Key Spanish varieties

Spain is truely blessed with an incredible range of grape varieties, (over 600 at the last count) add to that an amazingly diverse countryside and some very talented wine makers and you can see that the possibilities are almost endless.

The Reds

Tempranillo
Probably the most famous of native Spanish varietes and the dominant grape type in the world famous wines of the Rioja and Ribera del Duero, can be consumed young, but ages particularly well in oak barrels.
Notes – The wines are ruby red in colour, with typical aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather and herb.

Grenache
Believed to be the most planted red variety in not just Spain but now the world, key variety in many Catalan wines notably those from the Priorat and Montsant. Ripens late and needs hot dry conditions as found along the mediterranean coast of Spain.
Notes – generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate with a high alcohol content, lacks acid, tannins and colour but blends exceptionally well with many of the other classic Spanish varieties, notably Tempranillo, Cariñena and Syran.

Cariñena
Originates from the province of Aragon and rather annoyingly has many different names in Spain alone it can appear as Mazuelo, Tinto Mazuelo, Crujillon and Samsó. Mostly (but not always) used in blended wines especially in the Rioja and Priorat. Can produce high yields but is a difficult one for winemakers to work with. Curious fact most planted vine in the DO Cariñena?…Grenache!
Notes – Deep cherry red and naturally high in acidity and tannins making it the ideal blending partner for Grenache as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Of course it´s a famous French variety but it is growing in popularity and with some great success in Spain, particularly in the Catalan regions (of which there are many) and Ribera del Duero. It´s a tough, easy to grow grape with great structure and flavour, making it a popular varietal.
Notes – It´s a tough one to define in a sentence because it is so flexible and versatile, being a small tough grape does mean it is high in tannins with other typical qualities being black currant and tobacco. What´s certainly true is that it has an almost natural affinity to oak and aging.

 Mencia
Found mostly in the cooler climates on the Atlantic north west coast, especially Galicia and the regions of Bierzo, Valdeorras  and Ribeira Sacra. For many years rather dismissed as an uninteresting grape that tended to produce light, diluted wines. More recently, thanks largely to a new generation of winemakers and the combination of older vines and interesting, mineral soil far more complex and concentrated wines are being produced and as a result it´s rapidly growing in popularity, both in Spain and Internationally. Definitely one to look out for in our opinion.
Notes – Deep purple in colour with cherry and plum fruits, medium bodied with soft tannins and fresh acidity.

Monastrell
Native Spanish variety found all over the world, often given the French name Mourvedre, a real rising star particularly in the regions of Jumilla and Yecla where it is mostly be used as a single varietal, although it also blends well with other grapes, ntably Grenache.
Notes – Dark almost black in colour, high alcohol, earthy, red fruits and plenty of tannins.

The Whites
white spanish grapes
Airén 
Most planted vine in Spain, native variety mostly in La Mancha, Madrid and Valdepeñas something of a work horse commonly used for table and blended wines as it has the reputation for being rather acidic and characterless. Often used in the manufacture of brandy.
Notes – In general, the wine from Airén are characterised by a pale yellow colour, in the nose, tropical fruits such as banana, pineapple or grapefruit, and in the mouth, despite a certain lack of acidity they can be quite pleasant and easy to drink, though not especially ‘elegant’.

Albariño
Arguably Spains most popular white in recent years, found mostly in Galicia specifically the DO Rias Baixas and Ribeiro two regions noted for it´s exceptional whites, often bottled as a varietal but also blends well with other less known varieties such as Godello, Loureiro and Treixadura.
Notes – Light and acidic with aromas of apricots and peaches can have a mouth watering fatty texture in the mouth. Perfect with all sea food.

Chardonnay
The international appeal of Chardonnay has seen increasing numbers of this vine planted in Spain over the last decade, particularly in Navarra and Catalunya, with some excellent results. A very versatile grape, sometimes desribed as neutral, meaning it can nicely adopt and reflect the terroir of the region. More often then not bottled as a varietal although does blend well and is often found in sparkling wines and cava. Can be aged in oak with good results
Notes – Almost impossible to define in a sentence as it is so versatile but common associations are subtle notes of  pineapple and a slight smokeness.

White Grenache
Some what overlooked but has been around in Catalunya and particularly the Terra Alta for ever where improved wine making techniques have seen it growing in popularity and producing some very interesting wines. Works well as a varietal but can also be blended.
Notes – High alcohol, clean and mineral with fairly low acid, although does have citric aromatic notes.

Macabeu
Otherwise known as Viura in the Rioja region, it is the key variety in Spains sparkling wines and cavas where it is more often then not blended with lesser known varieties such as Xarello and Parellada, can also work well as a wine blended with White Grenache for example.
Notes – Mildly acidic and soft usually best drunk young as a wine.

Verdejo
Grown mostly in the region of Rueda and previously known more for making sweet wines but has managed to change its image in recent years and is rapidly become a Spanish white favourite. The grapes are usually harvested at night when temperatures are cooler meaning less oxidation and clearer, cleaner looking wine.
Notes – Beautifully aromatic wines with plenty of fruit, low acid and perfect balance, clean and sharp best drunk young.

 
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