Keys to Spanish wine: best Spanish wines and wine types

It is no secret that Spanish wines have something special, something about their taste and personality that has always bewitched wine lovers across the globe. Indeed, altogether with Italy and France, Spain is one of the largest wine producing countries in the whole world.

Spanish wine and bodegas, a gift to the world

Spain exports thousands of litres of this precious scarlet liquid every year. In fact, in May 2022, Spanish wineries or “bodegas” gained more than 285 million euros only with exported wines. The autonomous community that stands out the most in this respect is Castile and León, closely followed by Catalonia.

A large vineyard in Spain

A vineyard in Valladolid, Castile and León. | Shutterstock

It makes perfect sense that many people living outside Spain want to taste the marvellous wines from this land. According to the 2022 International Wine Challenge (IWC), which is considered “the world’s most rigorous, impartial and influential annual wine competition”, Spain is one of the best wine producing countries. Spanish winemakers got selected for many awards, like the Great Value Champion Awards, the Champion Wine Awards, and most of the Winemaker of the Year award categories.

However, there are a couple of things one should know to fully enjoy the experience of tasting a good Spanish wine. To start with, we have the Denominación de Origen (DO), a Spanish certification mark used for different products, like cheese or wine, which provides a geographical indication of said products and regulates whether they meet the best quality standards. When it comes to wines, the Denominación de Origen follows a strict hierarchical system that is similar to those of France and Italy. It encompasses different categories, such as Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP) or Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa).

Two glasses of wine and white and red grapes on a wooden table

Different Spanish wines. | Shutterstock

Spanish wine types: Cava wine, Rioja, Spanish reds…

In Spain, drinking wine has become some kind of ritual. Although not everybody consumes it, wine presides a good number of social gatherings. For instance, there is always a bottle of red wine on the table in most celebratory events, and it is customary to toast with a champagne glass at New Year’s Eve.

Now we have discussed the international presence of Spanish wines and the place they take in society, we should answer the following question: what kinds of wine are most popular in Spain? Of course, there are endless varieties of wonderful wines in the Spanish territory, but we will just go over a few of them in order to get a glimpse of this particular winemaking and how Spanish people perceive it.

The label of a Spanish wine

A Spanish Rioja wine. | Shutterstock

If you are a wine lover, you have probably heard of the popular Rioja. This red wine, which typically comes from La Rioja, Navarre and Araba, has a Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa). It is made of Tempranillo grapes mixed with Mazuelo, Graciano, Garnacha, and Maturana Tinta, and it stands out for blending ripe fruit with earthy flavours.

Ribera del Duero is another beloved red wine among Spanish people. It is also made of Tempranillo grapes and it is almost impossible not to fall under the spell of its delicate nuances tasting of vanilla and cinnamon. Ribera del Duero is a Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP), it comes from the homonymous comarca, and it is always a safe bet at parties or family dinners.

Next up, we have the Cava. This Spanish wine of Denominación de Origen (DO) is always a great choice too. This time we are not dealing with a red, but with a sparkling wine that can be either white or rosé. It is mostly produced in Catalonia, and they blend different kinds of grapes to make it, mainly Xarel-lo, Macabéo, and Parellada.

A person with a red dress pouring a glass of sparkling wine

A glass of Cava wine. | Shutterstock

Just like in many other parts of the world, when we are about to choose a bottle of wine, we usually look at its age. It depends on the type of wine, but there are three main categories of Spanish wine on this matter: crianza, reserva, and gran reserva. The crianza wines are at least three years old, and they must have been in an oak barrel for a year. Reserva usually means that the wine has been stored for at least three years total; and gran reserva wines have been stored at least for 60 months, in an oak barrel for two years and in a bottle for two more. However, all this varies depending on the type of wine, since the process concerning red, white or rosé wines is slightly different.

As we can see, there are countless nuances when it comes to Spanish winemaking. Considering Spain is a leading wine producing country, it makes sense that the product is carefully manufactured and pigeonholed in all its complexity by experts. Even if we are not so, everyone who enjoys this delicious beverage will be able to appreciate its immense richness.

Three glasses of wine and grapes on a barrel

A nice toast to end this experience. | Shutterstock

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