Off Beat Spain: An Exploration Of Spanish Wine For Beginners
Spain is one of the world’s largest wine producing countries, making over 40 million hectolitres every year*, and in acreage terms is home to more vineyards than anywhere else, but it is so often typecast as producing cheap ‘glugging’ wines.
However, there are names that break this mould, such as the world-renowned Rioja region, which have distinguished themselves as a separate entity, a brand in itself. It is clear there is so much more that Spain can offer than at first glance, from a rich language that is easy to learn – such as in amazing Spanish for beginners courses – to the vast array of high quality and tasteful drinks they offer wine drinkers; exciting regions, in unique locations that produce simply world-class wines, well worth exploring.
So if you’re new to this world of Spanish wine and Spanish language, there’s a whole lot of excitement waiting for you! Plus, at Battersea Spanish we’re lucky that the world of Spanish wine and the romantic language collide, with our own on-site Tapas Room. So you can dip your toes into our Spanish for beginners courses, then enjoy high quality Tapas and wine right after! It’s the perfect way to enjoy the Spanish culture.
Or, why not enjoy an evening learning all about the beauty of Spanish Wine from experts? Think cultural, educational events, just with wine! We can’t think of anything better.
Why Is Spain So Good At Producing Wine?
There is no doubting Spain’s pedigree when it comes to winemaking, vines have been planted there since the age of the Phoenicians in 1100 BC.
Some historians even believe Spain’s wine history may extend even further back than that, to somewhere between 3,000-4,000BC showing that we have only scratched the surface of such a rich culture the country has to showcase.
With this in mind it is easy to see how each region, or denominación de origin (DO), has developed its own particular winemaking niche, with choice grapes suited to the specific micro-climates, soils and terrain (also known as the terroir).
As we take a tour through the regions of Spain and all they have to offer, your knowledge on the wines will build and you’ll no longer have the awareness of wine of a novice, but instead you can become your own Spanish wine connoisseur!
Why not impress everyone on our Spanish courses with your knowledge, and simultaneously learn how to order the perfect glass of Spanish wine, in Spanish? It’s truly the best of both worlds.
In the greenness of northern Spain regions such as Galicia winemakers produce elegant, aromatic red wines made from the likes of Mencía, as well as zesty, crisp whites from grapes such as Albariño. Vineyards here are often situated precariously on steep valley slopes teetering above the Minho River.
The smallest of the Galician sub-regions and least known is Monterrei DO – bordering northern Portugal it is the hottest region in Galica, famous for producing fresh, white wines mainly made from the Godello grape. Fans of unoaked Chardonnay will love the soft, stone fruit and zesty tropical flavours of Godello. One to try is Finca OS Cobatos, Monterrei Godello, a juicy and fresh example which comes from some of the oldest vineyards in the region – a perfect accompaniment to grilled white fish.
Moving easterly across northern Spain you will eventually stumble into the most famous region in Spain – Rioja – the Tempranillo grape-loving powerhouse which accounts for over 30% of total Spanish wine exports.
Rioja is arguably the most identifiable wine region in Spain but its immediate neighbour – the lesser known but hugely diverse region of Navarra – is equally capable of producing serious red blends from grapes such as Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache), as well as deliciously floral whites from the Viura grape and familiar favourites such as Chardonnay.
One of the superstars of Navarra DO is Bodega Tandem, a sustainably managed winery in the north-west of the region. From Tandem’s mountainous Yerri Valley vineyards they produce outstanding wines; two to certainly try are their Ars In Vitro a Tempranillo-Merlot blend packed full of red fruits such as strawberry, a great pairing for cured meats and Inmácula, a white wine made primarily from Viura grapes which has mouth-watering flavours of apricot and pear – try alongside roast chicken! or if chicken isn’t your thing then there are a number of hosts throughout the year that will help you gain a better grasp on the wines Spain has to offer and how best to pair them for a unique and flavourful combination that will bring your meals to another level.
This is something that our amazing Spanish courses benefit from – an on-site, beautiful Tapas Room dedicated to bringing you not only incredible tapas (that you can share with your new coursemates) but wonderful, authentic Spanish wines from these regions. You can even take a glass into your classroom!
Next up on our tour of this wonderful wine-country, is Madrid. Here you will find nearby the open vineyards of Castilla-La-Mancha where the bulk of the cheap and cheerful Spanish wines are produced, it is however, to the west of Madrid along the mountainous Sistema Central where truly exciting high altitude vineyards are being rediscovered. Many of these vineyards sit at between 700-1,100 meters above sea level and grow indigenous grape varieties seen nowhere else in Spain – here old, gnarled bush vines over 90 years old produce intensely concentrated grapes.
Vino de Montaña is an example of a wine producer bringing these old vineyards back to life by investing in the grapes and the people of the region. Their Cadalso wine from the Sierra de Gredos range is made entirely from Garnacha much of which is harvested from old vines – this is a light and fresh red wine with blueberry flavours and delicate purity – think Côtes du Rhône style – a great match to combine cultures with a classic sausage and mash, spanish courses London style.
The ‘Field Blend’ from Sierra de Gata, is a mix of Garnacha and the rarely seen Piñuela and Ruefete grapes – this is a very elegant red wine with a hint of spice and plenty of crunchy red fruit, one to try with roast pork or grilled vegetables.
The last stop on our tour taking you from being the learner to the high class savant all your friends will go to is the southern Mediterranean regions around the city of Murcia. Here you will find bold, juicy, fruit forward red wines made from grapes such as Monastrell (aka. Mourvèdre), Bobal and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Jumilla DO is considered the most important sub-region around the Murcia region both for quality and quantity, its hot climate, wide valleys and plains and elevated central plateau make it perfect for ripening bolder red wine grapes. One winery which truly stands out here is Finca Bacara, their philosophy is to nurture the land using only organic practices. Bacara’s wine Time Waits For No One, ‘Stone Elephant’ is a perfect example of the fruit forward, flavour-bomb power Monastrell can bring – intensely layered with ripe black fruits, spice and subtle oak, forget Malbec for the moment, this wine is an ideal wine to partner with a steak.
No matter where you put a pin in the map of Spain, you will quickly change from a beginner to a wine connoisseur in no time!