Spain has more land under grape cultivation than any other country in the world. It is also home to numerous world-class native grape varieties. It might surprise you to know that Spain has more white grape varieties than red ones.
Some principal native Spanish grape varieties are:
Tempranillo – aka Tinto Fino, Tinta del Pais, Cencibel. Tempranillo can range from fine like Burgundy Pinot Noir (a possible relative) to fuller Bordeaux style. In the right conditions, tempranillo wines have capacity for long ageing.
Tinto de Toro – a clone of Tempranillo from D.O. Toro. It produces very dark, inky wines generally.
Garnacha – aka Grenache in other countries, it is native to Northern Spain. Characteristically fruitier, in regions like Priorat, it can be very dense and able to age. Often, it is blended or drunk young.
Monastrell – aka Mourvedre in France, this variety is native to the Central East on the Mediterranean coast. It thrives in the arrid environment and produces spicy young wines on its own. Monastrell resists oxidation so it is often used in blends as well.
Mencía – native of NW Spain, in the cooler climate, it is similar to Cabernet Franc. Wines of all Mencia have recently risen to critical acclaim.
Albariño – from NW Spain, lemony, fruity, mostly unoaked.
Verdejo – from Rueda, crisp, tart with exotic fruit, somewhat similar to Sauvignon Blanc.
Godello – from NW Spain, with body, peach and apricot fruit, and flower aromas.
Viura, aka Macabeo – alone or in blends, unoaked or oaked. Apple notes, similar in some respects to young Chardonnay. Used in Cava blends, as well, found in numerous regions.
Xarel.lo – fuller white, similar to Viura and Chardonnay, mostly used to blend for Cava. Compelling monovarietal still bottles starting to appear.
Garnacha Blanca – white Grenache, primarily found in N. Spain. Oxidizes easily, so mostly used in unoaked young wines. Some oak aged examples exist, in a traditional, old Spanish style that has some oxidized qualities.
Txakolina – crisp white, slight bubbles, citrus notes, from the Basque regions and Pyrennees.
Here is the full list of native grape varieties:
Cariñena (aka Mazuelo)
Mazuelo (aka Cariñena)
Tempranillo (aka Tinto Fino, Tinto del País, Ull de Llebre, Cencibel, Tinto de Madrid)
Tinto de Toro
Macabeo (aka Viura)
Viura (aka Macabeo)