In a world of wine where a small number of grape varieties proliferate and virtually become ubiquitously interchangeable with the term “red wine” itself, Spain stands apart from the crowd as an important red wine producing country – from both qualitative and quantitative perspectives – built on an array of authentic flavours and indigenous grapes. Whether we’re looking at the famous, expensive, age-worthy and collectible reds of Rioja, Ribera del Duero or Priorat, or examining the delicious value-priced wines from Yecla, Jumilla, Alicante or Andalucia, one of the consistent threads connecting the best wines produced across all of Spain is an emphasis on indigenous and heritage grape varieties.

Sometimes produced as mono-varietals, but more often comprising part of a blend, the reds of Spain deliver impressive balance, freshness and finesse given the warm climates in which they’re grown – yet another virtue that must be connected – at least in part – to growing the right grapes in the right places, rather than forcing a shortlist of internationally recognized grapes into terroirs and climates unsuited to their needs, simply because they’re phonetically pronounceable for English speaking wine drinkers. The red wines of Spain deserve the attention and love they’re receiving from knowledgeable wine drinkers, critics, journalists and Sommeliers – of course for their sheer deliciousness and outstanding value, but also for standing proudly as distinctive and authentic examples of red wine in a world too often dominated by far less characterful competitors.


Bobal


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Utiel-Requena, Ribera del Guadiana, Alicante, Campo de Borja, Calatayud + La Mancha

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Rich and round, often used as a blending component for its ripe plummy fruit and spice, and also an interesting mono-varietal wine when produced from older vines

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Great with tomatoes, red-sauced pasta and leaner cuts of beef or pork


Carinena / Carignan / Mazuelo


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Priorat, Costers del Segre, Montsant, Penedes, Tarragona + Terra Alta

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Used as an addition to blends in Rioja, but plays more of a star role in Priorat and Montsant where it contributes deeply spiced and mineral complexity

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Works well with complex and deeply flavoured dishes – especially braised beef or lamb


Garnacha / Grenache


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Rioja, Priorat, Navarra, Somontano, Carinena, Calatayud + Campo de Borja

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Red cherries and berries in lighter expressions – and darker berry fruit from older vines used in more serious wines – this is the third most widely grown grape in Spain

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Great with richer cuts of meat from the grill or slow cooked beef or lamb


Garnacha Tintorera / Alicante Bouschet


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Almansa, Alicante, Yecla + Jumilla

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

One of a handful of red wine grapes with red pigmented flesh as well as skins which adds depth and colour to wines

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Great with grilled lamb and game, or more flavourful preparations of beef with pepper or aromatics herbs


Graciano


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Rioja + Navarra

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Deep and dark purple colour with notable tannins, this is used mainly to add depth, structure and colour to reds of Rioja

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Ideal with boldly flavoured or grilled meat like beef or game, or with pungent more full-flavoured cheeses


Mencia


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Bierzo, Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra + Liebana

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Has been compared to both Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc for its somewhat lighter colour, red berry fruit + herbal notes

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Great with white meats like chicken or pork and also with vegetable dishes featuring green vegetables like kale or broccoli


Monastrell / Mourvedre / Mataro


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Yecla, Jumilla, Alicante, Almansa, Catalunya, Costers del Segre + Penedes,

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Produces a mid-weight to richer style of red wine, quite ripe red and black fruit with meaty/spicy complexity

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Delicious match with pizza, pasta and other dishes with tomato, or grilled fattier cuts of beef like ribeye


Tempranillo / Tinta del Pais / Tinto Fino


WHERE IS IT GROWN?

Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Toro + La Mancha

WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

Differs in style and profile depending on the part of Spain where it was grown, but best examples have great freshness and acidity, silky tannings, bright red fruit and have the potential to improve, evolve and age over long periods of time

WHAT FOODS DOES IT GO WITH?

Great with traditional Spanish, Mexican or Latin American flavours in stews, casseroles or rice dishes – and classic match with rack of lamb or well-aged beef steak or roasts

Andrew A. Hanna / Winetrader.ca

Guide to the 8 Main Red Wine Grapes of Spain


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