Spain is the third largest wine producer in the world and the second oldest wine producing country in Western Europe. And, favoured by the differences in climate and soil in each of its regions, its more than 10,000 wineries produce wines of extreme diversity.
Spanish wines: Appellations
- Rioja: The DOC Rioja is the most prestigious of the Spanish Denominations of Origin. Its classic red wines, made mainly from Tempranillo and aged for a long time in oak barrels, are a world symbol for their elegance. It also produces delicious crianza whites and delicate rosés.
- Ribera del Duero: As such, the Ribera del Duero appellation is very young, although the winemaking tradition in its lands goes back a long way. Its ripe, full-bodied reds and its crianzas, which provide sweet and spicy notes, are, for many, the very style of the perfect red wine.
- Priorat: Its red wines are based on the traditional grapes, Garnacha and Cariñena, although on some occasions they are accompanied by small percentages of French varieties.
- Toro: The Toro DO produces some of the most robust red wines in Spain, from the black grape “tinta de Toro”, an adaptation of Tempranillo to the climate of the Toro region. These wines are highly coloured, high in alcohol and increasingly elegant.
- Jumilla: The DO Jumilla, located in Levante, produces ripe, flavoursome reds from the Monastrell grape.
- Montsant: The DO Montsant surrounds the territory of the DOQ Priorat and offers a similar style of wine to its prestigious neighbour, but more immediate and easier to interpret for any wine lover.
- Bierzo: The DO Bierzo owes its growing success to the Mencía grape variety, with which it produces excellent red wines, fruity and aromatic, which work equally well young and aged.
- Penedès: The DO Penedès is one of the most exciting and varied wine regions in Spain. It produces almost any style of wine, from fruity or crianza whites to light or crianza reds, usually from French grape varieties. Wines made from the region’s historic varieties show great personality.
- Rías Baixas: The DO Rías Baixas is practically synonymous with Albariño, the queen grape. It produces fresh and fruity wines, perfect to accompany fish and seafood.
- Rueda: The D.O. Rueda, together with the D.O. Ribera del Duero, bases its best white wines on the Verdejo variety, capable of producing fruity wines with a herbaceous character, which seduce everyone who tastes them.
- Terra Alta: In the extreme south of Catalonia, the DO Terra Alta is the land of the Garnacha Blanca. Its single-varietal wines are among the most characteristic white wines in the world. They are Mediterranean wines, fruity but also fresh, with a very seductive touch.
- Valdeorras: The Valdeorras DO occupies the most central area of Galicia. Its stony soils and continental climate provide the perfect setting for Godello. This variety produces very delicate white wines with a floral elegance.
- Somontano: The DO Somontano is the most famous of the Aragonese appellations. International grape varieties play an important role here, as they have proven to be at home in the contrasting climate of this region.
- Jerez: At the southern tip of the Peninsula, the DO Jerez is a historic region for mutant wines of all styles: from dry, sharp finos and manzanillas to sweet pedro ximénez and fascinating olorosos and amontillados.
- Cava: The DO Cava is synonymous with quality sparkling wine at an affordable price. Its elaborations are numerous and varied, from the most classic, with aromas of dried fruits, to the most modern in which the fruit is accompanied by hints of toasted bread.
Spanish Red wine
- Tempranillo: more than 200,000 hectares. Authorised in almost all the Autonomous Communities. Very abundant in Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León and La Rioja. It is used in the production of crianza and ageing wines. Intense colour, medium acidity and good alcohol content. Aromatic wines that work very well with wood.
- Garnacha: 60,000 hectares. Present in 14 Autonomous Communities. Mainly in Castilla-La Mancha and Aragón. It is also very important in Navarra, Catalonia and Madrid. Smooth, thin-skinned, used to make rosé and red wines, as well as sweet wines. Good alcohol content, but little tannin and acidity.
- Bobal: 60,000 hectares, distributed between Castilla-La Mancha (60%) and Valencia (40%). Very colourful wines that prefer short ripening periods to preserve their aroma and colour. Good structure, good balance, medium acidity.
- Monastrell (Mourvèdre. Garrut, Mataró): 40,000 hectares. Murcia, Castilla-La Mancha and Valencia concentrate most of its production. High alcohol content, medium to low acidity, very colourful, tannins.
- Mencía: 8,500 hectares, distributed between Castilla, León (65%) and Galicia (35%). Fruity and aromatic wines with medium acidity. Does not require prolonged ageing.
- Cariñena (mazuelo): 5600 hectares, mostly (40%) in Catalonia. Tannic and acidic, often blended with Garnacha. Good alcohol content, good colour. Herbaceous and animal aromas that become pleasant and complex when the grapes come from old vines with low production.
Spanish White wine
- Viura (macabeo): 54,000 hectares, mainly distributed between Castilla-La Mancha (39%), Catalonia (20%) and Extremadura (12%). It is also important in the production of Cava and in many white wines produced in the DOC Rioja.
- Verdejo: 22,500 hectares, mainly distributed between Castilla, León (61%) and Castilla-La Mancha (31%). The D.O. Rueda, where it comes from, is its stronghold: thanks to it, its fruity and herbaceous wines have achieved worldwide fame.
- Xarel-lo: 15,000 hectares, all in Catalonia. It is one of the traditional Cava grapes, although it also has a fantastic capacity for producing still wines. It produces fresh, full-bodied wines that convey the character of the terroir.
- Albariño: 6,300 hectares, almost all in Galicia, produce aromatic and fresh wines, fruity when young, which then evolve elegantly towards more complex flavours.
- Garnacha blanca: 2,700 hectares, mostly (75%) in Catalonia and especially in the Terra Alta DO. It produces full-bodied, medium aromatic and very versatile wines that work well with oak.
- Godello: 1100 hectares, 95% of which are in Galicia. Its freshness and fragrance conquer all those who try it and it is gaining more and more followers.
The origin of the wine
The first of these wines was made in Andalusia around 1100 B.C. It was the Phoenicians who, tired of importing amphorae of wine from the Middle East, began to make their own wine. This was followed by the Greeks and the Romans. The Arab invasions slowed down this trade somewhat, but it was revived with the colonisation of America and the new export possibilities.
The first wines were rancid or sweet, always strongly oxidised and robust to the palate, as the knowledge of the time did not allow them to be preserved in any other way. At the end of the 15th century, barrels replaced jars and leather, which made transporting wine much easier. By the 16th and 17th centuries, production had spread throughout the country and wines were made using systems relatively similar to those of today.
In 1850, Bordeaux techniques arrived in La Rioja and, a century later, stainless steel tanks. Then, at the end of the 19th century, phylloxera ravaged France and devastated its vineyards, which were a source of enrichment for neighbouring Spain… until this plague crossed the Pyrenees and the crisis also settled in Spain.
Once viticulture recovered from the attack of this ruthless insect, knowledge and modernisation of the land and wineries began to increase exponentially. Today, the Spanish vineyard is a rich one: rich in quality and variety; and it is possible to find wines made according to traditional methods, with indigenous grape varieties, as well as wines with a more international profile, made with French grape varieties.
Climate of the wine area
Spain’s climate can be broadly divided into 6 types:
- Oceanic in the north (Cantabrian region and southern part of the Pyrenees): heavy rainfall and mild temperatures all year round.
- Mediterranean on the east coast: low rainfall and high temperatures in summer, mild in winter.
- Continental in the centre (the two high plateaus and the Ebro valley): colder and lower temperatures in winter; in summer, storms with heavy rainfall.
- Semi-desert in the southeast and in some areas of the Ebro valley: high temperatures and very little rainfall.
- In the high mountains, in the mountain ranges: heavy rainfall and low temperatures.
- Subtropical in the Canary Islands: mild temperatures throughout the year and little rainfall.