24 May 2024

You find yourself in a charming Spanish restaurant with a lively ambiance and the aroma of delectable dishes filling the air, all coming together to create a perfect dining experience. Then, the waiter approaches, presenting you with an extensive wine list, with a seemingly endless array of choices.

As a novice to the world of wines, the options may appear overwhelming, but stay calm! Here is a step-by-step guide to help you confidently make your way through a wine list in Spain!


Start with the basics

1 - Start with the basics

Begin by considering the colour of wine you prefer: red, white, or perhaps something sparkling. This initial choice narrows down the options and sets the stage for a more manageable selection process.

Be sure to consider your dish. If you are planning to indulge in savoury food, opt for a red wine with a fuller body and tannins. If your choice is a lighter meal or seafood, a crisp white or refreshing rosé might be more suitable. If you are unsure, focus on grape varieties. Tempranillo for reds, Albariño for whites—these are excellent starting points!  Then explore by region!

Explore by region


Spain, the land of flamenco, siestas, and wine-filled fiestas, beckons you to explore its renowned wine regions. Here are some of the most famous wine regions in Spain.

Rioja: Located in northern Spain, this is one of the most well-known and prestigious wine regions. It is particularly famous for its red wines made from the Tempranillo grape, often blended with other varieties. Rioja beckons travellers with its enchanting landscapes, where lush vineyards carpet the undulating hills, and historic wineries offer a sensory journey into the heart of Spain's acclaimed wine culture.

Ribera del Duero: Situated along the Duero River, this region is known for its robust and full-bodied red wines, primarily made from the Tempranillo grape. The wines from this region are often aged in oak barrels, contributing to their complexity. This area invites exploration with its picturesque vineyards lining the meandering Duero River, creating a mesmerizing setting.


2 - Explore by region 2


Priorat: Set in Catalonia, this area is renowned for its powerful red wines, often made from old-vine Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan). Priorat's unique slate soils contribute to the distinctive character of its wines and captivates wanderers with its dramatic landscapes of terraced vineyards clinging to rugged hillsides, setting the stage for an unforgettable journey.

Rueda: Situated in Castilla y León, Rueda is celebrated for its crisp and refreshing Verdejo wines. Rueda unfolds as a tranquil escape, where endless vineyards under the Castilian sun paint a serene backdrop. The region has gained international acclaim for its high-quality white wines.

Basque Country: This Spanish area is known for producing Txakoli, a light, slightly sparkling white wine. It is often enjoyed as a refreshing accompaniment to seafood. The Basque Country emerges as an appealing destination, where rolling hills meet the Bay of Biscay. Amidst charming coastal towns and verdant landscapes, this region has the perfect harmony between tradition, culture, and irresistible allure.

2 - Explore by region 3

Bierzo: This region in the northwest of Spain is known for its red wines, characterized by their freshness and floral aromas. Bierzo unfolds as a hidden jewel, where the Mencía grape thrives amidst lush landscapes. With its picturesque vineyards, historic charm, and the promise of wines that capture the essence of the region, Bierzo invites travellers to immerse themselves in the rich flavours and distinctive terroir.

Penedès: For something different, try the Cava! Penedès, near Barcelona, is the heart of Cava production in Spain. Cava is a sparkling wine made using traditional methods, and Penedès emerges as a sun-kissed haven, where sprawling vineyards adorn the landscape, creating a mesmerizing vista.

Jerez de la Frontera: For a perfect ending to your meal, go for Sherry. Jerez unfolds as a sun-soaked canvas in southwestern Spain, where the Andalusian spirit mingles with the rich aroma of Sherry. With historic bodegas lining cobbled streets, Jerez is an invitation to delve into a sensory journey, discovering the artistry behind this fortified wine.


Deciphering Spanish wine labels

3 - Deciphering Spanish wine labels

Embarking on a journey through Spanish wines can be an exhilarating experience, but when faced with a wine label adorned with unfamiliar terms and symbols, it is easy to feel a bit lost. By acquainting yourself with these key elements, you will be able to achieve a more informed and enjoyable selection of wines that matches your taste.

At the top of the label, you will likely find the wine's Denominación de Origen (DO) or Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa). This indicates the specific region where the grapes were grown and the wine was produced. Different regions have distinct regulations and standards, influencing the wine's characteristics.

Spanish wines often proudly display the grape varieties used in the winemaking process. Familiarize yourself with common grapes like Tempranillo, Garnacha, Albariño, and more. The label may list a single grape or a blend, offering insights into the wine's flavour profile.


If the wine has undergone ageing, the label will provide details. Phrases like "Crianza," "Reserva," or "Gran Reserva" indicate different ageing periods, with "Gran Reserva" wines typically spending the longest time in oak barrels and bottles. The year displayed on the label represents the grape harvest, known as the vintage year. Certain years may be considered exceptional, influencing the wine's overall quality.

Look for the name of the bodega or winery responsible for crafting the wine. Some labels may also include the vineyard or estate name. Exploring wines from specific producers can become a delightful journey, as each brings its unique touch to winemaking. The alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage is also a crucial detail found on the label. Spanish wines vary in alcohol content, so understanding this can help you gauge the wine's intensity.


Navigating the list with panache

4 - Navigating the list with panache

Before diving in, peruse the wine list attentively. Take note of the regions, grape varieties, and any unique offerings. Match the wine to the cuisine. For hearty dishes, opt for robust reds; for seafood or lighter fare, lean towards crisp whites or rosés. Have a comfortable budget in mind. Inform the waiter if you are seeking something specific within a certain price range. Do not shy away from seeking guidance! Whether you are looking for an affordable gem or a more extravagant selection, the waiter can guide you towards options within your specified range.

If in doubt, consider local favourites or house specialities. Spanish restaurants often feature outstanding regional wines that pair seamlessly with their cuisine. Some establishments offer the option to sample a small pour before committing to a full glass or bottle. And that takes us to the next chapter!


Savouring with finesse

5 - Savouring with finesse

Sampling before committing is like speed dating for wines. Take a sip, see if there is a spark, and if not, there are plenty of fish—or wines—in the sea. So, wine tasting is a cultural experience that demands a touch of finesse! Begin by examining the colour, take in the aroma, savour the taste, and finally, appreciate the finish. Take small sips, allowing the wine to linger on your palate. Remember, it is about savouring, not consuming.

There are no wrong choices! Wine is an exploration of flavours, and the beauty lies in the diversity of options. Be open to trying varieties and styles you might not have considered before. You might uncover hidden gems that surprise your palate. Embrace the adventure, be open to trying something new, and enjoy the experience of discovering the rich world of Spanish wines.


Wine shenanigans

6 - Wine shenanigans

In the world of Spanish wines, it is a cork-popping fiesta, not a screw-loosening affair. The local market has not quite warmed up to the unscrewing trend – apparently, corks are still the cool kids on the block.

Now, you are at a charming spot, ready to sip some liquid sunshine. Brace yourself because the serving staff might pull a little sneak attack – they will ask someone to be the brave soul to test the wine before they grace you with a pour. It is like the ultimate wine initiation ceremony. And when that wine does start flowing, do not expect a brimming glass – oh no, the Spanish keep it classy and rarely fill it more than halfway. Do not take it personally; it is just the Spanish way.

Now, let's talk temperature drama. If your vino is playing it too cool or heating things up too much, be the wine superhero and flag down your waiter. Be ready to request “un recipiente con hielo” (or ice bucket) for your bottle of chilled white wine during the Spanish warm weather. Because no one wants a lukewarm Tempranillo.


Enjoy the experience

7 - Enjoy the experience

Ordering wine in a Spanish restaurant is part of the dining experience. Relax, enjoy the process, and let this drink enhance the flavours of your meal. By embracing these tips, you will navigate wine tastings and restaurant lists with panache but also deepen your appreciation for the rich tapestry of Spanish wines! Contact us to help you fulfil your Spanish holidays with amazing experiences, let the wine-induced laughter flow, and cheers to a Spanish journey filled with delightful sips and hilarious escapades! 


Topics: self-drive, Visit Spain, travel agency, spain, self-guided, wines, Basque Country, tourtailors, Spanish Wine, TravelSpain, tourism travel, wine tasting, Sherry, Ribera del Duero, Cava

We are a local tour operator specialized in custom Self-Guided Tours in Portugal, Spain & Italy

Our local team will craft a tailor-made trip plan with an itinerary and a selection of hotels, activities and transportation based on your interests and budget. We offer a turnkey package and take care of all the logistics. While you are travelling, our local team is available by phone 24/7, so that we make sure you have a hassle-free vacation.


We also want to guarantee you have all you need when you are on tour. You will get a personalized roadbook with your day-to-day planning designed especially for you and an exclusive guidebook with additional information written by our team. This information will also be featured on our exclusive mobile app, which also have maps connecting to your phone’s navigation apps. To ease the driving, you will receive a pre-programmed GPS with preloaded coordinates for all of the above.


We know sometimes life gets in the way, so all our tours are fully-refundable until 5 working days prior to your arrival – money back guarantee, no questions asked.


After we receive your enquiry, we will send you a free proposal, that can be changed as many times as necessary until meeting your expectations. Start planning your trip today!


Join our mailing list to receive the latest updates and travel inspiration​