Spanish wine – A Short Review of the Wine-Making Regions

Spanish wine making regions….

As I had mentioned before in my previous post, the laws and regulations that govern the wine-making process within each region in Spain falls under the Denominacion de Origen (D.O.) system. Each designated wine-making region is essentially a D.O.. However, there are only 2 “qualified” D.O.’s within Spain, the D.O.Q. Priorat and D.O.C. Rioja. The Q and C, respectively, is Qualificada and Calificada. ”Qualificada” is practically the same as “calificada” but, in the Catalan dialect since the Priorat region lies within the Spanish state of Catalonia (surrounding Barcelona). Instead of writing this article in paragraph form, I’m just going to list the more important D.O.’s that a neophyte in Spanish wine, like myself, should understand based on the popularity of the wines produced. This is a very brief list as there are more than 60 D.O.’s in Spain.


Red Wines

D.O.C. Rioja – The region that produces of the famous red wines of Spain, wines from here combine a blend of the modernistic and traditional characteristics of wine, these reds are made primarily from Tempranillo but, can also use Graciano and Garnacha grapes. The aging process traditionally uses barrels consisting of oak wood.

D.O. Toro – Located near Ribera del Duero, red wines from this region seem to be the “hot,” up-and-coming wine from Spain. The red wines from here use Tinta do Toro grapes similar to Tempranillo, but darker and smaller. These grapes can age much longer than Tempranillo grapes. These wines can also have a hint of cherries or blackberries added to the wine.

D.O.Q. Priorat – Although this large region is quite old, is has only been within the last decade or two that the red wines from here have received international acclaim. Located in the southwest section of Catalonia, the traditional Grapes here are Garnacha Tinta and Cariñena. Most red wines from here are 100% Garnacha or a blend of Garnacha and Cariñena.

D.O. Ribera del Duero – Home to Spain’s most expensive wine (Vega Sicilia) this region lies just east to the Rueda D.O. off the Duero River. Wines from this region are home to some of the better wines in Spain which are based mostly on Tempranillo grapes but, are mixed with grapes grown outside of Spain.

Understanding the Spanish

White Wines

D.O. Rias Baixas – Located in northwest Spain, their white wines are arguably the best in Spain and are produced from the Albarino grape. Albarinos are usually aged without oak and are lemony white wines that are cold-fermented to maintain freshness in their wines, a technique that was not too prevalent previously in Spain.

D.O. Rueda – This D.O. used to have a reputation of producing Sherry-like wines but is now one of the few areas well-known for their white wines. Within close proximity to the northeast of Portugal off the the Duero River, this area mostly produces Verdejo grapes. These grapes used to make their Sherry wine but, are now used to make their white wines. The white wines here must contain at least 50% Verdejo grapes. Usually, the rest contains Sauvignon Blanc.

D.O. Cava – Cava is essentially the Spanish Champagne, or sparkling wine, produced in a similar manner to Champagne but, the wine itself is more rustic. Cava sparkling wines can be produced in different regions other than Cava but, must conform to the Cava D.O.’s rules and regulations if this wine is to be produced. Cava wines consist of a combination of 3 grapes: Parellada, Viura, and Xarel.

Sherry Wine

D.O. Jerez-Xeres-Sherry – Sherry wine should really be in its own category, due to its fortification with brandy. This region in the south of Spain on the coast can only prooduce this type of wine. Several varieties of this wine exist, from “Fino” to “Palo Cortado.” I will explain the different varieties of Sherry wine more in-depth in later posts.