Spain’s most famous wine region — the first to gain international recognition — is primarily known for its lush, fruity red wines made from the Tempranillo grape. Of these, Rioja wines are the youngest, Crianza have undergone two years of aging (including one spent in oak), Reserva wines undergo at least one year of oak aging and two in the bottle, and Gran Reserva get at least two years in the barrel and three in the bottle.
Often compared to the greatest red wine growing regions of France, Ribera del Duero, in the mountainous Castilla y León region of northern Spain, is also recognized for its exceptional Tempranillo-based wines. Wines from this area, famous for its ancient underground cellars, are renowned for their ability to age for many years. While the region is less well-known than Rioja, it offers lots of great value discoveries.
In the country’s extreme northwest, Galicia is among Spain’s finest white wine–producing regions. Growing conditions in this area are strongly influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and, the crisp, light, dry whites it produces, usually from the Albariño grape, make an ideal pairing for all kinds of seafood.
Crianza-level wines are a great way to start exploring Rioja’s classic style. These approachable, full-bodied wines are an extremely affordable intro to the region.
IF YOU LOVE: Cabernet Sauvignon or Sangiovese
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: Ripe cherry, pipe tobacco and leather aromas, along with vanilla and plum flavours
TRY IT WITH: Slow-cooked braises and Classic Paella
Less well-known than Tempranillo, the widely planted Grenache grape makes an extremely delicious and complex red wine. Those from Navarra are ink-dark and lush, and often savoury, with notes of allspice.
IF YOU LOVE: Southern Rhône Syrah
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: Strawberry and cherry aromas, with warm spice flavours
TRY IT WITH: Aromatic Moroccan tagine or grilled sausages
In a country known for producing great-value red wines, few represent as much of a bargain as those made from the dark and delicious Monastrell grape.
IF YOU LOVE: Chianti
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: Dark fruit and layered herbal notes
TRY IT WITH: Barbecued ribs or roast duck
France has Champagne, Italy has Prosecco and Spain has Cava, 95 percent of which is produced in Penedes. Primarily made from Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes (or a combination), Cava is a bubbly, crisp and toasty party wine — a great-value sparkler!
IF YOU LOVE: Champagne
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: Fresh floral aromas, white peach and toasted bread; crisp acidity
TRY IT WITH: Chorizo Sausage Rolls
Spain’s most popular white wine is relatively unknown outside the country, making it something of a best-kept secret.
IF YOU LOVE: Pinot Grigio
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: Lemon and melon flavours
TRY IT WITH: Spicy foods
The rugged and dramatic area where the peninsula meets the wild Atlantic produces one of the country’s most exuberant white wines.
IF YOU LOVE: Sauvignon Blanc
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: Apple and pear, along with more exotic fruit flavours, balanced by crisp acidity
TRY IT WITH: Whole fish fresh off the grill, scallops or raw oysters