There’s a very good reason why the promise of a beautiful glass of wine is top of the list for so many people when it comes to holiday planning.
It’s because all the ingredients of great wine beyond simply its grapes – glorious sunshine, astonishing biodiversity, careful environmental stewardship and friendly people with generations of experience – tend to add up to a destination with a huge amount to offer, too.
Spain may already be well known for its historic cities and beachside retreats, but it also happens to be one of the world’s leading destinations for wine tourism.
And, while sherry and Cava, as well as wines from the likes of Ribera del Duero and Rioja, are well established in the minds of even the most casual of wine drinkers, dig a little deeper and you’ll find some of the most diverse and exquisite winemaking regions in the Old World within this beautiful country.
Across the regions of Rías Baixas, Alicante, Navarra, and Ronda and Málaga, there’s an enormous amount to uncover – all of which paints a picture of a country whose winemaking culture is second to none.
You’ll find some of the most diverse and exquisite winemaking regions in the Old World
And exploring it only goes to show that there’s so much more to Spain’s wine production than Rioja and Cava – think beautiful sparkling moscatel; sweet Fondillón; intense ruby-coloured garnacha; world-leading albariño and even riesling and gewurtztraminer, among many more.
Put simply, there’s a Spanish wine for every palate and every occasion.
The best thing for wanderlusting wine travellers, of course, is that alongside that culture exists incredible gastronomy, jaw-dropping vistas, annual festivals and events, and a plethora of wine trails that’ll help you make the most of the time you spend there.
The best of Spain’s vibrant wine culture is waiting to be discovered…
The Alicante Wine Route takes in wineries from across the regions of Vinalopó to the south and Marina Alta & Baja to the north of the Alicante region, situated in the south east of Spain. It is a place steeped in long history, with a thriving local art community and a regular line-up of festivities through the year as well an innovative gastronomic culture that fuses traditional local dishes, like spiced sausages and paella, with forward-thinking modern restaurants.
There is a huge array of different wine styles on offer in Alicante. The bedrock of the region is the monastrell grape – which produces 75% of the region’s red wines – and moscatel, which is used to make the sweet wine Moscatel Alicante and also the fresh, dry sparkling moscatel expressions popular in the region.
The jewel in the region’s crown, however, has to be the celebrated and venerated Fondillón. Alternatively known simply as ‘Alicante’, the wine has been made with monastrell grapes in the
region for more than five centuries according
to exacting traditions. Richly sweet, high in alcohol and not dissimilar in style to vintage
port, madeira or marsala, it’s a product that
has enjoyed a contemporary renaissance.
With a history of winemaking that spans almost 20 centuries, Navarra, in the far north of the country, is still evolving today. In tourism terms, the region is blessed with incredible sights – among them the Way of St James and the Olite Royal Palace – and a full roster of activities, from mountain biking to yoga and birdwatching. That’s alongside cultural festivals that celebrate Navarra’s history and winemaking heritage, and a cutting-edge restaurant scene, too. Local produce favoured by chefs includes artichokes, asparagus, sweet peppers and local delicacy migas, a type of fried breadcrumbs endemic to the region.
Previously known best for its rosé – or rosado – wines, Navarra now produces fantastic wines across the stylistic spectrum, from whites and reds to sparkling moscatels and more. Wines benefit from a milder climate than many of those made in the south of Spain and also from a limestone-heavy terroir, with the garnacha grape bringing a characteristic intensity to many of the rosado and young red varieties made across the Tierra de Estella, Valdizarbe, Ribera Alta, Baja Montaña and Ribera Baja regions. The region also produces a minority of wines made with merlot, chardonnay and pinot noir, among others.
For travellers looking for a slice of Spain’s history, Rías Baixas should be top of the list: the Rías Baixas Wine Route extends through the west of Galicia, from the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela to the frontier with Portugal.What’s more, dotted throughout the region are picturesque seaside towns that coexist with historic monasteries and mansions that line ancient pilgrims’ routes. Tourist hotspots here include the town of Cambados, the Carril district and the beautiful A Guarda, as well as the Pazo de Rubianes country house. Food-wise, the area is known for its fish and seafood, and there are many food festivals throughout the year that celebrate lobster, lamprey and other delicacies,
as well as the albariño grape.
Understanding the Rías Baixas region is as simple as understanding its indigenous grape varieties: none more so than the diverse and often exquisite albariño. This crisp, refreshing white grape varietal makes up most of the region’s best-loved wines, made according to local customs that go back generations. A focus on hand-harvesting, good vine training and small vineyards add up to a region that’s as serious about its hallmark product as any.
Ronda and Málaga
The region of Ronda and Málaga combines two millennia of winemaking heritage with often spellbinding biodiversity, with more than 20 protected areas, three National Parks and two Biosphere Reserves. An innate ecological understanding is built into the very fabric of the region, which goes hand in hand with a winemaking culture built around respect for the land. Sixteen wineries are available to visit on the Wine Route of Ronda and Málaga, taking in a huge number of different styles and characters. The city of Ronda features mesmerising Arabic architecture, being designated a Site of Cultural Interest since 1966, and the region is also known for its Ibérico pork, artisanal goat’s cheeses, local olive oils and honey, to name just a few.
There are a huge number of styles showcased throughout the region’s wineries, featuring grapes including chardonnay, colombard, gewurztraminer and riesling, viognier, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, petit verdot and more, alongside indigenous Spanish varietals, and prevalent use of oak ageing in whites and reds.
For more holiday inspiration, go to spain.info/en/topic/wine-routes-spain/