Of all the wines and regions we cover here, Spain might be the one where I am buying most of my wines from right now. The price to value on many Spanish wines right now is just too good to pass up. Let’s look at some of the key areas that you need to know about, beginning with areas known for their red wines made from the Tempranillo grape (known there as Tinto Fino).
Rioja and Ribera Del Duero
These are the two quintessential areas of Spain for big, hearty red wines that are food friendly and on the whole, very reasonably priced. Rioja (pronounced Ree-OH-hah) and Ribera del Duero produce Tempranillo based wines that are medium to full bodied, with some noted earthy undertones; expect flavors of red berry fruit. The flavor profile really varies with the time the wine spends aging.
Both areas use the Spanish aging labels. A wine labeled as “Crianza” must age two years before release; a wine labeled “Reserva” must age three years, and a wine labeled “Grand Reserva” must age 5 years before release.
Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines can start in the $8-10 range and climb up significantly from there. The quality across the board, even on the low end, is quite remarkable. These wines are really versatile. You can serve them on their own, with almost any meal, share with friends at a party or bring over to someone’s house as a gift. You can’t go wrong.
Priorat and Garnacha
The next big thing to know about Spanish wines is the Garnacha grape grown prevalently in Spain’s famed Priorat region. “Garnacha” is the same as the “Grenache” found in France and elsewhere. Like many grapes, it is just known by its local name in Spain. Fairly good Priorat bottles can be found for close to $20-25 but they get incrementally better as you spend more.
Garnacha is an important grape in Spain and it is also beginning to be blended into Rioja wines. Its juicy, fruit forward character and softness makes it a great blending partner but also a wine that is fantastic on its own. We’re seeing more Grenache being grown here in the US as well.
You will also want to explore wines from Navarra and Toro. Your wine shop will likely carry a few of these, and they start right around $12 with higher end offerings in the $40-$50 range.
Spain’s white wines
I think Spain offers some of the best white wine values in all of Europe. The more I try the more I tend to build on that position. Simply put Albarino from Rías Baixas and Verdejo from Rueda can be found for $10-15 and they actually put a lot of fun back into drinking inexpensive white wines. With more character than Pinot Grigio, less oak and butter than most Chardonnays, and more complexity than many Sauvignon Blancs, these wines serve up crisp apricot and peach flavors, perfect if chilled in the summertime. And I love to pair these whites with lighter summer fare such as salads, white fish and chicken.
Wherever you explore in Spanish wine country you will find good wines for a good value. There are many more regions than I listed here, but this should get you going in the right direction, and you can further explore based on what grapes and areas you find favor with.
Your Spanish Wine Check List:
– Tempranillo wine from Rioja
– Tempranillo wine from Ribera del Duero
– Grenache based wine from Priorat
– Grenache from Navarra. Toro is an area not to be missed too
– Albarino white wine from Rías Baixas
– Verdejo white wine from Rueda
Fast Fact: Even though Spain is recognized more for its reds, nearly two thirds of Spain’s vineyards are white grapes due to high volumes of brandy and sherry production.