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Spain has more land under vine than any other country and it’s the world’s third largest producer of wine. Home to one of the world’s most famous wine regions Rioja, grapes are grown all over the country. Combine that with the wonderful array of tapas, paella and other delicacies and you have food and wine-matching heaven.


The most famous region by far is Rioja in the Basque country, but there is so much more. In the north-east and south of Barcelona lie Priorat and Montsant, and also Penedes where huge amounts of Cava are produced. Further inland Somontano and Calatayud; in the north Ribera del Duero and Rueda; in the north-west the cooler region of Galicia; on the east coast near Valencia is Jumilla; in the south the famous fortified wines of Jerez aka sherry; and in the very centre the huge plain of La Mancha.

MAIN Grapes

The main whites are Albarino, Viura (also known as Macabeo), Moscatel, and, for sherry, Palomino and Pedro Ximinez; and not forgetting the workhorse grape Airen (see Fun Fact). Tempranillo is king of grapes for Rioja and Ribera, but Garnacha is the most widely planted black grape. Other notable names are Monastrell (the Spanish equivalent of Mourvedre), Mencia, Bobal, Carinena and Graciano.

Climate and Terroir

The climate is varied – in the east and south it’s Mediterranean and influenced by its namesake sea; in the south-west and north-west it’s also Mediterranean but influenced by the Atlantic Ocean; and in the central plain it’s Continental with extremes of temperature and very low rainfall. Spain is a very mountainous and has several ranges including the Pyrenees, Picos de Europa and Sierra Nevada. Soils are also varied from clay-based in the north, sandy in the north-west, granitic in the centre, and slate-based in the north-east.


Until 2005 Airen was the most widely planted grape variety in the world! It’s only grown in Spain but there are such extensive plantings in the huge plain of La Mancha (306,000 hectares in 2004) that until recently there were more vineyards dedicated to this grape than even Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. A lot of Airen is used to make Spanish brandy.

Past Tours to Spain

Say the word ‘Rioja’ and you conjure up stunning Spanish wines. Draped against a backdrop of the Sierra Cantabria mountains, in the north-west of Spain, Rioja is the country’s most famous wine region. Our tour took in some of the loveliest Rioja wines accompanied by the finest local cuisine. There was so much more to explore: stunning scenery, the sheer exuberance of the lively tapas bars of Logrono and unforgettable meetings with quirky winemakers. Those little details are often what make the biggest memories. We’re culture vultures too: we explored the peaceful Yuso monastery & medieval hilltop town. Rioja, you were truly a treat.


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