What wine should you order when visiting Madrid, Spain? This brief guide will point you in the right direction!
Cheers everyone! It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to write this article about wine in Madrid while staying in Lavapiés, or, wash your feet! A relatively up and coming trendy and hipster-esque neighborhood not far from Madrid’s city center.
I’m also writing this not long after ordering, yet again, una copa vino tinto Rioja y una copa de Ribera tinto — lado al lado (side by side). The reason being because I really wanted to understand these wines. I wanted to blind taste them repeatedly until I could taste the difference. Ordering red wine in Madrid is actually a relatively simple process, and many restaurants eliminate a tough decision by only giving you a couple of options.
Rioja Tinto o Ribera Tinto?
Most of the time you’ll simply find “Rioja” or “Ribera del Duero” on the menu at various restaurants and tapas joints throughout Madrid (and actually most of Spain). There are obviously some exceptions, and do note that if you go to a more specialized bodega or wine bar, you’ll find many more options in terms of aging format — but the vast majority are from Rioja or Ribera.
What is Rioja and Ribera del Duero?
Both Rioja and Ribera del Duero are notable wine growing regions in North Central Spain. Ribera del Duero lies within the province of Castilla y Leon.
Rioja is actually classified as a DOCa, or “Denominación de Origen Calificada,” while Ribera is at the moment still just a DO, or Denominación de Origen.” DOCa is the highest level of quality designation a wine growing region can achieve in Spain.
Fun Wine Fact: Did you know that Madrid also has its own DO? Unexpectedly, wines from here are not nearly as prized as they are from Rioja or Ribera. I have not come across many wines in Madrid classified under the Madrid DO.
These designations were initiated in an effort to not only classify Spain’s wines by region, but also in an effort to enact certain regulations for vine growing practices and aging techniques. Wines from both Rioja and Ribera are crafted with the utmost attention to detail, and are prized for their ability to age very well over long periods of time.
Even though Rioja and Ribera hold different quality designations, they both abide by the same aging techniques. Both regions also grow their vines within predominantly limestone soil.
Fun Wine Fact: There are currently only two DOCa’s in Spain — Rioja and Priorat. There was a rumor several years back that Ribera del Duero was being considered for DOCa classification, though this appears to have been false as of 2011.
Grape Varieties in Rioja and Ribera
While your menu in Madrid probably won’t tell you, both Rioja and Ribera are most well known for producing the Tempranillo grape. Rioja will almost always use Tempranillo as the dominant variety in blends, often backed by either Garnacha, Graciano, Maturana Tinta and or Mazuelo. Garnacha is the more common secondary variety in Rioja.
Similarly, Ribera also utilizes Tempranillo as their dominant variety. However they are often blended with smaller concentrations of either Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec.
By naming these wines after their Denominación de Origen, Vintners have found success by serving this very ambiguous but well recognized regional brand to their customers.
More Facts about Rioja and Ribera del Duero
- Tempranillo in Ribera del Duero is most commonly referred to as Tinto Fino
- Tinto Fino produced in Ribera is very often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec
- Both Rioja and Ribera abide by the same aging requirements as they related to Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva
- Red wine is the most commonly produced style of wine in Ribera — Abillo is currently the only white grape variety grown with much recognition
Notable Wine Producing Towns and Bodegas in Ribera
- Pesquera and La Horra are both towns located within Ribera’s borders that locals consider to be producing very fine quality wine.
- Viña Sastre is a very well respected wine producer, with Vega Sicilia being the most famous
- According to Wikipedia, Vega Sicilia serves customers as prominent as Prince Charles, who very much prizes the wines made by this Vintner
- Many of the most famous bodegas in Ribera lie along the Duero river, otherwise known as “The Golden Mile.” The most famous bodegas here include Hacienda Monastery, Abadia de Tuerta, Mauro, Domino de Pingus and Bodegas Alion.
How to Order Wine in Madrid — in Spanish
If you’re sitting at a Bodega, restaurant or underground tapas bar in Madrid, you should know how to order some of their famous wines in Spanish. Not just because you’re in Spain, but because the locals genuinely appreciate when a foreigner at least attempts to speak their language.
- Quisiera una copa de Ribera tinto – May I have a glass of Ribera red wine?
- Quisiera una copa de Rioja tinto (Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva) – May I have a glass of Rioja red wine (Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva)
There are obviously other ways to say this, and some locals may have their own methods — but if you’re a foreigner in Madrid, this will get you a glass of sexy juice without issue.
Madrid is truly a magical place and should be explored to the fullest. Wine will make the journey that much more pleasurable! Have more specific questions about wine in Madrid? Please feel free to ask us in the comments, we’re happy to help!