Spain Snapshots: Little Known Wines from Spain and Portugal

You should blame my host family for my love of wine. Not used to drinking with dinner, they’d top up my glass with rich Ribera del Duero wines, saying it was all part of the cultural experience.

(if only I had a euro for every time someone told me wine is part of the cultural experience in Europe.)

Thanks to the arid temperatures, firm soil and river terraces, the Denominación de Origen La Rioja and the Duoro river regions of Spain and Portugal have become top wine-producing (not to mention an award-winning) regions in Europe. After a trip last year to Porto and several master’s projects centering on wine, I became hooked on vinos from lesser-known regions of both Spain and Portugal. Now that the harvest season is here, I find myself spending more time in the wine aisle of my supermarket, curious about where my palate can take me.

Here are some of my new favorites:


Unbeknownst to me, Madeira wines of Portugal are up and coming, thanks to their wide range of grape varieties grown on this small island in the Atlantic. If variety is the spice of life, Madeira wines have it all – ranging from dry to sweet, and even used for cooking purposes. What’s interesting about these wines is that they can stay good after being opened, thanks to the extreme temperatures in which the grapes are grown. Madeira wines are becoming increasingly popular in the US, though they haven’t taken hold in Spain.

Ribera de Guadiana / Tierra de Barros

After my master’s program assigned us a case study on increasing wine sales internationally (my type of project, clearly), I learned about the wine region we’d chosen, based on having a group member in Cáceres. This region encompasses two dozen grape varieties, the most prominent of which is the garnacha. Their latest harvests have been classified as Very Good, and I find the reds complement the typical foods of the region quite well, particularly ham, migas and embutidos.


When the Novio and I were visiting Murcia last year, I searched for something to do besides eat baked octopus. Unbeknownst to me, Murcia hosts the Jumilla wine region, the breeding ground for the monastrell grape variety. The wines we tried at Bodegas Garcia Silvano were deep and woodsy, and you can find them at Mercurio Gastrobar in Triana.

Speaking of, there are loads of wine bars and specialty shops in Seville, and I’d recommend lunch La Viñería de San Telmo, Flor de Sal for Spanish wine tastings with Andre, or checking out the Viñafiel wine store near the cathedral.

This post was made possible by Tesco Wine.

Have you ever tried any of these DO wines? What Iberian wines are your favorites? Lauren explained five interesting facts about Spanish wines – check it!

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. I had a wine from Madrid this past year, and I was pleasantly surprised. My problem is that I know a lot of good wines from one or two regions (see: Toro and Ribera del Duero), and since I know which ones are good value, I want to go with those when I’m out for tapas. We don’t drink a lot of wine at home (I know, crazy, right?), so I’m always going for the safer choice.
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    • I’m a total purist, for the most part – I stick to what I know (in college I chose by the bottle design, silly me!). The Novio is the adventurous one, and I’d recommend you two try a new grape or DO each month – it’s fun! If you like Toro, you’ll like Jumilla reds.

  2. I love sampling various types of wines. I can stand in the wine section at our local grocery for hours. It helps that wine in Europe is inexpensive compared to the US…and I truly believe that it’s part of the cultural experience, especially in Spain and Portugal (lucky you!). I hope to try Madeira someday. I have to wonder, though, since some of the people from Madeira don’t consider themselves to be Portuguese, is the wine not, as well??? :-)

  3. Pedro Meca says:

    OH MY GOD! MY LORD! thanks for mentioning Jumilla wines! they do exist! Murcia does exists! haha!


  1. […] Spanish wine list is extensive, with even lesser-known DOs like Jumilla and Toro represented. Margaret chose a fruity Rueda, but I stuck with a beer and ordered a 1906 […]

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