Spain’s viticultural scene has long rested in the shadows of neighboring France and Italy, though things are finally taking a turn. When it comes to versatile viticulture, Spain is exactly the place to look. From salty, sea-influenced whites to earthy, full-bodied reds to a serious fortified wine production that reigns king in its category, Spain is putting out some of the most exciting wines on the market today. Best of all, these bottles offer some of the best quality to price ratios in all of Europe. For days spent drinking, dancing, and soaking up the summer sun—followed by evenings rich in tapas, aperitifs, and copas of local vino—visit these 15 Spanish winemaking regions and the cities that make them so special.
Related: The Best Red Wines of 2020
Signature Grapes: Albarino, Godello, Treixadura, Mencia
Lovers of natural wine, the great outdoors, and sleepy coastal beach towns, Galicia is just the spot for you. The region is best known for its saline-tinged Albarino and earthy, terroir-driven reds, many of which are made via responsible farming techniques. Make the region’s famed capital Santiago de Compostela your home base, take a stroll along the world-famous camino route, and treat yourself to a reward of a glass of something local. Nearby day trips to breezy coastal towns along the Atlantic are just a short drive away—fresh seafood fans, we recommend a getaway to Sanxenxo, though return for the night at the luxurious and historical Parador de Santiago de Compostela, a 15th century hospital turned chic hotel.
Castilla y Léon
Signature Grapes: Tempranillo, Viura, Mencia
Hit this famed Spanish wine region and stay in Salamanca, the region’s capital city and designated UNESCO World Heritage City. Lose yourself in the cobblestone streets, pop into one of the cities many renowned cathedrals, and be sure to soak in some sun in Plaza Mayor; better yet, we recommend doing so at a café with a glass of unctuous local Viura or inky Tempranillo—paired with traditional Spanish tapas, of course. For a wine-soaked trip with a ‘Middle Ages’ feel, check out this golden-hued university town. Don’t forget to take some time to visit the Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells) and Casa Lis, the city’s Art Nouveau/Art Deco museum!
Signature Grapes: Hondarribi Zuri, Hondarribi Beltza
Bilbao, San Sebastian, Hondarribia, oh my! Hitting northern Spain’s Basque country is the ultimate gastronomic getaway for foodies and wine lovers alike. Regarded for their saline-tinged whites (known as Txakoli), these crisp and quaffable sippers pair perfectly with the region’s locally sourced seafood and pintxos. Museum lovers, be sure to take some time to visit the Guggenheim and Museum of Fine Arts in Bilbao, and budget in some time for an afternoon stroll over the Zubizuri footbridge. Beach dwellers, hit San Sebastian’s Playa de Ondarreta and snap some unforgettable photos in Parte Vieja, the city’s charming cobblestone-laden Old Town. After a solid Michelin-star meal? Look no further than this food mecca of a region, which is home to a plethora of Michelin options.
Signature Grapes: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon
For tapas, Tempranillo, and the world-famous running of the bulls, post up in Navarra’s capital city of Pamplona. Aside from inky red wines and dark-hued rosés (known locally as rosado), Navarra is also known for its fortified structures, gothic architecture, and slew of art collections spread across the city’s museums and cathedrals. Hit Santa María la Real Cathedral, Museo de Navarra, and dine at Café Iruna, a past favorite of Ernest Hemingway. For a Sun Also Rises influenced Spanish getaway, this region is just the ticket.
Signature Grapes: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo, Viura
No Spanish wine region evokes the luxury, ageworthiness, and full-bodied opulence like that of Rioja. Crafted predominantly from Tempranillo, these bold and boisterous reds pair beautifully with Spain’s hearty meat-heavy cuisine, and best of all, are able to withstand decades in the cellar. Hit the region’s main city of Logroño for an epic tapas crawl on Calle Laurel. Snack on patatas bravas, skewered shrimp, razor clams, garlicky mushrooms, and more, all washed down with a copa of something local, of course. Bask in the sunshine at Ebro Park, snap some breathtaking photos of San Bartolomé, Logroño’s oldest church, and be sure to visit some of the country’s best wineries along the way.
Signature Grapes: Carinena, Garnacha, Macabeo
Zaragoza, Aragon’s capital city, is a hotbed for baroque architecture, Moorish landmarks, and unforgettable art museums. In between sipping glasses of the region’s signature Carinena based reds, be sure to check out the ‘Caesaraugusta Route’ to discover ancient Roman forums, thermal baths, and 1st century theaters. Zaragoza is also home to Basilica of Our Lady Pilar, a world-renowned basilica famous for its Virgin Mary shrine and multiple domes. Spain’s Ebro River runs through the landlocked region, which is surrounded by mountainous countryside terrain. Zaragoza is also known for its bustling commercial avenues and arcades, which are lined with quaint boutiques and small shops selling local goods.
Signature Grapes: Xarel-lo, Macabeo, Parellada
Catalonia is undoubtedly Spain’s most visited region, thanks to its lively beach towns, sandy coastlines, and of course, the region’s city-that-never-sleeps, Barcelona. Catalonia is best known for its world-renowned sparkling wine production (Cava), which is perfect for sipping at late breakfasts, lazy lunches, and all throughout action-packed evenings. Visitors looking for a more energetic stay should post up in Barcelona and benefit from the many pedestrian shopping areas, historic gothic quarter, and unmissable Gaudi inspired architecture. Typical spots to hit include the Sagrada Familia Basilica, Park Guell, and Barceloneta beach. For those looking for a more nature-inspired feel, renting a hidden beach house tucked away in Costa Brava offers a more low-key Catalonian experience.
Signature Grapes: Tinto Fino (Tempranillo), Garnacha, Airen, Albillo
Spain’s Vinos de Madrid DO encompasses all of the vineyards surrounding Madrid, Spain’s centrally located capital city. Known for art galleries, complex architecture, and a nightlife that never stops, Madrid provides the perfect balance for vineyard seeking urban dwellers looking for a taste of city life. Madrid’s continental climate and various soil types are conducive for cultivating Airen, Albillo, Garnacha, and Tempranillo, locally known as Tinto Fino. Sip on these locally produced wines paired with patatas bravas and albondigas, all against the charming wrought iron balconies of Plaza Mayor.
Castilla La Mancha
Signature Grapes: Tempranillo (Cencibel), Alicante Bouschet, Airen, Macabeo
Otherwise known as La Mancha, Castilla La Mancha is the largest wine region in not just Spain, but all of Europe. The region’s rolling vineyards cover most of the central Iberain plateau and encompasses over 200,000 hectares of vines. Dotted with plains, windmills, and extensive mountain ranges, La Mancha is best known for providing the backdrop for Miguel de Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote.’ The region’s main city of Toledo provides the perfect place to stay in this vast and viticulturally rich region. Visit the Alcázar de Toledo and gaze upon Renaissance paintings by El Grego at the city’s famous Cathedral in between sipping the region’s unctuous and full-bodied wines.
Signature Grapes: Monastrell, Macabeo, Merseguera
Known for fresh citrus, savory paella, and abundant sunshine, all best enjoyed with a glass of local wine, look no further than Spain’s southeastern port city of Valencia. In between sipping on the region’s signature earthy reds and rich white wines, hit the City of Arts and Sciences, which boasts a planetarium and interactive museum on-site. For some outdoor fun, post up on one of the city’s sandy beaches or take a stroll along one of the walking trails at Albufera Park, the region’s well-known wetland reserve. Valencia’s three major wine production zones are all within driving distance of the city. Rent a car and plan some visits, stock up on local juice, head back to the Central Market (home to over 1,000 stalls featuring locally produced foods and products), and prepare the best Spanish-inspired picnic of your life.
Signature Grapes: Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon, Macabeo, Airen
Love bold, fruit-driven reds made from Mourvedre? Then Murcia is just the place for you. Here, the grape goes by its Spanish name, Monastrell, and is the most common variety used in red wine production. This southeastern university town’s major city is also the same as the region and is known for its variety of architecture (Gothic to Baroque). In between imbibing on glasses of robust reds, visit the bright and colorful Palacio Episcopal, head to the saltwater lagoon of Mar Menor, or press your luck at the Real Casino de Murcia. The region is also known for its large-scale tomato and citrus production, so expect some of the best pan con tomate you’ve ever tasted.
Signature Grapes: Palomino, Pedro Ximenez, Moscatel
Love fortified wines in all of their many flavors/styles? Then Andalucia is the perfect wine region to visit. Home to Spain’s signature Sherry production, this southerly region is known for its rich history, flamenco dancing, fresh seafood, and crystalline coastlines, a trip to Andalucia is simply unforgettable. Spend the days exploring Seville’s Triana neighborhood, Plaza de Espana, La Giralda bell tower, and the city’s famed Gothic Cathedral, which is home to Chistopher Columbus’ tomb. Come evening, savor the region’s salty, bone-dry Sherries (Fino and Manzanilla), followed by unctuously sweet PX bottlings post-dinner. For Mediterranean weather, seaside beach towns, and a serious Spanish dance culture that knows no boundaries, Andalucia is the place to be.
Signature Grapes: Albillo, Alicante Bouschet, Tinta Amarela
This little-known western Spanish region is a nature lover’s dream. Composed of endless lakes, forests, and mountains, this hidden gem is a nature lover’s dream. Although minimally populated, tons of wildlife call Extremadura home, including otters, lyxes, and wild black pigs. Although wine production is sparse, Tempranillo is the preferred varieties of Extremadura based winemakers, and whites are crafted from local varieties such as Cayetana. The capital city of Mérida is regarded for its Roman ruins (teatro romano, circo romano, and aqueducts), though most importantly, the region is an important exporter of quercus suber—better known to most wine lovers as cork!
Signature Grapes: Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Moscatel
If you prefer your wine with a side of all-night partying, then hitting the Balearic Islands is your best bet. The four largest islands (Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera) are regarded for their world-class nightlife and are considered some of the top summer holiday destinations in the world. Surprisingly, wine has been produced on these islands since 120 B.C., beginning with the vinification of sweet Malmsey. Today, a handful of local white varieties and international red/white grapes, including Chardonnay, Merlot, and more, are used to aromatic and easy-drinking wines meant to be consumed in their youth. Beyond wine, a handful of artisanal spirits and liqueurs, particularly absinthe and gin, are produced, which are perfect for mixing with fresh juices/tonics and sipping beneath the strong sun.
Signature Grapes: Listan Blanco (Palomino), Malvasia, Listan Negro, Tintilla
For Spain’s most exotic wine-soaked getaway, hop the next flight to the Canary Islands. This Atlantic based archipelago of islands is actually closer to Africa than mainland Spain, situated about 70 miles off of the west coast of Morocco. Known for rugged landscapes, saline-tinged breezes, and mineral-rich volcanic soils, the wines of the Canary Islands are known for their distinct ashy notes and earth-driven flavors. Listan Blanco (Palomino) and Listan Negro are two of the islands’ signature varieties, most of which are cultivated on stone-terraced vineyards on Tenerife, the focal point of the islands’ viticultural activity (Gran Canaria and Lanzarote are also well-known growing sites). For humid and tropical beach days spent beneath the sun, coupled with copious glasses of salty whites and aromatic, ash-driven reds, look no further than this epic, bucket-list wine region.