Considering that the fame of Spain revolves around Tempranillo, it is remarkable that the breadth of styles of wine is so varied.

Oak-ageing for one, two and three years is often the key to making Crianzas, Reservas and Gran Reservas respectively. Blending with other grapes like Garnacha, Mazuelo and Cabernet also helps, bringing a complexity that has driven Rioja in particular to the fore. In the main the Spanish winemaker, whether in Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Navarra, Catalonia or La Mancha, wants to produce a warm, mellow glass of red wine with a rich slug of oak and a spicy finish. And don’t forget the whites! Some of the best are made from Verdejo in Rueda, Godello in Bierzo and glorious, peachy Albariño, the star of Rías Baixas in Galicia.


Central & Southern Spain
Excellent value ‘Rioja look-alikes’, typically mellow and easy drinking, are the prizes in Spain’s South. The likes of Jumilla, Almansa and Yecla and can be bakingly hot in summer but produce generous reds, while we’ve turned to La Mancha to source Tanners Spanish Reserva, made very much in the soft, traditional style that cemented Spain’s popularity many years ago. The high plains of La Mancha, the land of windmills and Don Quixote, have an enclave in its southern section called Valdepeñas which enjoys an enhanced reputation.

Rioja is famous for its oak-matured Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva red wines. This famous wine region however offers a whole host of wine styles with many more ‘modern’ black-fruited, French-oaked reds complementing the American-oaked, vanilla-flavoured wines favoured in the past. If you’re looking for a lighter red to accompany mixed tapas, vino joven (literally ‘young wine’) is a fresh, juicy un-oaked version of the Tempranillo grape. There’s plenty going on in the region, as a recent visit underlined, although the ‘modern Rioja’ producers are kicking over the traces somewhat, and steering away from the historic Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva classifications - yet another move towards more fruit character, less dusty old oak. We think there’s a place for both, hence the old favourites like venerable Reservas from CVNE and La Rioja Alta sitting side by side with ‘new wave’ additions.

The Aldonia wines, in the new wave camp, concentrate on the Garnacha grape rather than sticking mainly to Tempranillo, with intensity of flavour and a touch more oak being applied as you move up the range. On the other hand the Alto del Obre Reserva is a traditional, comfortable Rioja at a great price and stuffed with spicy, mature flavours. Then take a look at the three different sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. Bodegas Bagordi is based in the warm Rioja Baja while at the other end of Rioja you’ll find the Tobelos wines in cooler Briñas in the Rioja Alta. Rioja Vega in style sits between them, using grapes from both areas; try them all against each other at Crianza level to see the diversity of character on offer right across the region.

Catalonia & NE Spain
This is Cava country but there are excellent table wines too. Somontano, in the foothills of the Pyrenees is a favourite area for us; the vineyards for Paso Primero are at 700+ metres which ensures real freshness and vivacity in their red berry flavours, whilst the fame of Penedès has been carried worldwide by one particular producer, Torres. Often the bridesmaid to Rioja’s bride, Navarra is a great area for bright, fruity flavours in both red and white wines with just enough oak to reassure you that you’re drinking super Spanish wines. Priorat was rediscovered in the late 1980s, but winemaking dates back to Roman times with the soil, known as ‘llicorella’ being a slatey, mica-schist blend that is very free-draining. Their concentrated reds, epitomised by those from Celler Cal Pla, are outstanding, showing a particularly fine, classy line.

Galicia & NW Spain
For fresh white wine, Albariño from Rias Baixas in Galicia is hard to beat and here Aquitania Bodegas has 12 ha of vines which are literally surrounded by the sea. Their vines are grown on granite pergolas and the grapes hand-harvested to retain optimum flavours.

Ribera del Duero, north of Madrid, produces the finest Tempranillos when it’s on song. Here a clone of Tempranillo, called Tinto Fino locally and with smaller, darker grapes, makes a deeper coloured, more intensely fruity red which ages well in bottle after, typically, 18 months in oak. World-beating bodega Vega Sicilia sets the very high standard, but there is a chasing pack. Prado Rey has invested heavily in Ribera del Duero, both in vineyard hectarage and improving their winemaking facilities. It’s worth keeping an eye on them, alongside the more established wines from Grupo Pesquera. Alejandro Fernandez, the powerhouse character behind Pesquera’s world-class reds has long had access to some of the best fruit grown in the valley, and it shows.

If you’ve been on holiday to Majorca you’ll know that there is a lot of wine produced on the island.

It mostly comes from the centre around Binissalem, where wines such as Susana Sempre are crafted from a combination of international and local grape varieties including Manta Negro and Prensal, both indigenous to the Balearics. They are perfect wines to evoke the spirit of the Mediterranean!


Spain, and particularly Navarra, has a long reputation for producing cracking ‘rosados’. This slightly cooler region (when compared to Rioja or La Mancha) has a great grape-growing climate and producers such as Príncipe de Viana can get bags of flavour from Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon, yet preserve the fresh, pure feel in their wines.

Dry White

If you are searching for fresh, peachy whites then head west to Rueda and Galicia beyond. Telmo Rodriguez was originally from Rioja but he has hit real form with his whites from Rueda; the Verdejo grape is magnificent in his hands. Further north in Galicia you’ll find delicious aromatic whites, miles better than the old oxidised whites made in the past. Bodegas Aquitania coaxes a spritzy, lemony freshness into their Albariño in Rías Baixas, while further inland the Godello variety starts to come into its own, and El Bierzo, where MGH Wines sources grapes for its Xastra label.


Spanish sweet whites, mostly made from Muscat or Moscatel, are usually fortified to 15% in the same style as you’ll find in Southern France. Occasionally, and particularly in Navarra, you may find a sweet Chardonnay like this one from Príncipe de Viana; these, however, are not usually fortified and are a vendange tardive or late-harvest style.