You must have tasted the superb Spanish red wines around the world, but have you ever thought about how they are made, how they differ from others. So let us wine, dine and learn everything fine about Spanish wines.

glass of red wine
Glass of red wine

All about the wines of Spain

Spaniards produce hundreds of red, white, and sparkling wine varieties. Spain is the world’s third-largest wine producer, with approximately 400 native grape varieties grown in 69 major wine regions. It is, in reality, the world’s most widely planted wine-producing country in terms of vineyard acreage. However, 20 grape varieties are used to make the majority of Spain’s wines. Fortified wine, Sherry, Cava made from the Parellada grape, and a variety of Spanish red wines are all common.

The history of Spanish wine in a nutshell

In Spain, archaeologists discovered traces of viticulture dating back to 4000 BCE. Spanish wine was the most commonly distributed variety in the empire under Roman rule. Spanish wine production suffered a brief setback after the fall of the Roman empire. When the native Iberians retook the peninsula, it resurfaced with vigor. The most significant boost to European winemakers came during the Age of Exploration (from 1492 onwards). Outside of Europe’s “old world,” explorers and conquerors lay claim to new wine-producing areas. Spanish wine was later exported to larger markets, such as America’s. This resulted in the introduction of newer grape varieties and winemaking techniques. The growing use of superior winemaking techniques has given the industry the boost it deserves since the twentieth century.

pouring spanish red wine
Pouring spanish wine

Denominación de Origen: the system of wine classification in Spain

If you do not understand the DO classification scheme, choosing the right Spanish wine can be difficult. The Spanish denominación de Origen classification is very similar to that of the Italian DOCG and French appellations. It classifies and regulates wine production based on the area in which it is produced.

From highest to lowest, here are the different types of Spanish wine:

Vino de Pago

These are single-estate wines that are made and bottled in a controlled environment. They have a high market value because they reflect the hyperlocal characteristics of their wine region. Pago Aylés and Pago Florentino are two notable examples.

Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa)

A wine region can be elevated to the DOCa category, which is the highest level of Spanish wine classification if it has had a DO status for at least ten years. Only Rioja and Priorat currently retain this distinction. DOCa wine is produced and bottled exclusively in the designated area.

Denominación de Origen (DO)

After at least five years of observing its products, a wine area is given the DO designation. DO wine is the broadest classification of Spanish wines, requiring compliance with regulations regarding grape varieties, winemaking techniques, aging methods, and production levels, among other things. Ribera del Duero, Penedès, La Mancha, and Ras Baixas are some notable examples.

Vino de Calidad (VC) con Indicación Geográfica

VC wine is a step up from the cheapest varieties of Spanish wine, despite not being branded as a premium DO wine.

Vino de la Tierra (VT)

Wines categorized as VT belong to a single region but do not meet the specific DO or VC statuses’ particular regulations.

Vino de Mesa or Vino

The lowest bar of the Spanish wine classification is Vino de Mesa (literally, “wine of the table” or “table wine”). They are not from a particular area and do not meet any rigorous quality requirements.

Aging marks for Spanish red wine

Spanish red wines are graded as follows based on their aging techniques:

Crianza: A young wine that has spent one year in oak barrels and another year in the bottle.

Reserva: A much more nuanced wine has spent one year in oak barrels and two years in either a barrel or a bottle.

Gran Reserva: A rich wine that has been matured in oak barrels and bottles for at least five years. Some of these bottles will last up to 50 years and are highly collectible and investment-worthy.

Where In Spain Can You discover the Best Wine?

Nearly 138 regions in Spain are designated as distinctive wine-producing areas. Here are some of the top Spanish wine regions and grape varietals for red wine.

Rioja DOC

The Rioja DOC wine sector in northern Spain is made up of La Rioja, Navarra, and Lava’s autonomous communities. The Phoenicians and Celtiberians were the first to make wine in this Spanish wine region. Rioja wine can be found in the Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Oriental regions of the region. Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Cariena, and Graciano are Rioja DOC red wine varietals.

Priorat DOC

In southwest Catalonia, Priorat has a viticultural history that dates back to Catholic monks who planted vines in seven villages throughout the area. Priorat was designated as a DOC in 1954. As a result, bulk manufacturing was gradually phased out, and bottling was introduced. Garnacha Tinta, Garnacha Peluda, Cariena, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah are the red wine varietals of Priorat DOC.

Rías Baixas DO

The long-established bastion of Spanish white wine made with the famous Albarino grape is this wine region (Galicia). However, in recent years, red wine has gotten a lot of attention. People recognize red wines from Ras Baixas for their Atlantic flavor, low alcohol content, and crisp acidity. Caio tinto, Espadeiro, Loureira Tinta, Sousón, Menca, and Brancellao are some of the red wine varietals found in the Ras Baixas DO.

Cariñena DO

The Carina vineyards, which are home to the grape variety named after them, are situated on a plateau in the province of Aragón.

It has been a DO since 1932 and is one of Europe’s oldest protected wine-growing regions.

Since the 1990s, the Carina region has shifted its focus away from high-alcohol wines for local consumption and toward subtler, more natural wines for export.

‍Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha Tinta, Juan Ibáez, Cariena (or Mazuela), Monastrell, Tempranillo, and Vidadillo are red wine varietals found in the Cariena DO.

Making Spanish Red Wine

Spanish winemakers started experimenting with new winemaking methods in the middle of the twentieth century. They modified the way they control the acidity of red wine, for example. Spanish red wine tended to be high in alcohol and low in acidity in colder wine regions. Vintners countered this by using white grapes (such as Verdejo) to balance the acidity. However, white grapes harmed full-bodied flavor of red . This was considerably altered with the advent of temperature control and stainless steel vats. It enabled winemakers to regulate their wines’ sweetness, alcohol, and acidity levels by stopping fermentation at will. Spanish winemakers have traditionally used French oak barrels. Apart from the trusted French oak barrel, the makers welcomed Hungarian oak barrels, Eastern European oak barrels, and American oak barrels as the industry became more global.

Spanish Red Wine Tasting Notes

Tempranillo wines

The Tempranillo grape, also called Tinto Fino, has a prominent tart and spicy flavors in the younger Crianza wines. However, aging the wine in oak barrels imparts sour cherry, vanilla, and cedar flavors, which expose the wine’s sweetness or dryness. Select a wine from the Ribera del Duero area to completely appreciate the Tinto Fino flavors.

Garnacha Wines

This local Spanish varietal (also known as Grenache) delivers a burst of strawberry and hibiscus red fruit flavors. You will also be able to contrast the sweetness with the black tea’s soothing notes. Priorat wines that combine Garnacha with Syrah, Merlot, Carignan and other grapes have a burst of tannin. The flavors of grilled plum and crushed gravel are more nuanced and mature in these aged wines.

Monastrell or Mourvèdre wines

Monastrell wines from the Mediterranean regions of Jumilla, Alicante, and Valencia are known for their masculine flavors. This powerful grape variety produces wines with a lot of tannin and alcohol.

Bobal Wines

Almost entirely grown in Spain, Bobal has black cherry and herb flavors. Bobal grapes produce a low-alcohol wine that is strongly acidic and tannic.

The Top 10 Spanish Red Wines to Purchase in 2021

1995, Dominio de Pingus ‘Pingus’

Pingus, a boutique winemaker based in Castilla y Leon’s high plateau, rose to prominence with their first vintage in 1995. Purchase their first vintage and enjoy the succulent wine’s blackberry and black olive aromas for another ten years.

Dominio de Pingus ‘Pingus’, 1995, for $968

2004, Artadi Vina El Pison

In 1985, 13 growers founded this Rioja vineyard, which specializes in smooth Tempranillo and Garnacha wines. Their 2004, which has notes of balsamic, espresso, and Asian spices, is known for receiving a perfect 100 from wine critic Robert Parker.

Artadi Vina El Pison, 2004, cost $425.

2009, Descendientes de J. Palacios La Faraona

This smooth wine made with Mencia grapes hails from the hills of Bierzo in northwest Spain. The deep fragrance of oak layered inside the wild fruits and spices and a mild taste that lingers is immediately noticeable in their 2009 vintage.

Descendientes de J. Palacios La Faraona, 2009, cost $1125.

1994, Clos i Terrasses Clos Erasmus

In this spicy and intense wine, this Catalan winemaker showcases the distinctive Garnacha flavors of Priorat. Hints of licorice and dark red berries complement the wine’s prominent minerality.

Clos I Terrasses Clos Erasmus (1994) cost $384

2013, Celler Mas Doix ‘1902’ Centenary Carignan

Mas Doix’s Centenary series is an effort to resurrect Priorat’s winemaking heritage. This vintage is made with old Carignan vines that were planted in 1902 after Europe’s phylloxera epidemic. And the wine’s rich history is reflected in its bold and expressive notes of vivid cherry and spices.

Celler Mas Doix ‘1902’ Centenary Carignan, 2013, cost $265.

2006, Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva

Spain’s best winemaker makes this classic Ribero del Duero wine. The Unico line of wines from Vega Sicilia is also one of the most sought-after in the world. The beauty with which the 2006 vintage exposes its creamy texture between whiffs of American oak is part of its allure.

2006, Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva, cost $668.

1964, La Rioja Alta S.A. Gran Reserva 904

Spaniards established La Rioja Alta in 1890, which specializes in red blends that provide an intoxicating experience. Tempranillo, Graciano, and Macabeo grape varieties take over the senses in their 1964 vintage, with crushed flower aromas and a silky smooth feel on the palate. This Rioja Reserva epitomizes the best of the region’s wines.

It cost $271 for La Rioja Alta S.A. Gran Reserva 904 from 1964.

2009, Bodegas Muga Aro

Spaniards make this elegant and robustly tannic wine from a versatile Rioja blend of Graciano and Tempranillo grape varieties.

It offers the mineral-rich terroir of Rioja Alta and hints of orange sorbet to the wine drinker.

The price of Bodegas Muga Aro’s 2009 is $403.

2007, R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva

The 2007 Rioja blend from the Heredia estates was aged in oak barrels for a nuanced palette of raspberry tea and licorice. And you will be able to enjoy this Reserva’s ever-changing flavors for another 20 years!

$159 for a bottle of R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva 2007.

2010, Teso La Monja

Tempranillo, also known as Tinto de Toro, is used to make full-bodied red wines in the Toro wine region. With a cherry red color and a red fruit fragrance, Teso La Monja’s 2010 vintage represents this rich and intense theme. ‍

Teso La Monja 2010 price $1066.

Spanish Red Wine Food Pairings

Because Spanish red wines have such a diverse bouquet of aromas and flavors, your options are virtually limitless and delicious! The best way to keep it casual is to pair the Spanish red wines with Tapas (the go-to local bar food). For roast pork or a wedge of aged cheese, try younger, lighter red wines. Galician reds go well with Asian cuisine, especially sushi, according to chefs.

red wine with food
Red wine with food