Erik Neilson on March 25, 2017 1 Comment Spain is one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Millions of tourists flock to Spain every year, many of whom are primarily concerned with tasting some of the incredible food and drink the country is known for. It’s no secret that Spanish wine offers some of the best values in the industry, and many people come to fall in love with the handful of regions spread out throughout the country. While every region throughout Spain has something to offer, there are some that stand apart as being home to some of the best wines in the world. Ready to explore Spain on a deeper level? Here are some of the country’s top wine regions, all of which are worth delving into if you haven’t already. 1. Rioja In many ways, it makes sense to start a conversation about the top wine regions in Spain by mentioning what is often considered to be the top wine region in Spain — Rioja. Located in North-central Spain near the Ebro River, the Rioja region is decidedly unique in that it utilizes a number of different classifications that have to do with how and for how long the wine is aged. Joven wines from Rioja, for example, are typically released young and without having undergone any specific aging processes. From there, Crianzas spend a year in barrels and a year in barrels, Reservas spend a year in barrels and two in bottles and — finally — Gran Reservas spend at least two years in a barrel and three in a bottle before release. Tempranillo is the grape that gets the most attention in Rioja, and it’s prized for its ability to be both delicious when drank fresh and absolutely stunning with a bit of age on it. Great Rioja shouldn’t be difficult to come by, either, as it’s exported to every corner of the earth and has become the fixation of collectors everywhere. For those who are new to Spanish wines and would like to see what the fuss is all about, Rioja is the ideal region to start with. 2. Northwest Spain (Galicia) Self-proclaimed lovers of sardines are likely all too familiar with Northwest Spain. Home to Galicia, the area is lush with green valleys that don’t necessarily typify the rest of Spain, and the proximity to the ocean means lots and lots of fresh seafood. It also means minerality and decidedly salty characteristics for the grapes grown nearby, which can be found primarily in the grape Albariño. The Albariño of Northwest Spain is some of the best in the world, and it pairs perfectly with any type of seafood. While Northwest Spain is mainly known for its whites, area winemakers also work with red grapes such as Mencia, which typically results in a light-bodied, jovial wine. 3. Northeast Spain (Catalonia) In Northeast Spain is Catalonia, which is home to a wine region known as the Penedès. This hilly coastal region is one of the oldest in Spain, and to many people, one of the best. Of the wine produced in this region, nothing is quite as well known for its quality as Penedès Cava. In many ways, Cava is just as versatile as Prosecco and Champagne, yet it can often be had for far less money per bottle. Great bottles of Penedès Cava often cost under $20, and they can easily rival Champagne that costs 3x as much. Like its Northwestern counterpart, Northeast Spain is known primarily for white wines, though there are a handful of reds produced in the area that are worthy of aging — particularly those which have seen quite a bit of time in barrels. 4. Ribera del Duero Some wine regions are just as gorgeous to look at as the wine they produce is to drink, and this can certainly be said for Ribera del Duero. Located along the banks of the Doero river (the same as the Douro in Portugal), Ribera del Duero is known for wines made out of a grape called Tinta de Toro, which is very similar in a number of different ways to Tempranillo. Known locally as Tinto Fino, Tempranillo is produced in the region, along with white wine made from the grape Albillo. Blends can include more traditional grapes like Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, though they tend to be used in smaller portions than what might be found in other producing regions. In Ribera del Duero, aging requirements similar to those enforced in Rioja are often used, which bolsters the overall quality of the wines produced there. 5. Meseta Central Meseta Central, or the Central Plateau is an inner plateau of Spain that serves as home to Madrid, the capital city. The area tends to be dry and sunny, with an average elevation of approximately 2,300-2,600 feet above sea level. The vines grown in this area tend to be spaced rather far apart and are trained low to the ground so as to best take advantage of the climate. This is an area where a lot of old vine Garnacha can be found, which is prized by many for its incredible depth and ability to age flawlessly for long periods of time. Other grapes that grow particularly well in Meseta Central are Monastrell, Tempranillo and Syrah — clearly, the Central Plateau is all about reds. 6. Valencia Valencia is no doubt a well-known part of Spain, but many people don’t realize just how good some of the wine coming out of the area is. The fact is, grapes have grown in the area for a very long time — as far back as the Neolithic era. Valencia, then, is perhaps the oldest wine growing region of Spain, and one of the first to take advantage of exportation. Though Valencia is a coastal area, the majority of the vines are actually found inland, where they take advantage of chalky, limestone-laden soils that give Valencian wines their trademark minerality. While aging requirements such as those in Rioja do exist in Valencia, they are unique to themselves. Spanish wine represents some of the best value in the entire industry, and with so many different regions to choose from, there’s no end to the wealth of incredible bottles that are available today.