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Spanish Wines: Ribera del Duero & Albariño

This blog post was originally posted on May 25, 2012, and was updated on April 19, 2017.

Spain is home to such a wide variety of great, affordable wine that choosing between them can be difficult. If you want to ensure a decent glass of wine in almost any bar in Spain, you can’t go wrong with a red vino tinto from the Ribera del Duero region. Likewise, for white wine or vino blanco, an albariño varietal from the north of Spain is a good bet.

Two of Spain's most consistently great wines: Albariño and Ribera del Duero. Pair a glass of crisp Galician Albariño with a feast of traditional tapas on our Insider's Tapas & Wine Evening Tour in Santiago!

Here’s everything you need to know about two of our favorite, most consistent Spanish wines.

What is a Ribera del Duero?

To clarify, Ribera del Duero is a wine producing region in the Castile and León autonomous community. It is not a specific wine nor a type of grape. Common grapes used in the area are the tempranillo, grenache, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot. Often, the wines produced in this region are a blend of different grapes. The Ribera del Duero region is characterized by its low rainfall, extremely hot summers and bitterly cold winters. The combination makes for some wonderful wines, the most famous perhaps from the Bodegas Vega Sicilia

Red grapes on the vine in the Ribera del Duero region, where a variety of great red wines are made.
Red grapes from the Ribera del Duero region, where a variety of exquisite wines are produced.

What is an Albariño?

Albariño on the other hand is a white wine grape variety grown in the Rías Baixas wine producing region of Galicia in northwestern Spain, as well as in parts of Portugal (where it is known as Alvarinho). It is usually not blended, and produces one of Spain’s best white wines.

Albariño grapes growing in a Galician vineyard. Try the finished product- crisp and light Albariño wine- on our Insider's Tapas & Wine Evening Tour. Pair it with some local dishes and discover how Galicia offers a complete culinary experience!
Albariño grapes hanging out in a Galician vineyard, just waiting to be made into wine!

Although each Spanish bar often offers various wine options, here is what you can usually expect when asking for “Una Ribera Por Favor” or “Un Albariño Por Favor”:

Characteristics of Ribera wine

Usually when you ask for “un Ribera” you are asking for a tinto fino (tempranillo) grape, and it will often be a blend with other grape varieties. Characteristics include its ruby red color, full body, with hints of berries, vanilla, tobacco, plum, oak and leather. Pair it with roasted and grilled meats, mushrooms and manchego cheese.

Glasses of crisp white Albariño wine. Galicia has the perfect climate to produce Albariño grapes. Try some local wines and typical tapas on Devour Tours' Insider's Tapas & Wine Evening Tour in Santiago.
A glass of Albariño never disappoints!

Characteristics of Albariño wine

Wine made with Albariño grapes is usually pale white, dry to medium bodied, with fruity hints of apricot, peach or apple. Albariño wine is best served young and very cold. It is light, crisp and sweet smelling but often a bit tart. Pair it with grilled vegetables, white fish and shellfish, creamy cheeses such as goat cheese or brie, and light chicken dishes.

So next time you are in Spain (or at your favorite tapas bar back home) pair one of these wines with some delicious Spanish food. Let us know what you think!

Join us on our Spain Wine 101 online experience and learn about a variety of Spanish wines—five of them, to be exact! You’ll spend an evening with a Spanish wine expert learning everything you need to know to feel comfortable navigating Spain’s wine scene—from what to order, to how to sound like a pro while you’re doing it! Salud!

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