Spanish Wine Road Trip: 8 Stellar Wineries To Visit In Spain (And What To Drink At Each) - 11 minutes read

8 Stellar Wineries To Visit In Spain (And What To Drink At Each)

Spain's long been a prolific wine-producing country—in fact, it has the world's highest amount of vineyard area at 2.4 million acres. But it wasn't until recently that there was a global excitement around Spanish wine. In the past two decades alone, exports of the stuff have doubled, with the United States being the top destination.

It makes sense, then, that American tourists are looking to experience first-hand the wonders of Spanish wine right at the source, the way they've done for ages in Piedmont or Bordeaux. In 2017, Spanish wineries saw a 21% increase in visitors compared to the previous year.

But with some 4,000 wineries and dozens of wine regions, it's tough to know where to start. Rather than try to break down all the options, we tapped three of our favorite wine insiders to map out their favorite destination wineries offering excellent drink, history, and views.

Our route starts in Barcelona, a hop skip to the sparkling wine country of Penedés, then zig-zags up to the preeminent region of La Rioja before heading down to Madrid and continuing southwards to the coastal city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

Ready to start? Here's your beginner's Spanish wine road trip featuring eight must-visit wineries and vineyards (plus, what to drink).

Hold the Champagne—Spain's sparkling wine, Cava, is having a moment. And where better to experience the bubbly than at its oldest producer: Codorníu, in the Penedés region of Catalonia. History geeks and wine novices alike will get a kick out of the day-tour from Barcelona, just 45 minutes away.

"Not often do you get to walk into the grounds of a winery that dates back to 1551—you feel the history inside the 30 kilometers of underground wine caves," says Matthew Kaner, wine director and owner of Los Angeles bars Covell, Augustine Wine Bar, Dead or Alive Bar, and Good Measure. "The most important relic inside the Codorníu estate is their statue of Anna de Codorníu, the last to carry the family name and who in 1659 married into the Raventos family, forever changing the course of Catalonian wine!"

"The estate is incredible with a stunning mansion and gorgeous gardens, plus the cellar tour is one the most fun I have ever experienced—you get to take a tram!" adds Sarah Tracey, sommelier and founder of The Lush Life.

Drink this: Tracey recommends the Jaume Codorniu, a Gran Reserva vintage Cava made from their oldest vineyards: "A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Xarel-lo, it can stand side-by-side with the finest vintages Champagnes."

Nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, the northeastern Somontano region is one of Spain's most beautiful and most exciting destinations. Its leading winery, Viñas del Vero, along with high-end wine-producing sister property, Blecua, are overseen by enigmatic winemaker José Ferrer, who brings a balanced and detailed approach to the craft.

"Instead of being associated with just one type of wine, Somontano’s unique terroir and climate are perfect for growing an impressive array of indigenous and international grape varieties," explains Wanda Mann, wine writer and founder of the wine lifestyle website The Black Dress Traveler. "Viñas del Vero is a must-visit on a trip to Somontano. Not only can you taste everything from exceptionally well-made Garnacha to Gewürztraminer, Macabeo to Merlot; but Viñas del Vero has some really creative activities for visitors to choose from."

Indeed, it's a fun experience for folks of all wine-loving levels. Guests can breeze through the vineyards by Segway, participate in harvest, and enjoy a tapas pairing with their vinos.

Drink this: "Silky, tropical, and spicy—Viñas del Vero Gewürztraminer 2018 is a beautiful example of how Somontano is full of delicious surprises," says Mann.

Perhaps the best-known wine region in Spain, La Rioja is revered for its red wines. The region is divided into three sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja, and Rioja Alavesa. This winery is set on the higher elevation of Rioja Alta, boasting a fascinating micro-climate due to its location between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

It was here that a group of friends from the Basque country would often come south to vacation. In 1973, the friends decided to produce their own Reserva and Gran Reserva wines to accompany the food of their local txoko, the secret gastronomic societies popular in San Sebastián.

"Today, some of the most innovative production happening in Rioja right now is at Beronia," Tracey says. "They research and experiment with different formats of barrels that combine French and American oak to give the wines a unique balance."

Drink this: Tracey suggests the house "rosé, which is a more delicate, light, fresh take on the traditionally robust Rioja Rosado—perfect for the modern palate."

"After a visit to Bodegas Beronia, head over to Finca Allende also in Rioja Alta, where winemaker Miguel Angel de Gregorio considers each wine he makes to be singular and magical," Tracey suggests. "They still farm many of their vineyard plots by mule, a romantic sight to see in the age of technology!"

The singularity of terroir is even more central here, as the winery only produces stuff made with local grapes (it's common practice to blend fruit from neighboring regions). The winery sits on a hill roughly 80 meters above the medieval village that surrounds it.

Drink this:The Mártires 2017, a white wine made from 100% hand-harvested Viura grapes grown on limestone. "This single-vineyard wine can compete with some of the finest in the world—an eye opener for those who think of Spain as red wine country," Tracey says.

The winemaking history of this storied estate is closely tied to that of the Rioja region itself—it was the winery's founder, the Peruvian-born Marqués de Murrieta, who brought in French production techniques from Bordeaux. In the late 1800s, he set up his winery out of the majestic Ygay Castle.

Kaner recommends stopping by nearby Logroño, the capital city of Rioja with a thriving food scene, before heading up to the state: "Take a break from your tapas crawl to visit this winery with over 160 years of history. You can taste wines from the Ygay Castle on property, and there's also an incredible food pairing guided by the estate chef."

Drink this: The Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva 2011—a critically-acclaimed dry red wine made up of a shopping list's worth of grapes: Tempranillo, Marsanne, Malvasia, Mazuelo, Graciano, Viura, Garnacha Blanca, Grenache, and Roussanne.

Leave La Rioja and make your way towards Bodegas San Alejandro, located in Calatayud, the hilly wine region in the southwestern corner of Zaragoza. Mann explains that it's the rugged and steep terrain that makes wines from here so compelling.

The history of the region is likewise fascinating. A winepress dating back to 153 B.C. was found in the nearby ancient city of Segeda, once home to the Celtic peoples who inhabited the Iberian peninsula.

Founded in 1962, Bodegas San Alejandro offers guided tours, tastings, vineyard visits, and more. "In addition to wine tastings and tours, visitors can really get a hands-on experience with their Winemaker for a Day program," Mann recommends. "At the end of the day, you can take home your own bottled and labeled personal blend. Now that’s a one-of-a-kind souvenir!"

Drink this:"The Bodegas San Alejandro Las Rocas Garnacha 2015 is a big, juicy, and spicy wine that captures the energy of Calatayud's soaring vineyards," says Mann.

Set just one hour west of Madrid in the Gredos hills, this winery was founded in 1999 atop ancient, reclaimed vineyards of Garnacha that'd been cultivated since the 12th century. Mann counts the winery as one of her favorites, citing winemaker Isabel Galindos' minimalist approach as particularly alluring.

"The vineyards aren't perfectly manicured and laid out in a straightforward fashion," says Wanda Mann, wine writer and founder of the wine lifestyle website The Black Dress Traveler. "The hardy old Garnacha vines—some as old as 100 years—seem to have been given the freedom to grow without interference. It's a very straightforward but satisfying experience because of the gorgeous landscape and wines."

Drink this: Mann recommends the Las Moradas de San Martín Initio 2011, a "vibrant Garnacha that maintains impressive freshness even as it ages."

Finally, it's time to finish the trip with some sherry, Spain's beloved fortified wine. Take a straight shot to the coastal city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, which forms an integral part of the "Sherry Triangle" and is known for its floral, dry manzanilla style. Bodega Delgado Zuleta is the oldest winery in the Marco de Jerez region—its founder, a knight, established the winery in 1744 before going on to launch a company trading with the Americas.

"Bodega Delgado Zuleta offers an incredible glimpse into the winemaking of that era because it seems that not much has changed!" Tracey notes. 'It's full or antique, old-world charm. The wines are beautiful, food-friendly accompaniments to fresh seafood."

Drink this: "The essential wine to try is La Goya Manzanilla En Rama, an aged manzanilla bottled straight from the cask without filtering. It's bone dry, briny, mineral, and absolutely delicious!," Tracey suggests.


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