While visiting Madrid, the options for which wines to try and where to drink wine can be overwhelming.
Heavy monastrell (also known as mourvèdre) from the southern region of Jumilla? Light and fruity mencías from rainy Galicia in the north? Or maybe you want to dive into the fascinating world of sherry wines from Jerez.
The variety of wine in Spain can be a lot to take in for the uninitiated, and to add to the options, Spain is now a great place to dive into the exciting world of natural wines. For those who love to try new wines, natural wines may be some of the most interesting and approachable in Spain. A large number of natural winemakers are largely disinterested in participating in what is, to some, viewed as Spain’s complex and archaic regulatory denominación de origen or D.O. system.
So if you’re curious as to where to drink natural wine in Madrid, wonder no more. Here’s everything you need to know.
What exactly are natural wines?
Well, even the question of what a natural wine is can depend on who you’re talking to. However, there are several important trends and characteristics.
Natural wines are not sulfite-free, as sulfites occur naturally in all wines. However, natural winemakers add no extra sulfites, and natural wines are more often than not unfiltered.
Grapes used in natural wine production are cultivated according to organic—and oftentimes biodynamic—regulations. Natural winemakers in general shun the use of added yeasts, instead opting for local, naturally occurring yeasts present on the grape skins (hence the importance of organic farming), much like an artisan baker would prefer to use a sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast.
Most importantly, natural winemakers are obsessed with terroir, the French term which refers to all the factors that make grapes different in one region versus another, such as soil, climate and altitude. Natural wines tend to vary from one year to the next, and greatly from one vineyard to the next. The homogeneity that is aimed for in commercial wineries is the antithesis of natural wines, where variety and difference is celebrated.
And so if you are as curious about natural wines as many travelers to Madrid are, you’re in luck. Spain is home to a great deal of fantastic natural winemakers, and many are located near Madrid. The small community of winemakers, distributors, sommeliers and restaurateurs involved in providing the capital with natural wines is friendly, centrally located and offers amazing value on wines that can be more than twice the price in places like New York, Berlin, Paris, London and even Barcelona.
Here are some of Madrid’s leading establishments to try these fascinating wines, conveniently all located in the central district.
Where to drink natural wine in Madrid
Bendito Vinos y Vinilos
This was first bar in Madrid to specialize in natural wines. Located in the lively San Fernando market, owner José had worked as a teacher until he found his true passion and opened Bendito Vinos y Vinilos (roughly translated as Blessed Wines and Vinyl LPs).
Since day one, the goal has been to bring natural wines to the capital city in a pretense-free environment with good music and fantastic charcuterie and cheeses. This is the bar where a great deal of younger Spaniards are falling in love with natural wines. The wait staff is always willing to let you try different wines before settling on a glass, the prices are beyond fair, and on the weekends, you are very likely to even meet the winemakers themselves as they often visit Bendito to promote their new wines or just share them with the thirsty crowds.
An extension to the Lavapies local favorite establishment, O Pazo de Lugo launched their natural wine and craft beer-focused extension next door in 2018. It came with a first for the city: natural wine on tap.
La Caníbal‘s waitstaff is extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and the wines in their selection of wines by the bottle are also incredible. The prices here are astonishing for the wines on tap, with the average for a liter of wine at €12.
Much like a craft beer bar, the wines on tap change regularly and come from all over Spain. The cheese boards are well curated, and the food from the kitchen is classic Spanish done well. Don’t neglect the croquetas de lacón con grelos (pork shoulder and broccoli rabe croquettes).
If you’re lucky, you may stumble in while there’s a tasting or an event. La Caníbal frequently holds events centered around natural wine.
Just a stone’s throw from the first two establishments, La Fisna is not exclusively a natural wine bar, nor do they specialize in natural wine. However, one day when I stepped in for a quick drink I asked one of the owners what he thought of natural wine. His response was characteristic of many wine drinkers in Spain as he said, “I like the good ones.”
Upon answering he served me a fantastic tempranillo from Esencia Rural, a winery doing some frankly weird amphora aged orange wines in Toledo (which I love) but also some incredible reds that please even the most demanding wine drinkers such as Iñaki of La Fisna. Thus, La Fisna is happy to carry natural wines and serve them, as long as they are delicious.
The menu here is short and sweet, and there is a bottle shop in the back should you want to take any wines to go. I strongly recommend having dinner here, but show up early as it is small and fills up.
Opened by a French family of Spanish descent, Cascorro Bistrot carries exclusively natural wines from producers with whom the owner has a personal relationship.
As the name implies, you can expect classic bistro fair and a daily lunch menu on weekdays.
The well-curated selection of wines and convenient location between the La Latina and Lavapies neighborhoods makes Cascorro a perfect stop between having navajas, or razor clams, at Cervecería Cruz and caracoles, or snails, at Casa Amadeo (which serves 1000 kilograms of snails a month!). Or you could just reserve a table and have a fantastic meal paired beautifully with natural wines from independent and sustainable winemakers—either way, you are sure to be pleased.
Love Spanish wine? Our Gourmet Tapas & Wine Tasting Tour is calling your name. Join us for a night out across several of Madrid’s hottest wine bars, where you’ll get a look at some of the most fascinating wines from across the country. Whether you’re an aspiring sommelier or new to wine but willing to learn, this is the perfect evening for you!
Spanish and American with a touch of Venezuelan, Oliver is a former English teacher turned full-time devourer and food tour guide.