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Evolution of Wines in Spain

Updated: Sep 25, 2022

Studies show that wine manufacturing in Spain dates lower back to the Tertiary period. The maximum crucial length for Spanish wine commenced with the founding of the Roman Empire in Spain, the most important growing regions at that point have been Tarragona and Andalusia. Spain, which has a protracted wine history, has come to be a tremendously new competitor withinside the manufacturing of satisfactory wines compared to France or Italy, and towards the end of the 20th century saw tremendous levels of investment in both new and reclaimed vineyards along with new cellars, mixed with a brand new wave of ambition that has helped it to transport ahead and take fast steps to emerge as one in all the most important wine manufacturers withinside the world.

With the region's diverse climates and some with extreme conditions not particularly conducive to viticulture, the geography and different elevations of its vineyards have resulted in the production of high-quality Spanish wines, during the period of Roman rule Spain had the golden age on Spanish wines since the degree of exports in no way stopped increasing, and shortly have become a coveted commodity for everyone but right after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the barbarian tribes of northern Europe conquered the Peninsula, there are very little or rather say no facts explaining viticulture and the records of wine at this time.

When Spain was invaded by barbarian tribes, including Germanic invasions it ended with the loss of many vineyards. Less availability of information is there on the progress of viticulture and winemaking during this time, but there is a piece of evidence that some form of wine industry existed when the Moors conquered the land in the early 8th century AD. Although the use of alcohol was restrained by Islamic dietary laws, the Moorish rulers rather had an ambiguous position on wine and winemaking during their rule. Various caliphs and emirs possessed vineyards and drank wine despite the strict Islamic dietary laws. Hence, even when the production of wines was declining, it is said that during the period of Moors the agriculture was continued and improved.

During the phylloxera plague in the 19th century, some regions even benefited from it. Luckily, Spain was affected by the phylloxera very late and, therefore, exports in the north of the country increased considerably. By the time when plague reached Spain, the cure had already been discovered. As a result of this event, the first induction of the La Rioja region was established, not much time was left to recuperate from this misfortune in the wine industry.

The production and exports of wines were negatively affected by the Spanish Civil War, First and Second World Wars. Henceforth, after this crucial period, the wine industry started to flourish, with the beginning of democracy and later after the demise of Franco in 1975, the thriving of the existence and significance of Spanish wines began at the same time.

Additional, development and the growth of different stocks in Spain were due to the accession to the European Union and the prohibition of irrigation, which led people to seek new places to plant vines.

Wine regions of Spain

Map of Spain Wine Regions

Spain is bifurcated into seven clear-cut regions and climates, Galicia that is the northwest part of Spain also known as "Green Spain". Second, comes the central plateau "Meseta Central" that covers the capital of Spain, Madrid along with the region that is located in the sea of ​​southern Spain is Andalusia.


Grapes of Spain

Garnacha: This variety is better known as Garnacha when it grows in the south of France as the Rhone Valley.

It is a fine-skinned grape that is often mixed with other grape varieties.

In Spain, it comprises most of the best Priorat wines and is also used as a coupage grape in Rioja and in sparkling cava wines. Produces aromas of dried red fruits with herbaceous and spicy notes.

Cariñena / Mazuelo:

It is used throughout Spain and is also found throughout the Mediterranean Corridor, where it is often referred to as Cariñena.

It is usually used as a coupage grape in Rioja and it is also the other top grape in Priorat. Provides structure, weight, and tannin to wines, as well as blue fruits such as plums and dried cranberries.


The country’s most famous white grape is mostly grown in northwestern Spain in the Autonomia of Galicia.

Its best examples come from Rías Baixas DO on the Atlantic Ocean coast near the border of Portugal.

The wines are tropically scented with layers of sea spray, notes of orange and bergamot oil. They brim with juicy acidity, which makes them great with food.

Viura / Macabeo:

It is one of the 3 most important grapes used to make cava, the maximum well-known glowing wine in Spain.

It is likewise used as the principal grape for white Rioja wines.

Dense grape with aromas of inexperienced apple and pear that upload weight and texture in your wines.


The only place where palomino is made of quality wines and is in the southernmost part of the peninsula, Andalusia.

Here it is processed into the famous oxidized and generous Jerez / Jerez wines. Palomino may not be a great table wine, but it brings something precious to the table when it ages and is fortified in the sherry-making process.


The most common grape variety in Spain. It is the pillar and backbone of two of the most famous wines in the country: Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

Different regions have different names for Tempranillo, which is also known as Tinta del País, Cencinbel, Ull de Llebre, Tinto Fino, and Tinto del Toro, among others.

Produces structured and aged wines with aromas of dried red currants and red cherries with hints of smoke, cedar, and leather.

Wine Regions in Spain

In most other parts of Europe, Spain modulates winemaking at the regional level, by controlling the types and styles of wine that can be made from which grapes are in each region.

Such regions are located inside each of the Spanish Autonomias and are craved up into DO (Denomination of Origin) and DOCa (Qualified Denomination of Origin), being the DOCa the one that refers to the upper part of the scale.

In Spain, there are only two DOCa: Rioja DOCa (probably the most famous region in Spain) and Priorat DOCa.

The rest of the named certain regions fall into the DO category

Priorat DOQ (Catalonia)

Priorat has experienced a great revival in the production of wine over the preceding decade.

Since these steep slopes were extremely

strenuous, menacing, and overpriced to toil

and keep up with.

Priorat is a realm for several Vines in Europe, Llicorella (black schist and quartz soil ) is impervious to phylloxera, this is the reason why the vines were left reprieved when the blight devastated Europe's vineyards.

Rioja (La Rioja)

Image by Alfred Sommelier

Undoubtedly Rioja is Spain’s most prominent wine-growing region. Since the 2nd century BC People have been growing wine grapes. Typically wines are based on the Tempranillo grape variety and are blended with Garnacha, Graciano, and Mazuelo (along with a few others). The region is divided into three marked growing regions: Rioja Alta is the coolest of the three and makes the finest wines, Rioja Alavesa is just southeast of Alta and makes wines of high tannin and structure, and Rioja Baja, the warmest of the three, which makes simple, everyday drinking wines.

Rueda DO (Castilla y León)

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This small-scale compact DO in the middle of Ribera del Duero and Portugal is a region in which white wine thrives. Predominantly known for fortified wines, nevertheless, in today's date, this is renowned for its light, dry wines made from Verdejo. You will notice that a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc is often blended in as well.

Ribera del Duero DO (Castilla y León)

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Ribera del Duero DO (Castilla y León) is the most

notable and reputable regions of Spain. This is the home to the most renowned winery in Spain, Vega Sicilia, and its wines are emanating from the most famous grape in Spain, Tempranillo.

Toro DO (Castilla-La Mancha)

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The region has recently experienced rapid growth.

Four wineries were established here after the area became DO in 1987.

Since 1997, the area has grown explosively after it was leaked that Toro's famous Vega Sicilia estate purchased land under a pseudonym.

Today, about 40 wineries produce wine here.

Tempranillo, Malvasia and Garnacha grape varieties dominate the region.

Rías Baixas DO (Galicia)

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Rías Baixas DO (Galicia)is renowned for its white wines prepared from, Albariño grape. The DO sits on the border to Portugal along the Atlantic coast. Their wine is bright, spicy, and very acidic with tropical fruit notes.

Valdeorras DO (Galicia)

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This DO rivals Rías Baixas as the best white wine in the northwest of Spain. Made predominantly from Godello, the wines are fresh, light, clean, crisp, and very refreshing. The influence from the Atlantic Ocean can almost lend a saline-like quality to the wines.

Cava (Pais Vasco/ Catalonia / La Rioja / Aragon / Valencia / Extramadura / Navarra)

Cava is one of the oldest sparkling wine appellations in Europe. It is always made by the Traditional Method or Champagne Method, which stipulates that the second fermentation (creation of the carbonation), always takes place in the bottle.

Cava is not actually one region but a patchwork of regions with defined borders throughout the country that are approved to make it. The allowable white grapes are mainly Xarel-lo, Macabeo (aka Viura), and Parraleda, though Chardonnay and Malvasia may also be used. The allowable red grapes are Pinot Noir, Garnacha, Monastrell, and Trepat. Trepat may only be used in the production of Rosé.


Image by Wine Tours in Spain

Certain terms on labels of Spanish wine carry legal definitions as to how old they are before being released and how they were aged. They can be clues to the quality of the wine in the bottle as well. Here are some of the more common ones you will encounter.

  • White & Rosado (Rosé): Wine must be 1 year old and spend at least 6 months in wood.

  • Red: Wine must be 1 year old and spent at least 6 months in wood. In Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Navarra it must be at least 2 years old and spent a minimum of 1 year in wood.

  • White & Rosado (Rosé): Wine must be 2 years old and spend at least 6 months in wood.

  • Red: Wine must be 3 years old and spent at least 1 year in wood.

  • Cava: Wine must spend a minimum of 15 months on the lees.

Gran Reserva
  • White & Rosado (Rosé): Wine must be 4 years old and spend at least 6 months in wood.

  • Red: Wine must be 5 years old and spend at least 18 months in wood. In Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Navarra, it must be5 years old with a minimum of 2 years in wood and a minimum of 3 years in bottle.

  • Cava: Wines must spend a minimum of 30 months on the lees.

Food & Wine Pairings

Rioja & Ribera del Duero (Tempranillo)
  • Char Grilled Filet Mignon

  • BBQ Pork Tenderloin

  • Roasted Rack of Lamb

  • Serrano Ham

Priorat (Garnacha/Cariñena)
  • Braised Oxtail

  • Smoked Beef Brisket

  • Venison Tenderloin

  • Braised Pork Cheeks

Rías Baixas (Albariño)
  • Grilled Octopus

  • Pan-Roasted Cod

  • Sashimi & Sushi Rolls

  • Vinaigrette dressed salads

  • Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp & Garlic)

  • Chilled Octopus

  • Crab Cakes

  • Poached Lobster


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