If you think of Spain, bullfights, paella and flamenco probably spring to mind. Rioja may also feature well up your list and rightly so, as it contributes to a vast proportion of Spain's wine exports and is almost certainly one of, if not, the most well known wine to come out of the country. However Rioja isn't the only wine that Spain produces by any stretch of the imagination. Take time to get to explore the diverse range of stunning Spanish wines on offer - you are sure to be in for a real treat!
Rioja is named after the region in which it is grown and is made predominantly from Tempranillo and Garnacha. It produces a very fruity red wine, with caramel, and often oak, flavours. It is a great match for rich red meat such as roast lamb. It is probably worth bearing in mind, however, that because of its reputation, Rioja can often command high prices meaning that, while you'll be getting a great tasting bottle of Spanish wine, you won't necessarily be getting the greatest value for money in the world.
If value for money is your thing then you might want to look to Navarra, the neighbouring region to Rioja. It produces some great tasting Spanish wines, similar to those coming out of Rioja, but without the price tag. Also in the North, is Priorato, which is doing big things with some of the international grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, as well as Tempranillo and Garnacha. Look to Riax Baixas and Rueda for some delicious dry whites, including Albarino and Verdejo, as well as Sauvignon Blanc. In central Spain and to the South, try the regions of La Mancha, Yecla and Jumilla for a selection of dry Spanish whites and fruity reds. The South is, of course, famous for its Sherry production.
There are a huge number of grapes grown in Spain, including many international varieties, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Alongside these, you'll also come across a range of exciting native wines, including Albarino, Tempranillo, Monastrell, Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-Lo.
Understanding the Lingo
Certain terms are used on Spanish wines to describe how old the wine is and how long it has been aged in oak barrels. These are also indications of the quality of the wine, so it's worth taking the time to learn what they mean.
"Vino Joven" literally means young wine. It is bottled the year after it's grown and is sold immediately.
"Crianza" indicates that the wine has been aged for two years, and spent at least six months in oak (12 in Rioja) and is a relatively easy drinking and young wine.
"Reserva" means that the wine has been aged for three years and spent a minimum of one of those years in oak.
Finally "Gran Reserva" indicates that the wine has been cellared for five years with at least two in oak and is considered a high quality, mature wine.