak barrels and Crianza is aged 2 years, at least 1 year in oak barrels. Reserva is aged for 3 years in total with at least 1 year in oak and Gran Reserva is aged at least 3 years in total (with a minimum 2 years in oak barrels).

Tempranillo

Tempranillo is the most planted red grape in Spain and the variety is known for its earthy, fruity flavours and is often characterised by black and red cherry.

We would recommend pairing it with barbecue grilled-meats and other smoky dishes.

Sherry

Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes in the ‘Sherry triangle’, an area near the town of Jerez, in Andalusia. Sherry goes through a ‘solera’ which is a method of blending wines from different years together over time. ‘Sherry’ is really just an anglicised pronounced of ‘Jerez’.

When considering sherries, if you’re after a dry drop pick olorosso or fino, and pedro ximenez for a sweeter flavour. Dry sherries are a fantastic pairing with food such as soup or seafood stews, whilst the sweeter styles can be used as a dessert substitute (or as a fine accompaniment).

Spanish-style wines

Some Australian winemakers, like Running with Bulls, are passionate about creating their own takes on bold, Spanish reds right in our own backyards.

Running with Bulls in particular makes garnacha in the Barossa, with a juicy palate of orange and strawberries and a subtle, spicy finish, along with a tempranillo.

Now you’re ready to venture into Spanish wines!