Spain has a surprising number of grape varieties grown all over the peninsula, more than just Tempranillo!
This article lists just a few of the need-to-know most commonly found varieties that you can find across the country and a brief description of their characteristics!
(Who could have guessed!) This is Spain's number 1 celebrated and well-known grape, and it's mostly grown in central and northern Spain. A 100% Tempranillo wine it can produce a fresh strawberry drinking young wine. But outside Spain (especially in the UK), we often see it blended with either Garnacha, Cariñena or Graciano for a more concentrated, oaked and aged wine. It has medium acidity and thick skins.
If you're interested in wines internationally, you've probably heard of this one before. In French it's called Grenache and you often find it in the Rhone Valley, and here in Spain you'll see it in the prestigious region of Priorat where is produces high-concentrated low-yields from old vines giving intense and complex reds with a big body! You'll also see it as a blending partner in Rioja as it gives body, alcohol and perfume. Garnacha ripens very late and so generally needs to be planted in hot climates and - luckily - it has a high tolerance in droughts! General characteristics: low acidity, soft tannins, red fruits, and a full body.
I consider Monastrell to be a an overlooked little wonder. With thick skins like Tempranillo and drought tolerant like the Garnacha, it thrives in hot climates. We've always got a wine or two from regions such as D.O. Bullas or D.O. Jumilla, which have the perfect conditions for a wine such as this. Typically Monastrell produces wines deep in colour, with lots of tannins (from their thick skins), high in alcohol, ripe blackberry fruits and with plenty of body. Try this with some grilled pork, yum!
For Spanish wine growers, harvesting their white grapes at night or in the colder hours of the day is important in retaining their delicate fresh and fruity aromas. Here are the top white varieties that you should know about and their typical characteristics.
Rueda's traditional grape variety and highly susceptible to oxidation. It is important when producing the staple wines of Rueda that the wines makers take every protective caution, but when they do, the wines are excellent - very light, high in acidity, and similar in flavours to that of Sauvignon Blanc: Peaches, melon, and sometimes citric. For this reason, Verdejo is often blended with it.
Covered in a few previous article, this is one of my favourite Spanish white varieties. But that's also because I've got a thing for Atlantic food!! Grown in the Northwest of Spain, typically in wet and green Rias Baixas, in recent years it has become increasingly fashionable. In blind tasting you may confuse some Albariños for Reisling due to their high acidity, citric forward and stone fruitiness, but (and you may not have tried any), but they too can be made into a slightly fuller-bodied style
Predominately found in Catalunya and North Eastern Spain, and like its red counterpart (Garnacha Tinta), it is also found in the Rhone Valley and Languedoc-Rousillon. Spanish Garnacha Blanca is a great alternative if you don't want a white as acidic and fresh as Albariño. Capable of making wines full of character and with a more medium to fuller-body, richer on the palate and often giving floral aromas and green apple. Another personal favourite, and definitely a wine that will be returning to us this Christmas.