Regions

Northern Spain

Aragon - This region mainly produces reds based on the Granacha grape, but also produces Carinena, Temparanillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and the ancient native Morsel.

Asturias - This region was granted its first wine appellation in 2009 (Cangas). Producing both red and white wines. Whites are primarily from Albillo, Godello, Gewürztraminer, while reds include Carrasiquin, Syrah and Mencia

Cantabria - A small region on the northern coast, the few wines that are produced here tend to be low-alcohol, high-acid, zingy white wines. The region's most respected beverages are its tangy Sidra (cider), and orujo, a brandy-like spirit distilled from grape marc which is the dry residue of seeds, stalks and skins left behind after grape pressing.

Castilla y Leon - Largest of Spain's administrative regions that came into administrative existence in 1983. Today, Castilla y Leon produces some of Spain's most respected wines, most notably in the ares of Ribera del Duero, Toro, Rueda and Bierzo.  Red wines dominate in Castilla y Leon, and of the red-wine grapes, Tempranillo (known here by various synonyms including Tinta del Pais, Tinto de Toro and Tinto Fino) is tops.  Castilla y Leon's white wines are made mostly from Verdejo and Viura.

Galicia - Best known for its wines from the Rias Baixas DO region – these are crisp, aromatic whites made predominantly from Albarino. Other white grape varieties are Loureiro, Torrontes, Godello, Treixadura and Caiño Blanco. Red wines are produced in warmer inland areas – typically light in style and made from Mencia.

Rioja - Rioja (re-OH-hah) is Spain's top wine region. It produces red wines made from Tempranillo (>70%), but Carignan, Garciano and Maturana Tinta are also used in red Rioja wines. A few wineries use small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon.  White Rioja include Viura, Malvasia, Verdejo and Granacha Blanca.

The controlling board in Rioja, the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja, ensures that the Rioja quality requirements are met.

There are various types of Rioja including Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva:

Rioja” is the most basic. It is aged for a matter of months, bottled and sold. It’s bright and fruity with big cherry flavors.

Crianza” is required to be aged for one year in oak and spend one year in the bottle before being sold.

Reserva” in Rioja actually means something. A Rioja Reserva is required to be aged for one year in oak and then spend two year in the bottle before being sold.

Gran Reserva” must spend a minimum of two years in oak and three years in the bottle before being sold. But, often these wines are closer to ten years old when sold. This wine is produced from the best grapes and ends up with the best tannin structure.

Rioja has three sub-regions:

Rioja Alavesa - With rolling hills throughout this region, its wines tend to be similar to those of Rioja Alta with higher levels of tannin and acidity. 

Rioja Alta - With its elevation and cooler temperatures, Rioja Alta wines tend to be higher in tannin and acidity relative to Rioja Baja.

Iregua Valley - The Iregua River divides Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja. This valley, which lies in both Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja, produces wines of medium acidity and lower tannin due to its warmer temperatures.

Najerilla Valley - This valley has the highest number of acres of vineyard in Rioja. Growing primarily Tempranillo and Garnacha from old vines (some 80 to 100 years), these wines can have smoky hints of tobacco, red fruit flavors and higher levels of tannin and acidity.

Oja Valley - The vineyards of this valley are planted at the highest elevation in Rioja Alta. The wines produced nearest the Oja river are rich, highly aromatic and lower in acidity.  Wineries on the northern side of the valley are more fruit forward with higher acidity and stronger tannin. These wines do well with aging.

Rioja Baja - Vineyards here are in the flatlands. Wines tend to be more fruit forward and are generally intended to consumed right away rather than being held for aging.

Alhambra Valley - The southern most valley in Rioja with vineyards in the mountains. 

Cidacos Valley - This is a very warm valley with limited water. Wines tend to be lighter in color but have bold fruit flavors.

Iregua Valley - This valley, which lies in both Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja, produces wines of medium acidity and lower tannin due to its warmer temperatures.

Jubera Valley - The vineyards of this valley are older and produce wines of more complexity and higher acid.

Liza Valley - This valley contains steep canyons that tend to be cooler and greener than other in the Rioja Baja. Wines from this valley are fruit forward.

Navarra - Traditionally, Navarra has been mostly associated with its rosé wine (rosado), made with Garnacha. Reds are produced from Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, while whites are based on Chardonnay, Viura and Garnacha Blanca.

Pais Vasco - Known as the Basque Country, this region is not particularly well known for wine making but does produce wines from grapes such as Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza, Bordeleza Zuria (Folle Blanche), Izkiriota Ttipia (Petit Manseng) and Izkiriota (Gros Manseng).

 

Central Spain

Madrid - Vinos de Madrid achieved the DO title in 1990 and is associated with the vineyards near Madrid. The region is not particularly well known for its viticulture today, but produces wines from Temparillo, Grenacha, Airen, Albillo and Malvar grapes. Other grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah for reds, and Muscatel, Parellada, Viura and Torrents for whites.

Mediterranean Coast

Catalonia - Spain's first Denominación de Origen (DO) appellation created in 1999. The French influence appeared in two of its most recognizable wines, the Champagne-style sparkling Cava and its red table wines made from Tempranillo (known in Catalan as Ull de Llebre), Garnacha and Monastrell (France's Mourvedre). Garnacha and Carignan are other significant grape grown for red wines while Barnacha Blanca and Xarel-lo are grown for white wines.  Other grapes grown in Catalonia include Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Trepat.

Costers del Segre - With less than a dozen wineries, this lesser known region produces blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Garnacha.

Conca de Barbera -With approximately 20 wineries, this small region is unique for its production of Trepat, used in rosé Cava.

Priorat - Just south of Barcelona and one of Span's hilliest regions with elevations up to over 2000 feet. Wines from this region are largely based on Garnacha, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot.  Wines of the region are big, dark and powerful. Alcohol levels usually exceed 15%

Montsant - Formerly known at the Falset subzone, this region became its own denomination in 2001. With elevations above 2000 feet, this regions primarily produces Garnacha , Carignan, Syrah and Garnach Blanca.

Penedes - Home to most of Spain's Cava industry. Penedes. Located about 40 miles southwest of Barcelona, this is one of Spain's highest producing regions. Cabernet Sauvignon and Xarel-lo are varietals produced.

Terra Alta - Spain's highest elevation region with some points up to 3000 feet. Primary focused on Garnacha, Carignan, Syrah with smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Morenillo.

Murcia - One of Spain's smaller, lesser-known regions in the country's far southeastern corner. It is bordered by Andalusia to the west, Castilla-La Mancha to the North, Valencia to the East and the Mediterranean Sea to the South. This small administrative region consists of just one province and one administrative center, both of which are also named Murcia. The classic Murcian wine is a robust, fruit-driven red made from Monastrell.

Jumilla - Known for Monastrell and Monastrell blends that include Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Valencia - Best known for oranges and paella, the Valencia DO produces wines from Monastrell, Bobal, Forcallat. Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are also grown. White wines are produced from Macabeo and Merseguera, along with the French varieties of Chardonnay and Semillon.

Alicante - Known for Marcona almonds, olives and growing Monastrell grapes.

Utile-Requena - Known mostly for bulk wine, this region specializes in Bobal, a red grape with strong tannin and acidity.

 

Southern Spain

Andalucia - Home to the world famous fortified wine, Sherry.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot also produce good wines in the warmer parts of the region, and are increasing in popularity.

Castila-La Mancha - Airen tops the list and is still the most commonly planted grape in Castilla-La Mancha (and indeed all of Spain). However, it is not a particularly respected variety, so many producers have broadened their portfolios by planting Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Alicante Bouschet (known here as Garnacha Tintorera), Monastrell, Syrah and Bobal. Most of these grapes are used for the production of red blends suited to barrel maturation, although varietal wines are increasingly being produced.

Extremadura - The Ribera del Guadiana DO title was established within this region in 1999 and represents the best that Extremadura has to offer. Tempranillo is the favorite grape of the region.

Murcia - This smaller, lesser known region, produces wines primarily from Monastrell. Other notable grape varieties grown in Murcia include Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah for reds and Macabeo, Airen and Merseguera for whites.

Islands of Spain

Balearic Islands - Manto Negro, Callet, Fogoneu and Moll (Prensal Blanc) are still in used somewhat today. But, the French varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay have brought broader appeal to wines from the Balearics, as has Spain's very own Tempranillo.

Canary Islands - A vast range of indigenous grapes are grown for wine, and international varieties are largely absent. Listan Blanco (Palomino), Malvasia, Marmajuelo, Listan Negro and Tintilla are just some of the authorized grapes.