A Guide to the Different Winemaking Regions in Spain
What are the different winemaking regions in Spain?
- Costers del Segre
- Jerez de la Frontera
Here is one truth that many wine aficionados may or may not already know: Premium Spanish wine is just as good as the premium wines from the other well-known wine-producing countries such as Italy and France. While that may sound either shocking or acceptable, depending on your own experience regarding wine from different countries, there is some truth behind that statement.
In terms of history and culture, Spain and wine go way, way back. In fact, the two go so far back that there have already been recorded signs of wine grapes growing in the Iberian Peninsula since the Tertiary period, roughly 65 million years ago.
Given that wine is made across the whole country, there are so many different winemaking regions in Spain. To make things simple, here is a list of some of the most renowned winemaking regions and communities in Spain. Most, if not all, of the regions that will be detailed below, will have either the Denominación de Origen (DO) or Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) classification. This means that the wine produced in that location is of the highest quality possible. As a testament to the dedication that the Spanish have for winemaking, anything lower than a DO classification means that the wine is not good enough for export and is consumed only within the country.
That being said, here is a short guide to some of the most prominent winemaking regions in Spain.
Of all the wine regions located in Spain, none come close to Rioja in terms of fame and acclaim. For most Spanish folk, Rioja itself is synonymous with wine. Location-wise it is in North-Central Spain, near the Ebro River, spanning 54,000 hectares across three different communities namely, La Rioja, Basque Country, and Navarre.
Fruity and earthy flavors accompanied by a smooth mouthfeel and taste are common among many wines produced in this region. While the wine quality coming from Rioja is nothing short of superb, it can vary in style. This can be attributed to their use of Tempranillo grapes, a type of wine grape endemic to Spain and equally renowned as the region it is associated with.
According to wine laws in Rioja, Tempranillo grapes can be blended with Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano, Maturana Tinta, or even a non-traditional variety like Cabernet Sauvignon. By doing this, some of the most unique wine flavor profiles in the world are produced.
As far as aging the wine goes, there are 4 different age classifications:
- Joven – Spanish for the word ‘young’, this type of wine is released without any oak-barrel aging and has a fruity profile.
- Crianza – this age classification entails at least one year spent in an oak barrel and another year aging in the bottle.
- Reserva – Reserva wines spend one year aging in an oak barrel then two years in a bottle.
- Gran Reserva – this is the oldest age classification and entails that the wine spends no less than two years in a barrel and three more years in a bottle.
All these aforementioned elements result in many elegant wines that carry the pride of the Spanish Rioja region in a bottle. If you’re keen to try one such wine, then take a look at Alcoline’s offer on the 200 Monges Reserva. You will definitely not regret it.
The next winemaking region of note is Priorat in the province of Tarragona. What makes Priorat stand out from other regions is that many vineyards that can be found here are built on steep terraces on the side of hills and mountains. The Carthusian monks who planted vines in the region during the middle ages found the rustic beauty of the area so inspiring that they called it Scalia Dei or the ‘ladder to God’.
Another notable feature of this region is the slate soil wherein the vines are planted. The vines have to be planted extra deep in order for it to get an adequate amount of water and nutrients. It also affects the taste of the resulting wines with the soil imparting mineral tones to the flavor profile.
Most red wines produced in Priorat make use of a blend of Cariñena and Garnacha grapes with a string of other red varieties such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
As a testament to the wine quality produced in this region, it is the only other place in Spain (aside from the aforementioned Rioja) that has the prestigious Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa)
Costers del Segre
Costers del Segre is a Denominació d’Origen winemaking region that can be located in the province of Lleida in Spain. Both local and foreign grape varieties are used in making the wine products in this region. Red wine grape varieties include Garnacha tinta, Tempranillo (also known locally as Ull de Llebre), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Alcoline’s Llebre and Vilosell are excellent examples of red wine made using the aforementioned grapes.
For white wines, Costers del Segre is known for using Macabeo, Parellada, and Sauvignon Blanc. Even grapes that are used for making Cava can be found in the eastern region of Costers del Segre.
If you have heard of or even tried ‘Cava’, a type of sparkling white wine that is comparable to the French Champagne and the Italian Prosecco, then you’ve probably come across a wine product from the region of Penedès. Located in Catalonia, North-East Spain, the Penedès wine region is one of the oldest in Spain and has a classification of Denominación de Origen (DO).
Going back to Cava, it only differs from Champagne when it comes to the variety of grapes that were used to create them. Champagne is made using chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes, while Cava is made up of macabeo, parellada and xarel-lo. There is also a slight difference in their fermentation process.
However, don’t assume that Cava is the only thing the Penedès region produces because there is a wide variety of grapes that allow them to produce excellent oak-aged red wine.
Jerez de la Frontera
While you might not believe this, Sherry is one of the most iconic types of wine in the world. It has been enjoyed by kings, poets, conquistadors, and many other historical figures. But without Jerez de la Frontera, a wine region located in Cadiz, Andalusia, Sherry wouldn’t have garnered such renown.
Jerez de la Frontera is a coastal region that experienced a boom in overseas trading and exploration since the 15th century. Voyaging ship crews would stock up on local wine then fortify them with brandy to help preserve them for the long journey ahead.
If you aren’t familiar with what Sherry exactly is, it is a ‘fortified wine’ made using white grapes, primarily the Palomino. Fortifying in the context of Sherry is just adding a distilled spirit (usually brandy) to the mix after the fermentation process. This is to say that Sherry is basically wine mixed with brandy.
Sherry can be now considered one of the best kept secrets in the world of wine, mainly because their popularity in the modern era has decreased. If you are interested in trying some Sherry, now would be the best time since its prices are now reasonably low. Try to take advantage of great bargains on Sherry if you ever come across one because it could potentially become popular again in the future.
The Spanish winemaking regions listed above are only some of the countless that produce premium Spanish wines you can see in the market. Next time you are looking to satisfy your wine cravings or trying to find the right wine to pair your meals with, try going for some Spanish wine. Who knows, it could be your best bottle yet.
Click here to see Alcoline’s selection of Spanish wine that you will surely appreciate.