A Quick Guide To Spanish Wines To Try With Your Tapas Meal

There’s nothing better than enjoying live music in a Spanish restaurant to lift the winter blues. It may be January, but some soulful flamenco guitar and flavoursome tapas dishes can take you right back to that sun-kissed Mediterranean holiday. To bring out the best in the food and the atmosphere, you may want to order a bottle or two of wine.

Spain is a country with a diverse geography and history, and this has given it a particularly rich viticulture. The Roman occupation from the third century BC to the fourth century AD created the vineyards that are often still in use today. 

When we think of Spain, we may think of golden sandy beaches and photogenic cities, but it is a mountainous country, with the the Sierra de Cantabria and Pyrenees to the north and Sierra Morena to the south, with Sierra de Gredos to the west and Sistema Iberico to the east. 

This produces a diverse range of microclimates and soil conditions that is reflected in the richness and breadth of the wines. Here’s a look at some of the most popular grape varieties from some of Spain’s celebrated 70 wine-producing regions. 

The country is rich in native grape varieties that are too numerous to mention here. However, perhaps the best well-known red grape variety is tempranillo. This is also sometimes called Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais. The word ‘tempranillo’ means ‘early’ in Spanish, and this is thought to be a reference to its early ripening. 

The grape is grown most commonly in the La Rioja region in the central northern section of the country. It produces fruity wines with aromas of sweet red berries, and is also used to produce oak-aged wines. The grape also blends well with other varieties.

Grenache is another popular grape variety that is grown in the northeast area of the country and is frequently blended with tempranillo. Other Spanish red grape varieties to look out for include cariñeña, bolbal, and monastrell.  Popular white grape varieties include verdejo, albariño, and moscatel. 

Spain’s major wine regions are known as Denominación de Origen or Designations of Origin (DOs). Some of the best known regions include the previously mentioned Rioja, Cava, Jerèz (famous primarily for sherry), Navarra, Ribera del Duero, Rias Baixas, and La Mancha. 

Spain has a quality control system that provides an at-the-glance guide to the standard of the wine. Vino de Mesa is a basic table wine that carries no details of the vineyard, vintage, or grape variety. Vino de la Tierra is a table wine that is usually from one of the larger wine producing regions and is more specific in terms of grape variety and vintage.

DO (Denominación de Origen) is an indication of wine from a specific geographical location, while DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada) is awarded to wine from the highest quality winemakers.