Get to Know Some of Eastern Spain's Best Wine Regions
Along with France and Italy, Spain is easily one of the Old World's most important winemaking countries. Its geography is as diverse as its wines. In eastern Spain, you'll find high plateaus and breezy coastal regions which give rise to bold, rich red wines and complex whites and fruity rosés. Here are some of the regions and their denominación de origens (DOs) to look for.
The sweeping Central Plateau of La Mancha boasts a dry, sunny climate. Blistering summers and harsh winters define the annual weather. It's a flat landscape and vines are spread out, enabling them to tap deep into the earth for essential water and nutrients. This allows for rich, concentrated wines which benefit from hours and hours of sunshine during the growing season.
Tempranillo, known locally as Cencibel, is the main red, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, and other international grapes. There are some lovely ripe and expressive whites produced here, mostly Macabeo, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Lying to the east of the River Ebro, Aragon is surrounded by mountains on one side, with sweeping arid, desert plains and verdant hills defining the remainder of its landscape. It contains the exciting DOs of Campo de Borja, Carinena, Somontano, and Calatayud which offer rustic, fruity Garnacha (aka Grenache). As an upcoming region, Aragon and its DOs offer great value to wine lovers. Its topographically diverse makeup means that the wines come in a range of styles, from wines made in higher elevation vineyards to those born on its lush hillsides.
Sparkling wine lovers should note that Catalonia is the heart of Cava production. This brilliant traditional method sparkling wine is a cheaper but equally delicious alternative to Champagne. Cava's centre of production is Penedès, south of Barcelona although this non-contiguous DO is also represented in other regions like Aragon, Rioja, Extremadura, and others.
Also in Catalonia is Priorat, which along with Rioja is one of Spain's only two DOCas. Winemakers here have distinguished themselves for their incredibly nuanced wines made from old vine Garnacha (aka Grenache). One of the defining features of Priorat is its famed llicorella soils. This unique black slate and quartz soils plays an integral role in the region's terroir, lending a textural minerality to Priorat's wines.
Murcia and Valencia
In the southeast of the country, we have the likes of Valencia and Murcia, each of which is home to several thrilling DOs. Along with Valencia and its DOs, Murcia enjoys a warmer climate and both areas are gaining recognition for their wines.
Take Jumilla. As one of Spain's oldest DOs, it has a rich history. Thanks to relatively sandy soils, many of Jumilla's vines were spared from the 19th-century phylloxera epidemic, although some vineyards later succumbed to the louse which led to the modernization of the region. It has a fairly dry climate, which allows the new generation of talented winemakers to dabble in organic winemaking. Monastrell, which some of you will know as Mataro or Mourvedre, is the star of Jumilla, but there are fantastic bottlings made from international varieties like Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, along with classic Spanish varieties like Tempranillo and Garnacha.
Valencia is another region with a long history of winemaking. This coastal region has a markedly more Mediterranean climate than the DOs of Murcia, and we see more white varieties in addition to toothsome red wines.
The Utiel-Requena DO has recently come into the spotlight for reds and roses made from the local Bobal grape and are definitely not to be missed.
Many of these regions offer phenomenal value as they don't have as big household names – yet. Considering how flavourful, complex, and food-friendly these wines can be, it's really only a matter of time!