Spanish wine - "with wine and hope, anything is possible!"

by Neil Morris

There is an old Spanish saying: "With wine and hope, anything is possible." This proverb perfectly encapsulates the Spanish attitude towards wine - it is an integral and positive part of daily life.


In Spain, wine (and other forms of alcohol) can feature at any mealtime during the day. It is not unheard of for Spaniards to wash down a good breakfast with a nice cold beer before heading off to work in the morning. Workmen will often stop off at a roadside "venta" for breakfast and enjoy a morning brandy alongside their coffee. And a Spanish lunch is often accompanied by wine. One popular way of drinking red wine in the summer is to mix it with a soda drink such as "Casera" to make "tinto de verano." In the Basque country, red wine is even mixed with cola to produce kalimotxo which is commonly served in many bars. A dash of liqueur may also be added to create different flavours.

Despite the regular occurrence of alcohol throughout the daily routine, it is generally drunk in moderation: as a pick-me-up during the day, or as a way to relax in the evening. It is part of the wider social routine that brings together food, drink, family and friends.

Spanish wine production

Spanish wines are produced all over the country across 3 million acres of fertile land. No other country has such a high percentage of land dedicated to wine production. Driven by the highly competitive market place, the methods of production have evolved over the years ensuring that Spain consistently produces wines of world-renowned quality.

spanish wine barrel

The relatively low yield of some of the older vineyards means that the output of wine per acre is lower than in France and Italy, but Spain remains the third largest wine-producing country in the world behind its European rivals. There are many hundreds of varieties of grape grown throughout the country but the most popular types are Airen, Albarino, Carinena, Garnacha, Macabeo, Monastrell, Parellada, Palomino, Tempranillo and Xarel-lo. These grapes account for over 80% of all wine produced in Spain with Tempranillo being the most popular and well-known variety.

Spanish white wine

The most famous Spanish wine region is undoubtedly Rioja where the Tempranillo grape is most commonly used. The red wine here has often been regarded as the best in Spain but this reputation has long been challenged as other regions are now producing more wines of exceptional quality. In fact, there are now world class wines being produced in most Spanish regions and the competition has never been so healthy.

Ribera del Duero, in Castilla y Leon, is also home to some world famous wines and the Tempranillo grape is also predominant in this region. However, to really discover the true essence of Spanish wine you need to look beyond the obvious and venture off the beaten track - you will be amazed at what you find!

The Denominacion de Origen (DO) of Rueda in Castilla y Leon is known for its white wines which are produced primarily using the Verdejo grape variety (at least 50%), but Viura and Sauvignon Blanc grapes are also grown in the region and used to blend the wines. Although the vines in this region have been growing for over 1,000 years, the traditional wine produced in the region was more akin to sherry than the white wine that is made today. It is only in the last 40 years that the wineries started producing the high-quality modern whites that are now being appreciated around the world.


The southern province of Cadiz is famous for producing sherry - a fortified wine which, despite being considered by many to be "under-appreciated," remains one of Spain's most successful exports. It is produced between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria and has been recognised as by the Jerez Denominacion de Origen since 1933. Most sherry is produced from the Palomino Fino grape which thrives in the chalky albariza soil that dominates the region. Sweeter sherries are produced using the Pedro Ximinez and Moscatel grape varieties.

Read more about Sherry in this article by Ainhoa Barrio


Cava is Spain's Champagne and is made using the same traditional methods as its French counterpart. When it was originally produced in Catalonia in 1872 it was called champana in Spanish or xampany in Catalan and was known around the world as Spanish Champagne. It became known as Cava in the 1970's as the name "Champagne" has Protected Geographical Status (PDS) and can only be used to refer to the drink produced in that particular region of France.


Xarel-lo is one of the principal grapes used to make the Spanish sparkling wine along with the macabeu and parellada varieties. Other less widely-used grapes include chardonnay, pinot noir and subirat.

Cava can only be officially produced in eight of the Spanish wine regions: Aragon, the Basque Country, Castilla y León, Catalonia, Extremadura, Navarra, Rioja or the Valencian Community but it is the Penedes area in Catalonia that produces the majority of all Cava in Spain. The two biggest and most famous producers of Cava in Spain, Codorniu and Freixenet, are based in the village of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia.

Read more about Cava

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Spanish wine regions

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