Spanish Grapes: Una Introducción

With its diverse landscape, sun-drenched southern valleys and rich central and northern plains, Spain has easily assumed the mantle of the world’s largest wine exporter. Thanks to a proliferation of vines, ideal climate and plethora of award-winning wines, Spanish producers are very much in vogue, which can make choosing just one bottle a real challenge. Based in Valencia, Vinoole is a barrel-filled treasure trove of the very best wines Spain has to offer. From boutique producers to favourite labels, its buyers travel the length and breadth of the country to source the finest Rioja and crispest whites. For the wine lover, this embarrassment of riches can make selecting a Spanish wine to savour and enjoy a formidable task.

The challenge can be lessened with an appreciation of the distinct personality associated with each grape, its flavours, heritage, nose and bouquet. Being able to distinguish between a label sporting a fruity Tempranillo grape and one proudly sporting the Airen in its list of ingredients makes it easier to find a harmonious balance between the succulent flavours in the glass and the delicious menu planned for dinner.

With more than 600 indigenous varieties of grape and more planted vineyards than anywhere else in the world, Spain is one of the planet’s most exciting and varied wine-growing countries. From the lush dark red Tempranillo grapes to fresh white Palomino vines, its extensive selection of luscious fruits and full flavours makes for a vibrant and innovative community unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

Tempranillo is the crown prince of the Spanish grape world. Its status as one of the most widely-grown red grapes in one of the world’s primary wine-growing countries has helped the rich, full-bodied Tempranillo to superstar status. Mainly used to create the ubiquitous Rioja wine, the top native red grape is cultivated in many areas across the Iberian country. Its name changes according to where the vine is planted. In southern Spain and the central Madrid region, it is referred to as Cencibel, while in Cataluna it is nicknamed Ull de Llebre. Tempranillo grapes offer a superb quality and are very aromatic; the real jewel in the crown of all Spanish red grapes. A wine such as Finca Terrerazos, with its deep cherry colour, intense nose and sweet aromas reminiscent of liquorice, black fruit and roasted vanilla is a perfect starting point for getting to know the grape better. Typically robust, Tempranillo grapes are wonderful paired with meats and cheeses so are suited to a light lunch, evening roast or summer picnic.

The counterpart to Tempranillo, the Airen grape is the most widely planted white grape in the world, and one of Spain’s most popular exports. The large, tightly packed grapes flourishing on this vine produce wines with an alcohol content of between 12% and 14%. You’ll find Airen in a multitude of regions; Ciudad Real boasts 51% of the Airen grape’s planted across the country, with the rich and fertile soils of La Mancha, Toleda, Murcia and Madrid also playing their part. It goes into many of the finest Spanish white wines and is also used in the manufacture of Spanish brandy.

Trends in Spanish wine-making are firmly with red grapes at the moment, and the Carinena grape is a prime example of a vine in the ascendency. Also known as Mazuelo in the Rioja region, Carinena grapes are robust and colourful. They are an important part of the delicious Rioja blend and other wines such as the Pago de Aylés, which is renowned for its bright and clean taste and the refreshing harmony it displays on the palate. Carinena grapes are often used as a natural partner to complement the Garnacha grape, another popular red variety. Experts predict that with the partnership of these two superb grapes, the Garnacha grape will overtake the iconic Tempranillo as the most widely-grown vine in Spain in the next few years. For those new to the grape, a label such as the Montal Garnacha is an affordable, drinkable starting point. Fruity with a hint of spice it is aged for four months in oak barrels for depth of flavour. It is an excellent wine for the spring dining table as it pairs well with new season lamb, red meats, game and cheeses.

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About Vinoole: Based in Valencia, Spain, Vinoole is a specialist distributor of the finest Spanish wines from all across the Iberian regions. Their fresh, dynamic selection of wines can be personalised or purchased for personal occasions, corporate events and commercial ventures. With a huge catalogue of products to choose from, as well as in-depth information regarding colour, aroma and flavour, their website is an Aladdin’s cave for any wine enthusiasts.