Visiting Spain was a true delight. From experiencing different cultural nuances across the country, to the changes in wine styles, one thing is for sure: Spain is a food and wine dream just waiting to be explored. Whether you love crisp white wine, full-bodied red wine, or dry to sweet Sherries, Spain has a wine for you! What astounds me is the great value for quality you get from Spanish wines. When you think about how long a wine has been aged before it is released for sale, it's like the winemakers have cellared your wine for you. So let’s look at wine from Spain, what to look for, and how it’s made.
King and Queen Grape Varietals
Every country has their King and Queen grape, the grape most widely used/planted to produce the most popular wines. For Spain, there are definitely clear winners here. The King grape is Tempranillo, (aka Tinto Fino) with almost all red wine produced in the country having some of the grape in its bottles. This dark black grape varietal has a relatively neutral flavour profile, which makes it great for blending, and ageing in barrel.
The Queen grape in Spain is white Albaríno with it being used to make much of the white wine produced in the North West of Spain. This crisp, white grape is linked originally to Riesling, producing white wines that a clean, crisp and have great floral and fruit intensity on the nose.
Regions to Try
Ribera del Duero
Found in the North West of Spain, Ribera del Duero makes full-bodied red wines that are Tempranillo often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. These are long ageing wines that sit in oak between 1-3 years before being released. If you are a Napa Cab fan, I would urge you to try a wine from this region. Famous winemakers from this region include: Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Pérez Pascuas.
Found in the North East of Spain, Rioja is probably the most popular wine region and easily accessible here in Canada. It produces far more wine compared to the other regions noted here. Rioja wines are made from Tempranillo and Grenacha and a few other indigenous grape varietals. These are powerful red wines and as they age their fruit character shifts to more dried, cooked fruit with some herbal notes. While oak barrel ageing plays a significant role in winemaking for this region, the shift has been made to more subtle oak influence.
Found on the North West tip of Spain, Rias Baixas is known for making crisp, high acid, aromatic white wines with low alcohol that are easy drinking and pair extremely well with seafood.
This tiny wine region located on the Central East of Spain is small but mighty. With Grenacha as the primary red grape varietal, these are highly concentrated full-bodied red wines with a great amount of complexity and length on the palate. A delicious treat, often hard to find here in Canada- purely because of how small production is in this region.
Winemaking in Spain
Most winemaking regions in Spain have been around for centuries, but only recognized as a DO since the 80’s. Due to this combination, there are a good blend (forgive the pun) of very traditional winemakers, whose families have been making wine for generations, as well as more forward-thinking new age winemakers who want to push the boundaries and experiment making natural wines.
Regardless of what kind of winemaker is behind the Spanish wine you drink, they take organic winemaking very seriously. Many wineries are “organic” whether they are certified or not- meaning little to no use of pesticides, limited interference with the vines in the vineyard, and use of naturally occurring yeast to ferment their wines.
A mix of American and French Oak is used when aging wine, the trend has shifted from using brand new barrels, meaning a more mellow oak influence on red wines. Many (but not all) white wine is aged in oak barrels for a short period of time.
Do you want to learn more about Spanish wines? Contact me and let’s create a Spanish wine tasting to sip and savour some delicious wines with good company and conversation. Email me at Danielle@newagenonnawineandfood.com