Spanish wines are some of the best Old World style wines in the world. While Spanish wines are sometimes eclipsed by the flashier French and Italian wines, Spain is one of the top three wine-producing countries in the world accounting for almost 14 percent of world wine production. With such prolific winemaking, there are many popular Spanish wines beloved not just in Spain, but around the world.
1. Rioja (Reds)
While the Rioja region in Spain produces both red and white wines, it is especially known for its big reds made primarily from Tempranillo blended with other reds such as Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano, and Mazuelo. Rioja is one of two wine regions to hold Spain's top quality designation, DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada). There are several styles of Rioja wines based on the length of time the wine is aged.
- Gran Reserva - Aged for 5 years with at least two years each in oak and bottles.
- Reserva - Aged for at least 3 years with a minimum of one year in oak and six months in bottles
- Crianza - Aged at least two years with at least one year in oak
- Generic (not labeled) - No aging or oaking requirements
Rioja red wines can range in flavors and styles from light, fresh, and fruity to tannic, deep, complex, and bold. Expect flavors of dark stone fruits (cherries and plums) with notes of herbs, leather, and vanilla. The wines tend to be dry and medium-bodied with moderate to high acidity.
Three Riojas to Try
- Cotino Rioja Reserva costs around $45 per bottle and is incredibly well received by wine critics. It's a blend of 85 percent Tempranillo, 10 percent Graciano, and 5 percent Mazuelo and Garnacha with layers of fruit and herbs.
- Finca Allende Aurus comes from the Rioja Alta region. It's an old vines blend primarily of Tempranillo and Graciano that receives aggregate ratings across vintages and critics of 93 points, with the 2010 vintage receiving a 98 point rating from Decanter. Depending on vintage and availability, a bottle costs between $100 and $150.
- Bodegas Artevino Rioja Orben only costs about $30 per bottle, and this Tempranillo-Graciano blend is full-bodied and tannic with layers of fruit.
2. Priorat (Reds)
While Spain's Priorat wine region and wines aren't as well-known as Tempranillo and Rioja, the red wines that are produced here are silky, complex, and delicious. Producing red wine blends primarily from the Garnacha grape with the addition of Cariñena (Carignan), Syrah, and other red wine grapes. Priorat is the only other wine-producing region in Spain outside of Rioja to hold the top tier DOCa designation. Due to low yields of grapes grown in the region, the wines can be expensive but well worth the cost. Red Priorats are classified based on time spent aging and in oak with classifications similar to those of Rioja. Priorat wines tend to be earthy with flavors of black fruits, smoke, berries, and herbs.
Three Priorat Wines to Try
- Clos Mogador Priorat is a red blend of Garnacha, Cariñena, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It costs around $90 per bottle. Critics love it. In the past, vintages of the Clos Mogador have garnered sky-high ratings from critics like Robert Parker, who frequently awards it 97- and 98-point ratings.
- Joan Simó Les Eres Vinyes Velles is a Cariñena-forward blend that also contains Garnacha. Decanter likes the 2010 vintage, awarding it 90 points and nothing it is rich and oaky. A bottle costs around $50.
- Clos Erasmus Laurel Priorat is a blend of 80 percent Garnacha, 15 percent Syrah, and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. At around $45 per bottle, this wine is dense and dark with flavors of blackberries and violets.
3. Cava (Sparkling)
Cava (kaa-vuh) is Spain's answer to Champagne, a sparkling wine made primarily from the white wine grapes Macabeu, Parellada, Xarello, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and/or other grapes. Cava can be made as a white or rosé sparkler, and the rosé Cavas are made using the saignée method in which the rosé wine is bled from the red wine during primary fermentation. Other Spanish red grapes such as Garnacha may be used to make rosé Cava.
While Cava wines can rival the quality and flavors of French Champagne, they are usually far less expensive than their French counterparts.
Three Cavas to Try
- Codorniu Brut Cava is widely available and highly affordable at around $11 per bottle.
- Juve Y Camps Cava Pinot Noir Brut Rosé is made 100 percent from Pinot Noir grapes. It only costs $15 per bottle, and Robert Parker rated this Cava 91 points.
Gran Codorníu Reserva Chardonnay Brut Nature is a Cava made exclusively from the Chardonnay grape, so it is similar to a Blanc de Blancs from France. This non-vintage Cava costs around $15 per bottle.
4. Sherry (Fortified)
Sherry is a fortified wine from Andalucía, Spain that comes in a variety of styles and levels of sweetness. Sherry has a small but passionate following all around the world of people who enjoy the unique, nutty, flavorful wines that result. Sherry wines can range anywhere from very dry to very sweet.
5. Ribera del Duero (Red)
Red wines from Spain's Ribera del Duero region are made from Tinto Fino, another name for the Tempranillo grape. The wines from this region tend to be big and bold with lots of aging potential and typical Tempranillo flavors of dark fruits, berries, and hearty tannins.
Three Ribera del Duero Reds to Try
- Garmón Ribera del Duero costs around $60 per bottle, and Wine Enthusiast has awarded the 2015 vintage 95 points noting flavors of boysenberry, blackberry, and chocolate.
Pesquera Ribera del Duero Tinto is about $32 per bottle, and year-to-year ratings average around 91 to 92 points. The wine is earthy with berry flavors and a cocoa finish.
Pata Negra Ribera del Duero Crianza is an affordable Ribera del Duero at just under $15 per bottle. At such an affordable price, it's a good introduction to Tempranillo wines from this Spanish region.
6. Albariño (White)
Albariño (al-bah-ree-nyo) is an aromatic Spanish white wine with lots of acidity. It has flavors and aromas of flowers and citrus fruits and melons along with salinity and minerality that adds interest.
Three Albariños to Try
- Martin Codax Albariño is from Rías Baixas, and it costs around $14 per bottle. It's a pale straw-colored white with tropical and pear flavors.
Pazo San Mauro Rías Baixas Albarino is listed as one of Wine Enthusiast's top rated Albariños with the 2018 vintage receiving 90 points. Expect flavors of apples and citrus with a clean and zippy mineral finish.
7. Godello (White)
Godello (Goh-day-yoh) wine is a delicious white to drink in the summer. It's very dry with zippy acidity and flavors of lemons and grapefruits and a palate pleasing salinity and minerality. Godello wines are made from grapes grown primarily in Galicia.
Three Godellos to Try
- Gotas de Mar Godello translates to "sea drops." This Godello costs around $16 per bottle, and it's a deep golden white with flavors of apples and a white pepper finish.
Bodegas Avancia Godello Valdeorras is a well-received wine; critics rate it between 90 and 92 points. You'll find it for just under $30 per bottle.
Vina Godeval Valdeorras costs around $17 per bottle. Wine Spectator awards it 90 points and calls it "bracing and balanced" with flavors of grapefruit and herbs.
Popular Spanish Wines
There are many great Spanish wines you can try. When in doubt, head to your local wine vendor and ask for a few recommendations. You may be surprised at how good, not to mention comparatively inexpensive, wines from Spain can be.