Spanish Red Wine: History, Types, & Brands

June 30, 2021

Spanish Red Wine: History, Types, & Brands

Spain is a country drenched in history and Spanish wine forms an amazing part of the culture. Drinking a single glass of red wine made in Spain will make you feel more sophisticated with every drop. Who said being cultured has to be boring?

Starting the journey to understand Spanish wine can seem daunting. With a little bit of research, we realized how intriguing it all can be. After some interesting information and a bit of guidance, you’ll be able to select the finest that Spain wine has to offer.

Why are Spanish Reds so Popular?

Even though Spain has so many options, including rosé, sparkling wines, and whites, these are still overshadowed by the spectacular array of red wines available.

The most obvious indication of that is the wine classification system specific to Spain. The highest classification is DOCa – which refers to a qualified designation of origin. It’s the most exclusive classification status as only two regions fall into this category.

Rioja and Ribera del Duero have been around for over two lifetimes and it’s only been a relatively recent adjustment to start including anything other than red in catalogs of winemakers within these DO’s.

So, you might be wondering why they’re all about the red. Well, that’s because of the climate. As any backyard gardener will have figured, it’s important to match your grape variety to the climate and temperatures around you.

In Spain, you’ll find arid conditions in the warmer seasons. Spontaneous downpour falls heavily throughout the Spring and Summer periods. Their short-lived summers and long winters mean that the grapes grown here will have to survive in those weather conditions.

But, it also boils down to the history of Spain and has a heavy French influence. In the 1800s, France was plagued by something called phylloxera. This insect attached to their vines and rendered many French vineyards unproductive.

Because of the 1800s exodus out of France, many Spanish winemakers were influenced by the bordeaux and merlot that surrounded them. So the Spaniards refined their process into the bottles that we now share. Luckily, Spain could rise up to the challenge, filling the boots of French suppliers when many wine drinkers were left out to dry.

Life is too short to be drinking bad wine printed on a cork

Spanish Red Wine List Ratings

While you may have dabbled in the regular labels as a Spanish wine drinker, you may now start wondering about the rest of the red wine world in search of the best Spanish wines.

Quick tip: La Guia Penin is one of the most comprehensive Spain wine guides. The guide is created by a wine journalist, José Penin. It ranks wine from 0 to 100. Some Spanish table wines and country wines are also ranked accordingly. So, this is a good tool to use when you’re searching for something good with less of a following.

Spanish Red Wine Types by Grape

Another way to choose your favorite Spanish wine is by understanding the grapes. The grapes used within wine production can be very telling of the flavors, texture, and aromas present in each wine. It’s quite obvious through your favorite grapes whether you’d like a wine that you haven’t tried yet.

In Spain, they use a different method to distinguish their wines, known as the DO method. This helps you better determine the quality of a wine and not necessarily the flavors.

Some bottles will tell you which grapes were used and how it was aged. This does help you decide if you’d like to try it or not. As they say, try everything at least once. As far as Spanish wines, red grapes like these will be worth the effort.

Tempranillo

This grape is manipulated through aging. Some wines are full-bodied with leather, cherry, and tobacco flavors. Whereas others are fruitier. Also known as Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero. This is different from Tinto Wine which is the translation of red wine in Spanish.

Garnacha

Commonly planted in Southern Spain, red Garnacha grapes display soft tannins and high alcohol content. You can expect notes of leather or toffee when aged and strawberries, red cherries, and even notes of white pepper-spice in younger wines.

Monastrell

Monastrell shows off some rich and dark flavors similar to black cherry or blackberry, with intense color and high tannin levels.

Cariñena

Do not mistake this grape for receiving its moniker from the Cariñena DO. It is mostly used in places like Catalonia, Rioja, and Priorat. Characterized by dark and black fruit flavors, it is sometimes laced with pepper, licorice, and spicy accents.

Dusty old Spanish red wine bottles left to age

Best Spanish Red Wine

There are three DO’s that rank as tops when contemplating Spanish red Wines. Fortunately, there are other ranking systems that can help you choose. As well as trusty websites where you can buy your wine online. We made a list of 10 favorites to get you started.

Rioja

  • Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva 1995
  • Viña Bosconia Reserva 2008

Ribero del Duero

  • Fuentespina Selección 2016
  • Dominio Romano 2016

Priorat

  • L’Interrogant 2019
  • Les Terrasses 2018

Other Great Spanish Red Wine Brands

Rioja, Priorat, and Ribera del Duero are all amazing. Thankfully, there are a few alternatives that can spruce up any dinner table. We’ve chosen these based on the Penins Score, which rates Spanish wine on a handy scale of 0 to 100.

El Bierzo

  • Corral del Obispo 2018

Navarra

  • Inurrieta Cuatrocientos 2018

Jumilla

  • Casa de la Ermita Petit Verdot 2014

Montsant

  • Brunus 2018

someone holding a bunch of black grapes

Final Tasting Notes on Spanish Red Wine

While Spanish wine is quite complex, once you understand the basics, it becomes extremely exciting. The journey into learning about wine can be a group activity. Book yourself a Barcelona Wine Tour to get a head start on all of the amazing wines and tapas available throughout the country.

Grab all your favorite winos, learn about the classifications, the regions, and the grapes. Get your hands on your favorite bottles and have fun!

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