By Allrecipes Staff

Drenched in sunshine, Spain's fruits of the vine do just fine.

From big rich reds to fresh, crisp whites, from fruity roses to fortified sherries to sparkling wines--Spain does it all.

Spain's wine history extends back to pre-Roman times, to the Phoenicians, an ancient seafaring people whose original home is present-day Lebanon. The story of wine in Spain is characterized by many ups and downs--up when Spanish wine was exported to Rome; down when the Roman Empire collapsed; down again when the Moors conquered the peninsula; up when the English were turned on to sherry; up again when French vintners relocated to Spain and revitalized an antiquated industry after suffering double-barreled blows of odium (a grape-destroying mildew) and Phylloxera (a root-wrecking louse) back home; down when civil and world wars devastated Spain and Europe.

This leads us to the past few decades, a period that has seen Spanish wine enjoy a sustained upward arrow, with quality greatly improved throughout the country. Even so, the best-known Spanish wines remain cava, Rioja, and sherry--three very different wines made in three very different regions.

Let's take a look at Spain's most important wine regions--those that carry cache, like cava and sherry, and those that might fly just a bit under the consumer's radar--and pair a few recipes with the wines from each place.