2.9 million acres of land in Spain are covered with wine vineyards, more than any country in the world. However, Spain is the third largest wine producing country behind France and Italy, due in part to low yields and wide spacing of old vines on infertile soil in many regions. This spacing creates less competition between vines for resources in dry climates. Some vineyards date as far back as 4000-3000 BC, but Spanish wine was traded extensively through the Roman Empire.
Major red wine-producing regions are Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Navarra in the north, and Priorat and Penedes in the northeast. Rioja wine, the most internationally known Spanish wine, is known for its use of oak in aging and the distinct vanilla flavors. Red wines are often labeled based on aging as Crianza (two years old), Reserva (three years old) or Gran Reserva (five years old).
Jerez is the home of fortified Sherry wine, made mostly from the Palomino grape. The European Union restricted the use of the name “Sherry” to wine from this region. Sherry has a number of categories, from light and delicate (Fino) to deep, dark and rich (Oloroso. White wines are produced in the northwestern region of Galicia, and Cava is a sparkling Spanish wine made in the tradition of Champagne.
Here are five Spanish wines that we highly recommend.
Cerro Anon Gran Reserva Rioja
This wine has a deep, dark color with ruby glints around the rim. Its nose opens with red berry aromas, smoky nuances and hints of spices, along with leather and tobacco from the wines prolonged aging. Cerro Anon Gran Reserva Rioja is full and round on the palate and lingers after swallowing with a soft, smooth sensation.
Bodegas Volver Tarima Hill Monastrell
Monastrell's intensity of fruit shows throughout the wine, with red plums, black cherries and raisins, as well as the lingering power of the toasty barrel and a fragrant, violet nose. There are a few green, herbal notes, and the wine finishes with a lasting warmth and toast.
Rio Madres Graciano Rioja
"Inky ruby. Spice-accented aromas and flavors of black and blue fruits and cola, with notes of dark chocolate and licorice. Concentrated and powerful on the palate, with a spicy note building with air. Intense licorice, blackcurrant and bitter cherry notes linger on the spicy, youthfully tannic finish. Outstanding value here." International Wine Cellar
Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserva
This wine has intense cherry red color and aromas of oak aging with hints of spices. The Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserva delivers a strong attack, good backbone and full flavor, with well-integrated, long-lasting tannins and a long, persistent finish.
Josep M. Vendrell Rived Sere Barrica Montsant
“The 2010 Sere… offers up a lovely nose of red and black raspberries, meaty overtones, a fine base of stony soil, woodsmoke and a nice touch of coffee grounds. On the palate,
the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and beautifully balanced, with just a touch of backend tannin, lovely focus and mid-palate depth, and a very long, classy finish.' View from the Cellar