The Spanish wine industry is experiencing exciting times. The 70 regions of Spain are brimming with dynamic and talented winemakers who are creating ever more unique and delicious wines to drink. This country can’t be summarized in a single sentence, however the following guide provides some guidelines to the most important regions and styles. It is written in a unique way that is written by Carlos Read whose in-depth knowledge of the country is unparalleled. Carlos Read is also considered to be the most reliable UK importer specialist for Spanish wines. The wine-producing regions of Sherry (Jerez) as well as Rioja are each covered in their own guides.
Spain is a country that is incredibly diverse and even a brief look at its physical geography as well as its massive mountain ranges particularly, can help to explain the significant regional differences caused by so numerous natural boundaries.
Its past is long and complex, and Spain didn’t even begin to unite as an entire nation until the end of the 15th century. The infrastructure of the country was basically the product of its two principal foreign masters which were those of the Romans (from 3rd century BC until the fourth century/fifth century AD) and the Moors (from 711 until 1492).
A short history
The former offered not only roads, aqueducts, or amphitheatres but also thirst and a huge export market. In in the 2nd century AD Rome alone was able to consume more than 20 million amphorae Spanish wines that ranged from the sweetness of Malaga as well as to the Claretes (or lighter wines) from Amandi within Galicia (a favorite, especially with spiced lamprey of The Emperor Augustus) and finally, those of the Catalan wines of Tarragona and the whites of Alella. Hispanic successes were so impressive that strict new limitations on plantation had to be placed on colonies to safeguard the native producers.
The former, in spite of the prohibitions of the Koran and the resulting symbolic destruction of a number of Spanish vineyards in order to make raisins, were according to modern standards, quite educated. The habits of the Christian populace were accepted which included the sale and production of wine. This even though it was on a small amount, helped keep the industry thriving. Following the defeat of the Moors and the deportation from the Jews production grew steadily because of the growing colonies. Numerous foreign merchants were involved to fill the void created in the wake of the Jews.
The history of Spanish wine
In the 16th century, when Christopher Columbus discovered America, the town of Sherry in Sanlucar de Barrameda became an important transatlantic port of trade and the wines of the region are believed to be the first wine to arrive in America. So, Jerez/Sherry is to Spain the same way that Port can be to Portugal and is worthy of its own guide.
There was also an incident of French intervention into Rioja however the real revolution in winemaking takes place after Franco’s demise in 1975. The 1980s were the beginning of an incredible technological advancement due to the introduction to stainless steel. In recent years, there have been huge amounts of money flowing into new wineries, however with Spain is currently the most recession-stricken European nation, a large portion of them are set to close, and restoring some aspect of the natural equilibrium.
The DO System
The most important specifications of the DO (Denominacion de Origen) and its quality control system by ascending rank of its quality are:
Vino De Mesa is the simple table wine produced in unclassified vineyards. It can be blended, and has no vintage or details of grape varieties.
Vino de la Tierra, which is the equivalent of wine from the French wine de pays, table wine with a geographically defined origin, usually from a vast, autonomous region (ie. Vino de la Tierra from Catalunya) It will display a particular wine’s vintage and provide information about the grape varieties.
DO (Denominacion de Origen) is the equivalent to the French VDQS AC as well as Italian DOC and covers wines that are produced within the strict limits of the specific Consejos Reguladores (regional regulating council).
DOCa (Deonominacion of Origen Calicada) is a similar one and mainly seen in Rioja which was where a few years ago it was first introduced with the intention of limiting it to the most prestigious producers. However, it caused many back-biting and jealousy that almost all Rioja currently is DOCa!
Additionally, a special reference should be made to Cava that is the sole DO made based on the winemaking process (in essence, these are sparkling wines that are made using conventional methods) instead of geography.
The last two categories that are that are worth noting and most recently two categories include Vinos de Pago in addition to Vinos de Pago Calificada (pago refers to the Spanish word for vineyard). They are single vineyards with distinct microclimates and an outstanding quality records.
There are over 70 DOs and as while the system is laudable, however it might be, there’s one significant drawback with autonomies managing the system. The reason is that DO status can be given to encourage instead of a sign of actual efforts, improvement and growth. For instance, the Canary Islands, for instance are home to an astounding nine DOs however, they have only a few wines of genuine worth and value, besides some very good dry and dessert whites crafted of the malvasia variety. The same is true for Rioja. Rioja is currently administered by three autonomous governments including that of Alavesa through the Basques, Alta by La Rioja and Baja by the government of Navarra.
Indigenous Grape Varieties
Spain has an abundance of grape varieties native to the country possibly as high as 600 varieties – but the majority of production is based around something similar to 20 percent of these.
The most significant kinds are:
Tinta de Toro (tempranillo in Toro)
Tinto Fino (tempranillo in Ribera del Duero)
The most well-known of these is the well-known tempranillo. Some claim to be connected to pinot noir. It is the product of many religious pilgrimages toward Santiago de Compostela (see Galicia). It is a reference to ‘the small early one’ due to its size and the fact that it is ripe early It also comes with many different names based on the region where it is planted, and may behave differently in relation to the place it is planted, the soils it is grown on and the climate it is subjected to.
Foreign Grape Varieties
Spain’s drinking habits are very limited to foreign wines (the latest available statistics show that consumption is less than a third ). 1 %!). They are very content with domestically-produced cabernet, chardonnay and chenin blanc, gewurztraminer and malbec, merlot verdot, sauvignon blanc Syrah and blends thereof. While international styles of Spanish wine are quite stunning, it is quite true that it’s the indigenous grapes that make up the majority of The Wine Society’s patrons since they make the most intriguing wines.
The ancient kingdom that lies immediately to the South of Navarra is home to Zaragoza as the capital city. It is made up in four DOs
Calatayud is the most westerly and most affluent, specializing mainly in garnacha made from old-vine generally deep and full-flavoured.
Campo de Borja – whose fantastic garnachas and tempranillos are generally more juicy and supple with stronger red fruit flavors
Carinena, the southernmost of the most homogeneous
Somontano is the most far east and most cool, located in the foothills of Pyrenees and focusing most effectively on international styles made of gewurztraminer and chardonnay. But there is also cabernet and merlot.
The Balearic Islands
With a population of 900,000 people, these islands, which are located immediately to the south of Barcelona consist of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera, and Cabrera along with smaller ones. Mallorquin, the language is like Catalan however it is much more dense.
As with all islands, there is a lot of individuality However, unlike the Canaries the island of Mallorca, the common sense prevails and there are only two Dos: Binissalem (with some 15 producers) and Pla I Llevant (with some 11 producers).).
Prior to the onset of phylloxera, there were around 27,000 hectares of vineyards in Mallorca however with tourism becoming an important industry, it is now about 700 acres. Manto, its black varieties – fogoneu, negro, callet and fogoneu frances yield dark, richly flavored reds that are in a similar fashion like garnacha. Monastrell and Tempranillo, as well as foreign varieties, including cabernet, syrah and pinot noir, are also abounding into this. White wines along with the moll indigenous to Mexico prensal blanco, moscatel/muscat macabeo, and parellada there’s also Chardonnay.
The whites are equally fascinating and have a wonderful aroma, and, often, a certain minerality. But the demand for local wines is high and consequently high prices make them difficult to find outside the islands.
Castilla y Leon
Valladolid the capital city in the region, used to be the capital city of Spain (before the change from Madrid in Madrid from 1561) and is in various ways the religious, spiritual and militarily important capital of Spain. There are five DOs in the city:
El Bierzo – way up in the north westregion, near the Galician border, is a specialist in mencia and godello more or less with the latter, but more successful when it comes to the later. Outside of the DO specifically, there is the amazing prieto picudo grape varietal that can yield large, rich reds that have excellent structure and amazing flavors of the purple fruit.
Cigales located to North of Valladolid although it is mainly known due to its dry vigorous roses, has a few small-scale producers who concentrate on stunning tempranillos from old vines.
Rueda located to South of city produces some of the most commercial whites of the present across Spain. They’re mostly made up of the greengage and gooseberry-scented verdejo selection (literally the big green variety) and sauvignon blanc (it was the first Spanish region to cultivate this variety in any quantity) as well as occasionally viura to round out mid-palate.
Toro located in the south west is possibly one of the most rural areas with the harshest climate, and it’s tinta de Toro wines are quite rustic. There are several top producers, who mostly grow their grapes on pebbly soils, and producing large low-yielding, black-fruit-scented wines with a huge power (usually 14.5 percent) that age beautifully over the course of a short time.
Ribera del Duero – is obviously the most famous DO in the region. The Duero river alters the extremes of climate of this hot, and arid region that is susceptible to severe hailstorms. Named in 1985, its success is due to excellent quality of the tinto Fino, which produces fresh, dark sophisticated, powerful wines with a good structure.
Sheep, as well as the common porkers (all of which are killed during their early years) serve as the principal local diet. These is accompanied by its delicious local black pudding and hams is a perfect match for the wines. The vegetarians will benefit from Rueda while those who love significant charcuterie will have a blast in Toro.
Castilla la Nueva
About an hour’s drive south of Madrid is the huge DO La Mancha – so large that the principal wine grape, the white variety called the airen, is the world’s number 1 grape cultivar. Its production is huge however, of the central meseta region in Spain the climate is just too harsh to produce wines with a high level of quality (hence it’s relatively young Vinos de Pago DOs) and the region is therefore geared towards the volume of production and low prices.
The Valdepenas DO is located near the southern end in La Mancha and really is in reality to a stone-filled valley. Cencibel is the king here making quality, cost-effective wines. In addition, there are obviously Don Quijote as well as Manchego cheese. But in this vast, endlessly empty space, it’s not surprise that the first went insane and the latter offers little to no actuality.
A complete trade empire and nation prior to its tense and even a bit tense integration into Spain This autonomy consists of 4 provinces: Barcelona Gerona/Girona/ Lerida/Lleida and Tarragona. There is a lot to praise about the Catalans who are hard-working and imaginative, and speak their native language (a mix of the medieval French as well as Spanish) as well as whose society is primarily collective, that is centered around group activities, for example, dancing (the sardanafor instance) or their love of creating humans’ castles (castells) during fiestas.
Culinary specialties include butifarra (a sort of boudin blanc/white pudding) and calcots (chargrilled babies spring onions) served with the romesco (a pure mixture of ground almonds, tomatoes as well as olive oil) and the sobrassada (an unctuous, orange-colored spreading, chorizo like look) as well as the all-time favourite tomaquet or pan con tomate that is essentially the baguette cut into two pieces and then rub-baked with raw garlic sprinkled with olive oil and then into which ripe beef tomatoes are rubbed ( however, woe to anyone who is unsure of the manner in which this process is carried out, because every person has their own strongly held theories!)
Alella is located 20 minutes to the north of central Barcelona was first given DO recognition in. is the second-smallest DO within the Spanish peninsula. It also, in addition to producing Cava it also has an indigenous pansa blanche variety (a close relative to the xarel-lo) and produces a dazzlingly colorful and distinctive white wines.
Penedes 30 minutes to the to the west to the west of Barcelona is the heart in the Cava industry. It’s still white wines are produced from the same trifecta of grapes from the local area macabeo macabeo parellada the xarel-lo along with chardonnay. are generally fresh, lemony and quick-living.
The reds that are typically comprised of tempranillo and garnacha, carinena the franc cabernet, and merlot, may be dry and tannic.
Priorat(o) Priorat(o) contrary, initially granted DO status in the year 1954 It is located an hour to the south of Tarragona province. It is home to unforgettable, intensely aromatic reds made of garnacha with a blackberry flavour, which is that is grown on pure schist (or the llicorella) and usually adorned with cabernet, carinena Syrah and merlot. A few scrumptious whites with a unique aroma are also produced in this region, mostly made from garnacha Bbanca and xarel-lo. It also produces pedro ximenez and, sometimes, extremely old Macabeo that is super lemony too.
Montsant is located immediately to the south. It utilizes similar varieties, but with completely different soils, resulting in slightly more spicier varieties.
Costers del Segre located immediately to the north of Lleida/Lerida province to the west of the backbone that is mountainous which is the northern boundary of Priorat(o) is comprised of three distinct areas. It has, in the past decade, largely thanks to its efforts by Tomas Cusine, acquired a significant following due to its smooth elegant, refined and minerally-scented reds primarily made from cabernet, tempranillo, and merlot. It also makes fresh sparkling whites.
The last DO worth noting, Emporda or in Spanish El Ampurdan is located situated in Girona province, which is just 20 kilometers from France. The city that is second in size located in Figueras/Figueres hosts the incredibly bizarre Dali Museum and is also ideal for eating mushrooms. The stunning coast is mostly unspoiled. It is situated on slate and limestone soils and the help of a steady, all year round breeze (the Tramontana) there are two kinds of winemakers. There are boutique wineries producing expensive wines using foreign grapes, or growers who focus on vibrant reds and whites that are made from local varieties, such as macabeo, garnacha blanca and muscat for whites as well as soft, minerally driven reds that are made almost exclusively made from carinena and garnacha.
This beautiful region is the geographical expansion of Portugal. About as big as Belgium it is composed in four provincialities: La Coruna, Lugo, Pontevedra and O(u)rense.
With its stunning Atlantic coastline, both west and north, it is an absolute fishing and shellfish paradise along the coast for miles. But the interior, which very few go, is just as stunning with vast valleys mountains and rivers as well as huge-flavoured food traditions that are that are based on pork as well as an ancient murder (matanza) of pigs that are raised in the home.
Its language (gal(l)ego) has a blend that combines Portuguese as well as Spanish with significant Celtic influences, probably because of a common fishing culture. This is evident in its deep-rooted music traditions that include bagpipes and country dance.
However, it is an area of dampness in the globe, with more rain than Scotland and its huge forests – predominantly maritime pine and eucalyptus have made it the heart of major wood-based industries like chipsboards and plywood. MDF was also created in the region.
Rias Baixas DO, the home of albarino is situated in five sub-regions that are spread across the west of the Atlantic coast. In the heart of the region, which is Salnes Valley in Pontevedra, the wines are typically pure albarino that are planted on granite, and then cultivated with tall trellises to keep wineries cool and off the waterlogged soil. The region is now spread all the way towards the Portuguese border, where different grape varieties like the loureiro (which is delicious, with a subtle rose-petal scent) and trixadura (which is characterized by its distinctive Catty Apple character) are incorporated into many different blends.
The albarino grape is so popular like that from maybe 20 wineries in the mid-80s, the number has risen to more than 400. The albarino grape variety, in its natural/uninterfered-with state should taste of ripe, often baked, sweet apple, although perhaps due to the influence of the Atlantic, it can have an underlying flinty, spicy character.
As the bottle ages the wine begins to turn golden in color and develops a distinct petrol flavor. This is probably due to influences of the pilgrims who traveled from north Europe towards Santiago de Compostela, some have linked the grape to the riesling.
Galicia: The Interior
The DOs in the interior are Monterrei, Ribeiro, Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacra.
Ribeira Sacra (sacred riverbanks) within Lugo Province devotes itself primarily to red wines that are made by the extremely awkward mencia variety that is still to be “tamed”. The most famous black variety in Galicia is extremely well-suited with the pork-based cuisines that are a staple in the interior. It’s typically served in tiny saucers or Tazas, and is referred to as Ribeiro the region most well-known for its wine production. However, what it can do best is dry, light applesy whites made from trixadura that is often mixed with palomino.
Monterrei in contrast, which is situated in a straight line, east of Vigo which is within the Province of O(u)rense and is an DO with a northern extremity that’s practically Mediterranean in its climate, however, its southern , more intriguing sector is Atlantic and is so far south that it’s nearly situated in Portugal. The first Spanish colonists of California originated from this region and brought vines along with them. It is fascinating that this beautiful yet modest Galican region was named in Monterrey, CA.
There are a few producers focus on dona branca (a white variety that is all about lemon, and with great acidity) as well as treixadura and godello (unctuous peach and grengage). They produce great wines with body and softness (honeyed lavender, almonds and lemony apples) which will only improve with age.
In the final, easternmost central point, is Valdeorras the home of Spain’s finest godellos, which with the proper care, can produce excellent whites.
The most well-known of Spanish wine-producing regions now includes more than 600 wineries. The origins of the region are largely thanks to French who came to Spain in the latter part of the 19th century to escape the phylloxera. They revolutionized winemaking, as well as two famous bodegas Murrieta as well as Riscal, created Marchioneses to acknowledge their accomplishments. Before this invasion by the friendly people the region had previously produced white wines. Since it is Spain’s premier fine-wine-producing zone, Rioja deserves a guide by itself.