Spanish Wine Districts 101 – All You Need To Know

6 October 2016
Read Time: 2.5 mins

With the worldwide foodie trend gathering strength, the profile for non-French European wines is also growing – and as Spain is the world’s largest producer of wine, and the country with the largest number of vineyards in the world, it is no wonder that Spain’s wine districts are a favourite for lovers of wines and wineries.

 A patchwork bedspread of a vineyard in Rioja. Picture: Getty Images

There are many wine areas right across Spain, so to assist in the navigation of the breadth of wine areas, we have highlighted the things to consider before booking your visit to this incredible part of the world.

Where To Go?

Depending on the region that will be the focus of your trip – there are plenty of wineries throughout all of Spain to visit to bring out your inner vitner. If you are spending most of your time in Northern Spain, head to the well-known Rioja District, alternatively Ribera del Duero and La Mancha are great for those visiting Madrid; and if you are spending some time in Barcelona, then Penedés and Cava are definite places to include on your itinerary. Also in Northern Spain you will find Rias Baixas which is a wonderful option for a self-drive trip or if you want to travel onto Portugal.

The Biggest: Are They The Best?

The bigger wine producers have online reservation systems and plenty of information, and they tend to have more infrastructure and activities available. But if you have time to visit a second or third winery – look for a smaller family run winery, you will be guaranteed a personalised tour.

 A Roman remnant in the wine area of Toro, Spain. Picture: Getty Images

Vino Blanco or Rojo?

This highly polarizing issue – as to whether you are a white or a red wine drinker – the answer matters not, because many regions are suitable for both red and white wines and most of the larger wineries will produce both reds and whites. For drinkers of red wine, the wineries in La Rioja and La Rioja Alavesa, Ribera de Duero and Toro are perfect. If you are only a white wine sipper, then consider focusing your trip on Rias Baixas or Rueda. If the white bubbly stuff is more your thing, then Catalonia is where you will find a wide range of your favourite drop.

 Red or white - many of the grapes are the same. Picture: Getty Images

Environmentally-friendly Wineries

Despite the tricky processes required for organic or environmental certification, Spain is one of the larger producers of eco-wines. You’ll find some of the large producers such as Codorniu are embracing the organic grapes as well as many of the big Rioja names such as Bodegas Muga.

 A Medieval church in Priorat. Picture: Getty Images

Winery Architecture: More Than Just The Wine

Architects and designers are in cahoots with some Spanish vitners and from this collaboration, incredible places like the Frank O. Gehry Hotel at the Marques de Riscal wineries in La Rioja Alavesa, are born. Spa treatments and pampering are also a new introduction to the winery experience – there are a number of fantastic options in the Rioja and Rioja Alavesa regions. For devotees of design and architecture be sure to visit Ysios, the new Domecq owned winery designed by Calatrava, and the R. López Heredia Shop by Zaha Hadid.

 The Frank Gehry Hotel where architecture meets vineyard. Picture: Getty Images

Winery Tours In English - Always Prebook

Language may also be a factor in deciding where to visit. If you understand Spanish, try selecting one of the mainstream wine regions and also a lesser known one. If you have no Spanish at all, you are best keeping to the larger wineries in the better-known wine regions. Even then, you will have to pre-book your English tour in advance.

And of course, there is so much more to Spain than wine - the beauty being that you can really immerse yourself in Spanish wine culture and see beautiful attractions, rustic villages, breath-taking churches and countryside along the way - so if you are planning to visit the Spanish wine areas, here are some some hints and tips to get the most from your journey.


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Tara Young

The experience of travel changes a person. I see my job as highlighting what amazing travel opportunities there are to broaden your knowledge of that great big world beyond your doorstep and what you may learn about yourself on the way.