If your knowledge of Spanish grapes is limited to the Tempranillo, you’re missing out. With a wine industry that rivals that of France and Italy, Spain is one of the major grape cultivators and wine producers! But their produce goes beyond that of the Tempranillo and Ull de Llebre.
Read on to learn more about the top 5 Spanish origin grape varieties and the types of wine made from them. And if you find yourself interested in buying some of these Spanish grape varieties, we will tell you where to go.
History of Spanish Grapes
The history of grapes in Spain dates back at least 780,000 years. Pollen found in an archaeological site in Sierra de Atapuerca shows that grapes were collected and consumed by the primitive humans that lived there.
Between the arrival of the Phoenicians, the Spanish Renaissance, and globalization, many more varieties of grapes were introduced to the Spanish wine region. And in 1990, the native varieties began to grow in popularity worldwide, and the Spanish wine industry truly exploded.
Varieties of Spanish Grapes
There are over 600 native varieties of grapes grown in Spain.
Common varieties include:
- Garnacha (Grenache)
- Juan García
- Manto Negro
- Listán Negro
- Pedro Ximenez
5 Popular Varieties of Spanish Grapes
There are many different types of Spanish grapes, and they have a wide range of characteristics. One key feature that differentiates Spanish grapes from Italian, French grapes, and those from European vineyards is the climate in which they are grown.
Spain is a warm region, and most grapes grown here have a warmer feel.
Let’s discuss some of the distinct characteristics of five of the most popular varieties of Spanish grapes and the wine made with them:
The Tempranillo is an ancient variety believed to have been introduced to Spain by the Phoenicians over 3,000 years ago.
Their name ‘Tempranillo’ comes from the Spanish word ‘Temprano’, the Spanish term for ‘early.’ This name is due to the early ripening schedule of this grape compared to others in Spain. It is a hardy grape that can handle high altitude vineyards and prolonged cold climates.
This Spanish grape has a thin skin and a bold structured flavor with a low viscosity. The wines made from this famous variety taste of black fruits such as cherry, plum, and dried fig. The flavor is complex and savory, with hints of cedar, tobacco, vanilla, and dill, which is the result of barrel aging.
The Tempranillo is also one of the main varieties used for Spain’s most world-renowned red wines, such as Rioja and Ribero del Duero.
2. Grenache (Garnacha)
The Grenache, known as Garnacha in Spain, also has a long history, with its earliest mention dating back to 1513. It originates in northern Spain in a region called Aragon.
Tolerant to hot and arid climates, the Grenache is a grape variety with high sugar content at harvest. They’re also a high-yield grape which makes them one of the affordable varieties.
The grapes have thin skin and a soft tannin structure. They also ripen very late in the wine-growing season.
This widely cultivated Spanish grape variety has a fruit roll-up flavor of red fruits and berries with hints of spice. The finished wine made from this variety tends to be dry with high alcohol content. It is also semi-translucent in appearance.
If you’re a wine aficionado, you may know the Grenache from its use in the famous French Rhone blend of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This is no surprise as Grenache is a sought-after variety because of the qualities it lends to the wines it is blended with.
Airén is a commonly cultivated grape in the central arid plains of La Mancha, Spain. This grape variety is incredibly rare, and you will hardly find this variety anywhere else in the world.
The grape grows in dry, less-visited regions in Spain and not as a vine but as a bush. This white Spanish grape variety also ripens late in the season and is very resistant to drought. The grapes are large and spherical, with a distinct yellowish color.
The Airén is moderately acidic and has a very neutral taste and flavor. It is why they are commonly used to make raisins, brandy, sherry, and port. White wines made with the Airén variety taste of mature fruit and are low in acidity.
The Mencía is a common thick-skinned grape variety grown in northern Spain and central Portugal.
This maroon Spanish grape variety is not easy to grow due to its tendency toward lower yields and susceptibility to botrytis and mildew. It must be harvested on time, or the fruit loses its acidity.
The Mencía grape has the intensity of red cherries with herbal notes. The flavor profile of this grape is very complex and tastes like dark fruits with hints of bitter, earthy notes.
The wine made from this grape has medium acidity and moderate tannins. It is a medium-bodied red that’s categorized as one of the must-try aromatic wines of Spain.
The Bobal is the region’s third-most cultivated variety. It is a dark-skinned grape variety native to the Utiel-Requena in southeast Spain.
This variety thrives in cold and dry inland Mediterranean areas with sharp temperature variations from day to night. The grape is a hardy one that’s also resistant to drought and mildew.
Its name is of Latin origin, from the word ‘bovale,’ which translates to ‘shape of a bull’s head.’ This is most evident in the distinctive shape of a cluster of the Bobal grape.
The grape has a high level of acidity with fruit flavors of cherry, raspberry, blackberry, fig, prunes, and a hint of spice.
This Spanish grape makes for a dark wine with chewy tannins and balanced levels of acidity. It has notes of spicy dark fruits and produces rosé wines that retain their freshness for a long time.
Here’s another fact about the Bobal that’ll make you develop a liking for this grape and its wines: its health quotient. The Bobal grape is high in anthocyanins and tannins, which is also the reason behind its high resveratrol content. Resveratrol is a group of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds known to protect against cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Here are some more health benefits of grapes if you’re interested in learning all the things a simple bowl of grapes can do for you and your body!
Where to Buy Spanish Grape Plants or Seeds?
Here are some places to purchase plants or seeds of the different varieties of grapes from Spain:
Where to Buy Spanish Grapes?
If you’d rather purchase the fruit, here are two nurseries and vineyards selling them:
Wrapping Up Spanish Grapes
Hopefully now that you know about these popular varieties of Spanish grapes, you’ll be sure to buy some if you happen to come across them. This guide is just the tip of the iceberg of the Spanish grape industry, so there’s lots more out there to taste and explore.
Excited for more grape content? Next, check out my grape vine page for more growing tips, care guides, recipes, and more!