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Wine Grape Varietals 101

Spanish Red

What is Spanish Red

Red wine is produced throughout the country, from indigenous and international grape varieties. The most significant Spanish regions for red wine production are Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat and Toro.



Rioja is the best-known region for quality Spanish red wine. Located in Northern Spain, the Rioja DO is made up of three distinct zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. Though white and rosé wine is produced here, it is best known for its red wines.

Red Rioja wines are usually blends, with Tempranillo being the most important grape variety. Garnacha, Mazuelo (better known as Carignan or Cariñena) and Graciano are also widely used.

Perhaps the most significant factor in Rioja—as with much Spanish red wine—is the use of oak aging. The length of time a Rioja wine spends in oak will impact not only its style but also its official classification. Young wines with little or no aging will be labelled simply as “Rioja” or “Joven.” In ascending order, the next levels are Rioja Crianza, Rioja Reserva and Rioja Gran Reserva.

Rioja Crianza tends to show more primary fruit characteristics, Reserva beginning to show more complexity and oak influences, and Gran Reserva showing mostly tertiary aromas derived from its aging.

Ribera del Duero


This region in north-central Spain produces some of the country’s finest red wines. Top producers can rival the highest-end wines of Bordeaux, Tuscany and California when it comes to quality, prestige and even price.

Red wine from Ribera del Duero is primarily produced from the local variant of Tempranillo, known as Tinto Fino. Other grape varieties permitted include Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. Ribera del Duero wines tend to be deep in color and firm in flavor.



Priorat is a distinctive and isolated wine-producing region in the Tarragona province of Catalunya. Its steep hillside vineyards of stony soils combine with low yielding old vines to produce intense red wines.

Up to 10 different grape varieties are permitted, though most significant are Garnacha and Mazuelo. Priorat is one of very few wine regions throughout the world capable of making truly premium wines predominantly from these varieties. Other grapes permitted here include Merlot, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Macabeo and Garnacha Blanca, among others.



Toro is a Spanish red wine region in the Zamora region of Castilla y Léon. These wines are some of Spain’s most full-bodied, powerful and robust. The most important grape here is Tinta de Toro, the local name for the Tempranillo grape. Some producers also use a little Garnacha, with up to 10% of that variety permitted in wines labelled “Tinto Roble.”

Other significant areas producing Spanish red wine include Navarra, Jumilla, La Mancha, Bierzo and Yecla.

To browse Spanish red wines by region or price, use our online Buying Guide below. At Wine Enthusiast Magazine, we review thousands of wines annually to provide our readers with information needed to find that perfect bottle!

Structural Characteristics

Low Medium High
Alcohol levels
Low Medium High
Low Medium High
Tannin Structure
Low Medium High

Examples of Spanish Red to Try

Handling Tips

60-68°F / 16-20°C
5-25 years