Steeped in history and blessed with a microclimate, Spain has been growing grapes for centuries and the country boasts the biggest vineyard in the world.
Most of the famous regions are located along the River Duero, and with more acres under vine than any other land, the wines offer a tasting voyage of discovery from Rias Baixas on the north-western tip, to up-and-coming Priorat in the north-east, and most famously Rioja in the north.
There’s no doubting Rioja signals red for Spanish wine, but tipplers mustn’t forget the virtues of a good, rich white Rioja such as Finca Allende Rioja Blanco 2008 (£20.40, www.bbr.com).
The label may not get the pulses racing, but this glorious straw-yellow white made from a harmonious blend of malvasia and viura is quite delightful. Buttery and tropical, it triumphs on the palate with the slightest sherry profile and good acidity on the long finish. Good with food, Allende complements flaky fish and white meats.
Not all red Riojas are created equal, and the flavours of oak-aged tempranillo can vary from rounded vanilla and strawberries, to rich, dark and dense, and even to more leathery and earthy. Some modern bodegas are replacing American oak with French and most of the wines are blended with other varieties, but what is certain is Rioja’s enduring appeal.
Dense, oaky reds such as Baron de Barbon O/A Rioja 2010 (£7.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk) have complex savoury fruit flavours thanks to time spent in American and French barrels and the Baron certainly packs a punch with well-integrated oak, cherries, violet and blackberries, warm spicy wood and firm tannins.
A Spanish institution, Beronia wines have enjoyed a makeover since being acquired by sherry dynasty Gonzalez Byass, and its Beronia dos Maderas Crianza 2008 (£9.99, www.ocado.com) comes from one of the best Rioja regions, Rioja Alta, high up in the south. It spends 40 months in oak and the layers of rich flavour produce a gorgeous garnet red with a strawberries and cream nose, savoury spice, rich black fruits and a hint of mocha on the smooth, lingering finish.