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For those working in the wine world we often assume when we’re explaining something that people know about what varietals might be common to a particular region of the world. As with all things snob-related (except for my Twitter bio) we aim to break down that barrier to entry, so to speak. We’ve provided the sparknotes (and popular foods of the region) of five Spanish wine regions you should know about, in part because We. Love. Spain.
Know what else we love? Pop culture. With a little coordination from our Gen Z marketing coordinator Elizabeth, we matched up each wine region with one of our favorite female artists because why not?
Navarra: Megan Thee Stallion
Grenache | Tempranillo | Chardonnay | Merlot | Cabernet Sauvignon
Just like MTS, Navarra has ALWAYS been good but it seems that the world is just now ready to realize the full potential of this region. Just like Good News and now Traumazine, Navarra is releasing hit after hit with the wines.
Starting in Navarra means that we play favorites (ahem, the region where all of our wines are produced). Navarra is located in between the Pyrenees and the Ebro Valley of northern Spain. While mainly known for its fruit-forward rosé (like our grenache), red wines created from tempranillo and merlot grapes are starting to trend from this region.
The Navarra region has a Mediterranean climate: dry, warm summers and mild winters. However, this region’s unique geography is known for its diversity in microclimates, like the cooler damper climate of the northern mountain region. Soils also vary due to the geographical influences (mountains, semi-deserts, and valleys, oh my) of the land.
Soil in the Navarra region:
poor (low levels of nutrients) | well-drained | sandy loam (where there’s a high concentration of sand in the dirt) | limestone | clay | gravel
Popular foods from the Navarra region:
Espárragos blancos (white asparagus) | Pintxos | Idiazabal and Roncal (cheese)
La Rioja: Beyonce
Tempranillo | Grenache | Grenache (blanca) | Viura (Macabeo) | Mazuela (Carignan) | Graciano
Listen, we all know the quality of music coming from Queen Bey herself. She knows her worth and has kept the quality coming album after album (and yeah—the world will never be the same again after Lemonade). La Rioja is the same. It’s known for its prestige, it will always have value, and you’ll pay for it too.
La Rioja and Navarra share many similarities like geography and a few grape varietals. However, La Rioja has typically been the more well known region…which also often means a higher price on their wines.
The biggest difference between La Rioja and Navarra comes down to the stylistic differences in the way winemakers in each region actually make the wine. For instance, La Rioja often uses long barrel aging for Tempranillo and relies heavily on this oak aging to lend a Rioja-specific flavor to their bottles.
While Navarra has a strong climate influence from the Atlantic ocean, La Rioja is more protected by the mountains and has a slightly warmer and drier continental climate.
Soils in La Rioja:
limestone (often aids in producing sweeter wines) | clay | iron rich | pebbles | alluvial soil (fertile soil)
Popular foods from the La Rioja region:
Patatas a la Riojana | Bacalao a la Riojana (cod fish in Riojan tomato sauce) | Torrijas a la Riojana (Spanish-style french toast)
Rías Baixas: Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa is known for her hit singles. First she broke us with “New Rules” and now “Levitating” might never leave the circuitry of our brains. Rías Baixas also has a hit single and that’s the Albariño variety. Both Dua Lipa and Rías Baixas know that all it really takes is one good thing going for you and that’s all you really need.
Located in the north western region of Galicia, Spain is Rías Baixas. While other regions are known for having many grape varietals, Rías Baixas is popular for its iconic Albariño grape and a majority of the wines produced from this region are from that single grape.
Rías Baixas is situated on the Atlantic coastline, giving it (you guessed it), a very Atlantic climate. This region and its grape production are dictated by tropical weather and mild winters that come with heavy rainfall.
Soil of the Rías Baixas region:
granite | schist (fine grained metamorphic soil that tends to produce high pH wines) | alluvial soil
Popular foods from the Rías Baixas region:
Arroz Marinero Gallego | Empanadas Gallega | San Simon Smoked Cheese (DOP)
Penedès: Taylor Swift
Parellada | Xarel-lo | Macabeo
Champagne problems? No—Cava problems. But Penedès is the Taylor Swift of the Spanish wine regions. Penedès provides bubbly that’s perfect for dancing to Taylor’s upbeat bops of or sobbing on the ground while screaming along to “All Too Well” (the ten minute version of course). A celebratory region deserving of the pop queen herself.
Penedès is located in Catalonia, just under an hour south of Barcelona. And four letters come to mind when thinking about this region: C A V A. That’s right, the bubbly of Spain comes from none other than Penedès.
Located in the countryside near the coastline, this region also has a Mediterranean climate. One thing to note is that because of the topography from the coastal hills, growing conditions vary throughout this region. This allows winemakers to use microclimates to their advantage and produce bottles with their own stylistic differences..
Soils of Penedès:
limestone | sand (produces aromatic wines) | clay
Popular foods from the Penedès region:
Pan con tomate (bread with tomato) | Xató (salad) | El suquet de peix (fish stew)
Aragón: Qveen Herby
Grenache | Tempranillo | Carignan
Qveen Herby started out as a part of the musical group Karmin pushing out more quantity than quality (sorry, qveen) but in the past few years she’s been pushing out TikTok viral songs deserving of more notice. Aragón in recent years has made the switch too, and is worthy of keeping our eye on for anything up and coming.
A north eastern region along the center of the Ebro Valley, not far off from Navarra, lies the Aragón region. Traditionally, Aragón wines have been more commercial, sacrificing quality for quantity and price, and are only now gaining recognition for their unique wines.
Aragón is home to a diverse set of meso climates [yes, that Goldilocks space between micro and macro climates] resulting in extreme changes from one elevation to another. The altitude of the vineyard can have an enormous impact on the finished wine.
Soils of Aragón:
chalk (produces rich wines) | clay | limestone
Popular foods of the Aragón region:
Ternasco de Aragón (suckling lamb) | Jamón serrano | Migas
The more you know
This is merely a dip-your-toes-in-the-water Spanish wine region overview. But the next time you see a wine from Spain on the menu, you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re looking at.
Knowing where your wine comes from and how it’s made is a jumbo puzzle’s worth of pieces [between soil, climate, and stylistic differences]. It’s always a reminder to have more appreciation for the wine in the bottle.
That’s something we like to keep in mind at RedThumb. Everything you need to know about what goes into our wine? Front and center on the label.
Let us know what wine regions [or pop stars] you want to learn more about in the comments below: