Spanish Grape Varieties

Primary White Varieties

Airén

  • Most planted white grape in Spain
  • La Mancha
  • Most planted white grape in the world
  • Low quality grape
  • With modern techniques can make acceptable wine
  • Being replaced

Albariño

  • Important grape in Galicia
  • Very beloved to Spaniards
  • Many styles: from a more peachy, fruity style to a lean, steely profile
  • Generally made to be consumed young
  • Some interesting aging experiments being done
  • Can be pricy but prices have come down due to crisis
  • Quality can be variable if yields are too high and viticultural practices poor

Godello

  • High quality, aromatic grape native to Galicia
  • Decent acidity and often shows mineral notes in good terroir
  • Backbone white grape of the Valdeorras and Bierzo DOs
  • Quickly gaining popularity
  • Experiments with aging and oak are underway

Macabeo

  • Also known as Viura
  • Macabeo is cultivated all over northern Spain
  • In the DO Cava regions it is combined with Xarel-lo and Parrelada
  • It is the dominant white grape in Rioja and Navarra
  • Can appear in these regions in an oak-aged style
  • Criticized for its neutral characteristics, but with care it can make attractive herbal wines.

Moscatel

  • This grape is the Muscat d’Alexandrie of the Muscat family
  • Used in the Levant, Cataluña, and Andalucia to make sweet dessert wines
  • These are generally excellent value wines though generally simple
  • Very distinctive grape:  highly aromatic, floral

Palomino

  • This is the main dry sherry grape
  • It does extremely well on the chalky soils near Jerez
  • Planted elsewhere produces largely unremarkable table wines.

Parellada

  • One of the primary Cava grapes
  • Also used in Cataluña for soft everyday drinking whites.

Pedro Ximenez

  • This is the grape that makes the great sweet wines of Andalucia
  • Dried to raisins and then pressed to make a thick, sweet wine
  • Ages extremely well

Verdejo

  • Principle variety of Rueda
  • With modern wine-making techniques makes a top quality crisp and citric flavoured wine
  • Pleasant bitter finish
  • These wines are among some of the best value white wines in Spain
  • Experiments are underway with barrel fermentation and aging

Xarel-lo

  • The third of the primary Cava varieties
  • Adds weight and alcohol to the blend

Red grape varieties

Bobal

  • Highly colored grape found in the Levant
  • Gives hearty rosados and reds
  • Previously known for being coarse
  • Careful modern techniques can make very interesting wines

Cariñena

  • Also called Mazuelo in Rioja
  • A robust grape that is an important part of the Rioja blend
  • Giving color and body
  • Also used in Cataluña, where it is also used as a natural partner to Garnacha

Garnacha

  • Likely the most widely planted red grape in Spain (despite the credit given to Tempranillo)
  • High yielding variety that makes a great blending grape
  • At low yields and with older vines, it can produce stellar wines
  • Oxidizes easily

Graciano

  • A low-yielding grape that is a high quality part of the Rioja blend
  • It is seeing a resurgence in popularity
  • It has thick skins that give wines with a lot of tannin
  • They can be tough early on but they age extremely well

Mencía

  • High quality grape that is seeing a surge in popularity
  • Many high quality examples are being produced in the Bierzo DO and the Valdeorras DO
  • It gives fresh, tannic, racy wines with an elegant profile…the best have mineral notes

Monastrell (Mourvedre)

  • High yielding variety that produces highly colored, alcoholic wines
  • In the right hands it can produce excellent wines
  • Its new reputation for quality wines is being led in Jumilla
  • It is also used to make some interesting sweet wines.

Prieto Picudo

  • Rising in popularity in various parts of Castilla Leon
  • The best wines can be quite tannic and acidic with interesting cherry fruit

Tempranillo

  • Spain’s top native red grape
  • It is cultivated throughout Spain and has many names depending on the region:
  • Cencibel in southern Spain
  • Tinto Fino, Tinto del Pais and Tinta de Toro in Castile Leon
  • Ull de Llebre in Cataluña
  • It gives high quality wines at all levels
  • Many diverse styles…it is sometimes criticized for lacking a dominant varietal character.