Somehow, Spain seems to fly under the radar compared to its next door neighbour, France. Spain is actually the third largest wine producer in the world and has the most land dedicated to vineyards–over a million acres. Spanish wines range from great values to highly prestigious wines, such as Vega Silicia’s Unico.
Northwest “Green” Spain
Galicia, very unlike the rest of Spain, is where lush green valleys are plentiful and the common cuisine includes lots of fresh fish. Albariño is the champion grape of the sub-region called Rias Baixas (RYE-us BYE-shus), which skirts the coast. The area specializes in zesty white wines and a few aromatic red wines made with Mencia in the Bierzo & Monterrei Region which is also famous for the whites of Godello and Treixadura.
The coast is a very diverse macro-region that contains the sub-regions of Valencia, Catalonia and Murcia. Catalonia is known for Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and a highly acclaimed red wine sub-zone, Priorat based on Garnacha but also the up and coming Terra Alta Region. Valencia and Murcia are warmer growing regions that produce a bulk of value wines from deep red Monastrell especially in the Jumilla Region.
Ebro River Valley
The sub regions of La Rioja and Navarra are found in the Ebro River Valley. Here, Tempranillo is king. Rioja produces some of the most age worthy wines. Navarra produces a large volume of rosado (rosé) wine of Garnacha. Rioja aging explained: Joven – a young wine with no oak aging; Crianza – A minimum of one year in casks and a few months in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum cask aging period is 6 months.; Reserva – aged for a minimum of 3 years, with at least one year in casks. ; Gran Reserva – Selected wines from exceptional vintages which have spent at least 2 years in oak casks and 3 years in the bottle.
Duero River Valley
The Duero River is the same river as the Douro in Portugal. This region is notable for the rich white Verdejo of Rueda and the red wines of Toro, Ribera del Duero and Leon. The wine grape of Toro, called Tinta de Toro, and Ribera del Duero called Tinto País or Tinto Fino are local synonyms for Tempranillo.
Because of its climate characteristics, vines are spaced very far apart and close to the ground. Some of the best value red wines made of Monastrell, Syrah, Tempranillo and Garnacha come from this area. And some serious contenders from districts such as Mentrida based on Graciano & Cencibel (Tempranillo).