The Ebro River Valley
Although the Ebro river actually runs though various autonomous regions from Cantabria to Valencia, the DOs gathered in this macro wine region are mainly located in the provinces of La Rioja, Álava, Navarra, Huesca and Zaragoza.
The hills, valleys, nooks, and crannies among these mountains hold nearly endless opportunity. For now, the money remains focused upon Rioja wine, the traditional area of quality, with bet hedgers looking toward Navarra wine, Calatayud wine and Cariñena wine, the traditional areas of quantity.
In the foothills of the Sistema Ibérico, the less–known and limestone–rich DOs of Campo de Borja, Calatayud, and Cariñena offer excellent value and sometimes great wines too, if only from a handful of focused producers at the moment. To the east, Somontano wine also is starting to look like a sure thing. Cabernet is the surprising king, but Chardonnay, Garnacha, Merlot, Moristel, and Tempranillo all have offered exciting wines in the past few years.
This is the ancient kingdom of Aragón, and if it's where Tempranillo has staked its historical claim, it's also where Garnacha began its rule. There are plenty of rivers, (Rioja is named for one of them—Río Oja, get it?) but it's the Ebro River around which this particular winedom is built. And it's the Ebro River that provides common kinship, despite the changing landscape and climate as you roll from the relatively protected carat-shaped duchy of Rioja down to the smaller fiefdoms of Campo de Borja, Calatayud, and Cariñena. Not surprisingly, Garnacha prospers in hotter, drier spots, while Tempranillo's more delicate constitution is maintained in cooler, mountainous perches in Rioja. Cariñena, the grape, has only recently returned to Cariñena, the DO, but it was wildly popular for a time in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries because of its abilities to produce significant alcohol in even more significant quantities.
Once upon a time, the French were rather thirsty customers, though one can search the records in vain for any proof that those French wine drinkers knew they were drinking bottles with Spanish wine in them. During that time, yields could be obscenely high, but like much of Spain, the focus is now upon quality, not quantity.