Simple guide to Spanish wines

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When we think of wine, its very likely that a few specific places around the globe come to mind, one of which undoubtedly being Spain. There’s no denying that Spanish wines are world renowned for their flavor, variety, textures and uniqueness. Like taking a swim on a hot day, or shooting for a B- and getting a solid A, Spanish wines, simply put, are just the best. Here is a simple guide to understanding Spanish wines.


Often referred to as Rioja because of the region in Spain where this grape varietal originates, tempranillo wines are perhaps the most common reds found in Spain, and will most likely be the bottle you buy when friends come over because of its price and popularity. Tempranillo wines can be subdivided into four different styles: Rioja, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Rioja being the cheapest, typically costing €4-5 ($5-6) for a good bottle, and having been aged for a year, up to Gran Reserva where it is aged for a total of 3 years, 2 of which are in oak barrels. A good bottle of Gran Reserva is usually in the ballpark of €28 or more ($35+).


Garnacha, also known as Grenache in France, is a popular grape varietal north of the border in France but actually originated in Spain. Garnacha can be divided into young and old with the younger grapes tasting more like sweet strawberries and the older, aged grapes more of a deep, red licorice. A bottle of young garnacha, great for making a sweet sangria, is in the ballpark of €9-14 ($12-18) and the older of the two, known as fine garnacha, ranges in price from €20 to €28 ($25-35).


Authentic Sherry, often refereed to as the whiskey of wines, only comes from one place on the planet: Andalucía in the South of Spain. Like Champagne from France, or Bourbon from Kentucky, a true, genuine Sherry can only be found in the hot and dry Spanish region of Andalucía. Known by North Americans as a sweet wine, Sherry in fact comes in two varieties, sweet and dry, and is a great companion of certain foods such as olives, cured meats, and cheese AKA all the good things Spain has to offer.


Monastrell, also known as Mourvèdre in France, is yet another popular grape varietal in France that ultimately has its origins in Spain. Found in a wide reaching area of Spain ranging from Valencia on the East coast to La Mancha towards the center of the country, Monastrell wines are popular for their chocolate and black-pepper hints, and has even been known to have hints of vanilla and mocha the longer they are aged in oak barrels. A good bottle is in the price range of €8 to €14 ($10-18).


Last, but not least of all, Mencía wines come from the Mencía grape varietal found primarily on the West coast of the Iberian Peninsula in Portugal and Galicia, Spain. Commonly blended with other grapes before bottled, Mencía wines are medium bodied with floral aromas and not too many mouth-drying tannins. A good bottle is anywhere from €16 ($20) to €24 ($30).

Extra resources on Spanish wines:





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5 Very Spanish Foods from Spain

1. Paella


Paella is a very popular rice dish from Valencia that has made its way all around the country and has become a staple dish in just about every corner you might visit. Chock full of shrimp and chicken, vegetables and oysters, paella is most commonly served for groups of 4 or more because of the giant woks used to slow cook the food.

2. Tapas


There is no one specific Spanish dish that is known as a tapa. The best way to think of a tapa is as a hors d’oeuvres in terms of size and variety, but instead of eating them as an appetizer they become somewhat of the main meal. A Spanish tapa is just that; it could be a small sandwich or a slice of something and are almost always finger-food. Getting together with some friends at a Spanish bar, ordering a variety of tapas, and getting lost in conversation is perhaps the most Spanish thing one could ever do.

3. Olives

Spanish Olives

Where to begin. It could be argued that the king doesn’t in fact rule Spain; olives rule Spain. They are everywhere! Spain is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of olives and olive oil in the world, which is very evident since it’s impossible to escape them. Thankfully they are just as delicious as they are ever present. Coming in a variety of flavors and cured brines, Spanish olives are addictive like no other and can be as easily downed as popcorn. Sitting out in a Spanish plaza with a cold beer and plate of olives is an absolute must.

4. Cocido Madrileño (if you’re in Madrid)

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Cocido Madrileño (Credit:

Cocido Madrileño is a fantastic dish that’s part chickpea soup and part meat concoction that’s commonly served during the winter months. Ripe with chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), ham bones, and sometimes chicken, cocido madrileño will fill you up like you never thought possible.

5. Jamón Serrano

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Spain is the world’s number one producer and importer of cured meats and is known the world over for its famous Jamón Serrano (Serrano Ham). Cut from a leg of ham with skilled culinary precision, Jamón Serrano is best eaten with cheese, a glass of wine and a couple slices of bread.



If you found this post to be helpful, take a look at our other posts as we discuss a variety of topics related to Spain. If you are interested in teaching and living in Spain for a year, send us an email at letting us know so we can contact you to set up a free 20 minute consultation!