Spanish wine regions
It is not possible to understand wine in a country without basic knowledge of that country's geography and regional structure. In this section, we will introduce the Spanish wine regions and provide an overall perspective of the different wine regions in Spain. You will be able to learn about each specific region in depth by navigating into their specific sections.
Spain is a country with more than 500,000 square kilometers (some 20% bigger than California Estate) and with over 45 million inhabitants. Wine has been cultivated in Spain since at least 1,100 BC when Phoenicians established in the area of Cadiz. This area of Spain is closed to the sea and offered a perfect shipping base for the commerce-minded Phoenicians. Inland, this region is fertile, easy to harvest and hot. This was a perfect location for the development of wine and it meant the origin of the sherry triangle in the area o Jerez de la Frontera in the region of Cadiz.
Spain has the biggest vineyard surface in the world. Contrary to the stereotype, Spain has an extremely varied climate and you will find lots of smaller ´micro-climates´across the country, each perfect for growing different kinds of grapes. This means that Spain has a huge variety of distinct and different beautiful vineyard landscapes to explore.
7 main wine regions based on climate, geography and culture
Since culture, geography and climate are three very important elements that shape wine regions, we would like to use them in order to provide an understanding of Spain´s wine regions. Wine expert and wine writer John Radford used to divide Spain in 7 main regions using the 3 criteria shown above. We believe his segmentation provides a good understanding of Spain´s wine regions realities. This criteria is however different from the actual certified wine regions that get a stamp from the Spanish wine authorities: the DOs or denomination of origin system. This system is similar to the AOC system in use in France
Each wine region in Spain has something different to offer: winery architecture and design, vineyard patterns, the colors and scents of the different soils and terroirs, the local food produce to accompany the wine, and of course, the wine itself.
Here you will find a guide on different wine regions and wine routes in Spain for your interest in travelling and Spanish wine. You can build your own Wine Tour in Spain itinerary.
Green Spain wine region
This area of Spain covers the north coast of Spain, from Galicia in the northwest and its border with Portugal in river Sil, all the way to France through the coastal areas of Galicia, Asturias Cantabria, and the Spanish Basque country in the border with France (the French Basque country which starts in Hendaye). These lands all share an Atlantic climate. It rains much more than in the rest of Spain and there is an agricultural tradition based on small properties. Fish and seafood is very important in local economies. You can find here additional information on north Spain climate and also a Northern Spain itinerary in this other section. This region produces the best white wines in Spain, a perfect match for the seafood and fish that arrives to its harbours daily.
Far from the coast and protected from the Atlantic winds by the Sierra de Cantabria and the Pyrenees mountain ranges, this part of Spain provides favorable conditions for red wine grapes. Spain´s most famous iconic region is included here: Rioja, and so is Navarre and also Aragon (a less-known region that has consolidated a strong reputation for quality wines in recent times, first with wines from Somontano DO, then with fantastic Garnacha wines from Campo de Borja, Calatayud and Cariñena Dos.
La Rioja and Navarre played a fundamental role in the XIX century when the phylloxera plague destroyed the French vineyard. The dry, continental climate, local vines, and hard work of local winemakers that partnered with French negociants and wineries, played a fundamental role in the success story of this region. Prosperity arrived thanks to wine and Europe could drink red wine thanks to a large degree to these lands. More difficult times arrived later, but the seeds planted were strong and vigorous.
Central Spain – Old Castile
Castilla Leon, an administrative region or autonomous region in Spain has played a fundamental role in Spanish history. Castles, gothic cathedrals, and impressive monasteries set the architectural landscape of this part of Spain, where continental weather and high altitude shape wines. Old Castile produced wines to serve the court and its monasteries. Vega Sicilia, Spain's red wine brand already established in Valladolid by 1846. However, the international development of this part of Spain has only happened at the end of the XX century, when Ribera del Duero became internationally acclaimed. But this wide wine region in central Spain is much more than Ribera del Duero. Rueda, Cigales, Toro, and Bierzo are full of interesting vineyards and wineries that promise an exciting future in winemaking.
Catalonia and Balearics
Catalonia is located in the Northeast of Spain and it borders France on the North. Catalonia consists of 4 provinces: Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida, and Girona and altogether gathers 11 Dos. To this already complex reality, we add the Balearic islands, a top tourist destination, paradise-like Spanish archipelago in the Mediterranean sea with very interesting local grapes. All in all this wine region is about Mediterranean climate and culture. Local climate and soils favor cava and white wines, but there is room for elegant red wines and also powerful crianzas and reservas, mainly from Priorat, the inland exciting wine region in Tarragona where vineyards are planted in terraces.
Southern Mediterranean coast. Levante
This region develops from Castellon, south of Tarragona in Catalonia al the way to the south in Murcia. Warmer temperatures and Mediterranean influence. This Mediterranean nature has not only shaped the style of wines, but also an attitude towards trade. Wines from Valencia and Murcia offer great value for money and have for decades exported much of what they produce. Bobal and Monastrell are local red grapes totally adapted to the hot climate and which have proved their real potential with the introduction of modern vinification techniques.
The Meseta. Madrid and Castilla La Mancha
Isolated for centuries when compared to coastal Spain, this central part of Spain is set at a semi-arid plain, la Meseta. Locals claim there are almost only 2 seasons here, winter and summer. This large wine region covers La Mancha, which is the world´s largest vineyard, Madrid and Extremadura, land of Conquistadores like Pizarro and which neighbours Portugal. This high plain offers fantastic value for money and is giant in wine terms. But volume is not the only thing here. Smaller wineries have found a way to differentiated themselves and offer exciting top quality wines.
Andalusia and the canary islands
Cadiz is probably the area of Spain in which wine production was initiated. This huge region in Southern Spain consists of 8 provinces which, as a whole, provide the most iconic images of Spain: Flamenco, olive oil fields, Andalusian horses, white villages, and la Alhambra palace, bullfighting, and sherry wines. There is however much more than sherry wines in Andalusia. The Canary Islands, an archipelago of volcanic origin not far from the western coasts of Africa, also specialized in fortified wines. The volcanic soils and strong winds have forged very specific terroirs to the wines from the islands. The vineyard was removed to a large extent for the advantage of banana plantations. But small wine producers have found their way to differentiate and provide some of the most interesting and differential wines in Spain.