Ultimate Guide to Spanish Wines

It’s not surprising to find Spanish wines stocking this restaurant wine cellar, since Spain is the third largest wine producer in the world. See our collection of wine pictures.
It’s not surprising to find Spanish wines stocking this restaurant wine cellar, since Spain is the third largest wine producer in the world. See our collection of wine pictures.
iStockphoto/Nuno Silva

­It might surprise you to learn that Spain is the third largest producer of wine in the world, right behind the likely leaders -- Italy­ and France. But Spain devotes nearly 3,000,000 acres of land to wine growing. That's more than anyone else does by far.

With recent modernizations in wine growing, Spain may not be third much longer. Developments in irrigation, mechanized training of vines in place of goblet pruning and new barrels made out of French oak, instead ­of old barrels made from American wood, are bringing Spanish wines new respect throughout the world [source: Best Spanish Wines].


A big part of what sets Spain apart is its native grape varieties. There are hundreds. The most common of which are Albarino, Malvasia, Verdejo and Viura, used to make white wines, as well as Monastrell, Temparnillo and Garnacha, considered to be the major reds [source: Wine Country Getaways]. The Garnacha variety was actually taken to France where it is known as Grenache. Spain also has varieties of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Pinot Noir, but they are generally used only for assemblage with local varieties.

­Just as there are a large number of native grape varieties in Spain there are also a large number of wine regions. Presently, more than 50 are D.O. registered, meaning "Denominacion de Origen" -- a labeling system regulated by the Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones. The D.O. label guarantees the origin and class of grapes, as well as the methods use­d to produce the wine. Among the D.O. registered regions of Spain, there are six key regions that produce wine. They are Rioja, Penedes, Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Jerez and Valdepenas [source: JR Net].

Despite the quality of many Spanish wines, their price tags are low compared to those of Italy and France simply because they are lesser known. As word of mouth continues to travel throughout the world and more advances are made in viniculture (the science, production and study of grapes used specifically for making wine) the popularity of Spanish wines is sure to grow.


Spanish Wine Regions

Though there are more than 50 D.O. registered wine regions i­n Spain, only six of them are considered key regions. They are Rioja, Penedes, Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Jerez and Valdepenas. Each is distinctly different and important to the history and tradition of Spanish wine growing.

  • Rioja is home to 14,000 vineyards, many of which were founded by the Ancient Romans. Rioja covers 120 km (74 m) running down either side of the Rio Oja River. The region is known for its red, white and rose wines [source: Spanish Fiestas].
  • Penedes, located in the Northeast, is known for its production of white wines, especially Cava, which has helped fund wine production for most of the region. There are three sub regions of Penedes -- the Bajo, Medio and Alto regions (which are the Spanish words for lower, middle and upper, respectively) [source: Spanish Fiestas].
  • Ribera del Duero is found on a plateau along the banks of the Duero River. This region experiences extreme weather during both the summer and winter. Fortunately, the climate works with the land to create ideal conditions for the Tempranillo grape. The region is home to some of Spain's most iconic wineries [source: Cellar Tours].
  • Rueda consists of only 47 vineyards and 7,700 hectares of land, taking up less than 1percent of the total land Spain devotes to wine growing. It is located in the province of Segovia and Valladolid and is known for its production of both Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes [source: Espavino]
  • Jerez, located in the Andalusia region of Spain, is home to Sherry, a fortified wine famous for its high alcohol content, which is between 15 and 20 percent. It is made in an area forming a triangle between Perez, El Puerto de Santa Maria, and Sanlucar de Barrameda [source: Exploring Wine].
  • Valdepenas, which is known for its soft, ripe red wines, is located in South-central Spain. The white Airen grape is the dominant variety of the region. The most famous red wine produced in the area is made from a blend of white and red grapes [source: Wine Searcher].

In addition to the key regions above, other notable Spanish Wine regions include:



­For more wine-related information, visit the links on the next page.



Lots More Information

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­­More Great Links­


  • Best Spanish Wines. "Spain: Land of Wines." (accessed 01/25/2009)http://www.bestspanishwines.com/intro.php
  • Cellar Tours. "Profile of Wine Region, Ribera Del Duero." (accessed 01/25/2009)http://www.cellartours.com/spain/spanish-wine-regions/ribera-del-duero.html
  • Espavino. "The wine region of DO Rueda." (accessed 01/25/2009)http://www.espavino.com/spain_wine_region/wines_rueda.php
  • Exploring Wine. "The Jerez Region of Spain & Sherry Production." (accessed 01/25/2009)http://www.exploringwine.co.uk/Jerez.html
  • Spanish Fiestas. "Rioja Wine Region." (accessed 01/25/2009)http://www.spanish-fiestas.com/wine/rioja-wine.htm
  • Spanish Fiestas. "Penedes Wine Region." (accessed 01/25/2009)http://www.spanish-fiestas.com/wine/penedes-wine.htm
  • The Spanish Wine Page. "Wine Guide & D.O. Regions of Spain." (01/25/2009)http://www.jrnet.com/vino/region/
  • Wine Country Getaways. "Spanish Wine Guide." (accessed 01/25/2009)http://www.winecountrygetaways.com/spain/spanish-wine-grapes
  • Wine Searcher. "Valdapenas Wine." (accessed 01/25/2009)http://www.wine-searcher.com/regions/valdepenas/1