Spanish Grapes

These lists represents the most important and/or best indigenous and foreign wine grapes; there are hundreds of varieties not covered here. In addition, many foreign varieties have found fertile footing in Spain, and native varieties are being rediscovered every day.

Red Spanish Grapes

Alicante

Sometimes called Garnacha Tintorera, it’s one of the few grapes to have not only color in the skins but also colored juice. Native.

Aragón

Synonym for Garnacha. Native.

Bobal

Ironically, better known for its blending attributes (big, rich, and cheap) than for its stand-alone abilities, but there are delicious Bobals made in the Valencia region. It can deliver both red and black fruit characteristics, however, like Cariñena, old vines provide the greatness that young vines often cannot. Native.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Planted in Spain since the scourge of phylloxera brought French winemakers to Spain in the nineteenth century. It’s generally tolerated by the DO rules, even though in Rioja it is “illegal.” Nonetheless, you can find small plots of it there too. Foreign.

Callet

Mallorca's efforts with the grape show promise in blends with Manto Negro. Native.

Cariñena

Known as Carignan in the rest of the world, but its rightful name is Cariñena, just like the eastern Spanish town from which it may originates. It’s called Mazuelo in Rioja and doesn’t get much respect anywhere except in Priorat and Montsant, where old vines can produce a notable, powerful wine. Native.

Cencibel

Synonym for Tempranillo used in La Mancha. Native.

Garnacha

Known as Grenache in the rest of the world, it ought to be called Garnacha, as it originated in Spain and traveled to southern France in the eighth and ninth centuries. The rap on the grape is that it is only great when it’s powerful and alcoholic. That’s not necessarily true, but Grenache does need to grow in a warm spot to display its best character, and it doesn't age as well as Cabernet Sauvignon or even Tempranillo. It’s the critical grape of powerful Priorat, though it is often bottled as a rosado elsewhere in Spain. It’s the third most planted grape in Spain and the second most planted variety in the world. Native.

Graciano

A very minor player in Rioja but one that has an increasing number of fans. It can have beautiful aromatics, color, and ripping tannins. Native.

Juan García

Grown in Zamora (in the northwest), but so far it is more about potential than performance. Native.

Listán Negro

A grape that offers excellence on the Canary Islands. Native.

Manto Negro

Grown on Menorca and Mallorca and offering occasional excellence. Native.

Mazuelo

Synonym for Cariñena used in Rioja. Native.

Mencía

Some folks think it’s Cabernet Franc, and it’s easy to understand why. The grape carries the red-cherry intensity and herbal note often found in Cabernet Franc and, like Cabernet Franc, Mencía often can be underwhelming. Even at its best, it is more structured than lush, but there are stunning examples. Native.

Merlot

There are many enthusiasts for the vine, and lots of new plantings from Navarra to Utiel-Requena. The most widely planted grape in Bordeaux and the dominant grape of the ascendant properties of Pomerol and Saint Emilion, it can do good work in Spain as well. Foreign.

Monastrell

Known in the rest of the world as Mourvèdre, Monastrell grape has a Spanish origin. As in France, it is capable of producing truly great wines, but so few people are focused upon that goal. The grape shows the most promise in Jumilla and Yecla. Native.

Moristel

A light and fruity grape in Somontano that almost never makes serious or powerful wine but can be a charming wine nonetheless. Native.

Pinot Noir

Only a few examples of this grape are successfully made in Spain. While fashions may instigate new plantings of the grape outside Penedés, there are far more reliable grapes for Spain to focus upon. Foreign.

Prieto Picudo

A black-skinned variety of León and a new darling among sommeliers, this relatively intense red wine is still under development. Native.

Syrah

Just as in the rest of the wine world, this grape is much sought after and happily settles into virtually every region in Spain in which it’s planted. Syrah may become one of the critical players in Spanish red wine. Foreign.

Tempranillo

The reigning indigenous red variety of Spain. Its various clones that are grown in different parts of Spain have very different characteristics: in the south, it ripens early; in Penedés, growers say that it’s low in acidity and doesn’t age well; in Ribera del Duero, it’s an ideal ager with moderate tannins and alcohol; and even in Rioja, growers accuse it of low acidity, yet it ages far better than its structure suggests. The variety has performed exceedingly well in the traditional style of Rioja; the soft, modern style of red wine; and also in powerful, rich, international school–style wines. If Tempranillo still lacks a high profile worldwide, it is because it has failed at becoming an internationally successful grape—it tastes dull and boring grown almost everywhere outside of Spain. Tempranillo grape grows well at a high altitude and seems to respond well to strong shifts in nighttime and daytime temperatures. Few grapes in the world can offer such an intense range of wines. Native. Synonyms for Tempranillo: • Abundante – used in Burgos, La Rioja, Álava, Cuenca, and Ciudad Real. • Cencibel – used in La Mancha and Madrid • Tinto de Madrid – used in DO Vino de Madrid • Tinta del País – used in DO Ribera del Duero • Tinta de Toro – used in DO Toro • Tinto Fino – used in DO Ribera del Duero • Ull de Llebre – used in Cataluña

Trepat

A useful grape for producing often interesting Rosado wines. Native.

White Spanish Grapes

Airén

The most widely planted grape in the world, but planted only in the center part of Spain. The million plus acres of Airén situated in Spain’s Meseta amount to far more than all the acres of Cabernet in the world or any other grape you can name. It is generally used for brandy and for light, simple white wines, which have yet to make any impact in the marketplace. Native.

Albariño

Depending upon the vintage and the subregion of the grape's ideal vineyards within Rías Baixas, this indigenous variety of Galicia in northwest Spain can be rich, floral, and expressively fruity, with peach and apricot notes, or minerally, tart, and bracing, like green apples and lemon peels. Although comparisons have long been made to Riesling, Albariño grape is very rarely made in a sweet style. There are, however, other ongoing experiments with style: lees stirring, extended aging, and even barrel fermentation may be practiced. Native.

Albillo

Pockets of the grape appear in places such as DO Vinos de Madrid or the Canary Islands, but Ribera del Duero has a few examples of wines that offer something more than neutral and refreshing. Native.

Caiño

A grape that shows promise in Rías Baixas. Native.

Chardonnay

Grown in many regions, but especially Penedés, Navarra, and Somontano. Foreign.

Doña Blanca

A citrusy grape that sometimes shows up in blends in Valedorras or Bierzo. Native.

Garnacha Blanca

Once seen as plain and simple at best, this grape is suddenly popular, perhaps due to the ever-increasing attention paid to Priorat wines. Though its aromatics and flavors are subdued, it is capable of significant alcohols, and the wines can be textured and weighty as a result. Producers have begun applying many of tricks in their kit bags, including extended lees aging and barrel fermentation, with success. Native.

Godello

An evolving variety that expresses depth and character in Valdeorras, and increasingly in Ribeiro. Think apples, pears, and plenty of texture; in ripe vintages, add peaches. Native.

Hondarribi

A cause célèbre in some markets, this produces the bracingly tart txakoli (chacolí)-style white wine of Basque Country. Native.

Listán

Synonym for Palomino, Sherry’s critical grape. Native.

Loureira

A secondary grape in Galicia that can produce rich peach to apricot aromas in Rías Baixas blends, though its name (Gallego for “bay leaf”) describes a more herbal note. Native.

Macabeo

Synonym for Viura used in southern Spain. In both Rioja Blanca and Cava, the grape is capable of barrel or lees aging and is the subject of increasing focus in a growing number of styles. Native.

Malvasía

A Greek and probably pan-Mediterranean variety with vibrant aromatic qualities, whether vinified as a dry wine or as a sweet and exotic wine. Formerly more widely planted and used in Rioja, it has been eclipsed by Viura there, though it continues its work in Cataluña and the Canary Islands. Foreign.

Moscatel de Alejandría

Good for sweet wines and for table grapes and raisins, this grape can offer utterly charming dessert wines. The jury is out as to its distinct heritage: its name may originate from early Roman plantings in Alicante (where it has been used to make rich fondillón wines) or from plantings in the Middle East. Foreign? Native?

Muscat à Petits Grains

High quality and wildly aromatic dry and sweet wines are made from this grape in southern Spain and throughout the Mediterranean basin, where is is known as Moscatel. Foreign.

Palomino

The grape of Sherry, it can provide the underpinning of the lightest and freshest manzanilla or the richest and most exotic amontillado or oloroso. Also known as Listán. Native.

Pansa Blanca

See Xarel-lo.

Parellada

The bulk ingredient of most Cavas and a few pleasant table wines. Native.

Pedro Ximénez

Generally speaking, a variety used in the production of sweet Sherry. In Montilla-Moriles, this grape can produce great dessert wines, but also a few dry-styled wines. Native.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sometimes a small amount of this grape can dominate in Rueda to the detriment of Verdejo, but it also can offer tasty versions in Penedés. Foreign.

Torrontés

Blended in some Ribeiro and Rías Baixas wines. Not related to the Argentine grape of the same name. Native.

Treixadura

A dominant grape in Ribeiro and a secondary grape in Rías Baixas, it’s usually crisp and lemony. Native or at least sharing heritage with Portugal.

Verdejo

A delightful and textured grape, with citrus elements covering notes of melon, apple, and stone fruits. Often it is blended with Viura in Rueda. Native.

Viura

A grape that performs differently in different places. In Penedés (where it is called Macabeo), especially in Cava production, it’s the fat and friendly part of a blend. But in places such as Rioja or Navarra, there are masters who can unlock its character and even longevity with careful vinification. Native.

Xarel-lo

One of the principal constituents of Cava, this interesting variety goes into the production of some lovely wines from Alella. It is often the layered and age-worthy part of Cava. Native.

 

For a complete list of grapes grown in Spain, click here

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