This country is among the top wine producers. Maintaining that position is not difficult – it has the largest area of vineyards in the world. Spain has gained its respect and esteem mostly due to strong, oak-barrelled red wines, but large diversity of climate and geography allows for producing sweet wines or crisp, fresh white dry wines as well.
Spain has gained its respect and esteem mostly due to strong, oak-barrelled red wines, but large diversity of climate and geography allows for producing sweet wines or crisp, fresh white dry wines as well – suffice to mention white, flexible, highly acidic wines of Rías Baixas, the north-western part of the country.
The source of the best Spanish achievements in terms of wine should probably be considered a strain of which Spain is really proud - Tempranillo, which can produce mighty red wines, well-suitable for barrel ageing. Tempranillo works well in combination with classical European strains, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Other important red varieties include Garnacha and Monastrell. White – Macabeo, Albariño and Airen.
The wine region usually associated with Spain is probably still Rioja - here mostly red wines are made, oak-barrelled in American oak. The combination of Tempranillo and Garnacia along with oak-barrelling results in soft wines with a strong taste of wild berries and a soft, but distinct note of vanilla. White wines are in the minority here – they are mostly produced from the Viura (Macabeo) strain, ageing gives them a deeper structure and more intense flavours.
The most serious competitor of Rioja is Ribera del Duero – a very dynamic and fascinating region. Winemakers here are skilled at making use of the opportunities offered by Tempranillo – wines from this region are extractive, full-bodied, complex and rich in aromas. The most renowned, spectacular wines of the region are wines from the famous Vega Sicilia. A rich source of Spanish table wines is La Mancha – a large (160,000 hectares) and dry region. Wines made here are fresh, vivid and a little rough. They are best suited for drinking when young. In the sea of ordinary wine, though, you can find truly pleasant gems for a ridiculous amount of money. The leading varieties are Airén among whites, Cencibel and Granacha among the reds.
A region worth mentioning is Aragon – here you can find DO Cariñena, an appellation which was set up as early as 1932! Vineyards are located about 50 km southwest of Zaragoza, on a plateau known as Campo de Cariñena. The traditions of wine production here are really deep-rooted – dating back to Phoenician and Roman times. The climate in Cariñena is continental: long, warm summers and cold winters, which gives the grapes ripening here the perfect concentration of sweetness and flavour. Grown here are, for example, red Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cariñena, white Viura, Chardonnay and Parellada. Sweet wines based on the Moscatel variety enjoy an excellent reputation. You can find wines from this unique place in our offer.
One of the recent, strong Spanish "hits" on the wine market is the Priorat region – in the last decade transformed in front of the whole world from an area unknown to wider circles to the birthplace of celebrity wines of Spain. In this small, isolated region, excellent, compact and extractive red wines are produced. They reflect the character of the place, particularly slate soils, here called llicorella, and of course grapes - Garnacha and Cariñena.
Spain is also the birthplace of many very interesting sparkling wines. The Penedes region in the north-eastern part of the country is particularly renowned for them. From the Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo strains arise aromatic, fresh sparkling wines produced by the champagne method, that is through secondary fermentation in the bottle. To get even closer to the classic French sparkling wine, more and more strains used in the production of champagne – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – are planted in Penedes. It is worth noting that in the case of cava there is a good relationship between price and wine quality.
Another very interesting offer of the Spanish winemakers is sherry made in Andalusia, in the Jerez region, which is composed of three towns: Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda. Chalky soils – albarizas – and the Palomino strain grown on them produce very distinctive, well-structured wine. Sherry is a fortified wine, barrelled-aged with air access. The entire process takes place in the special solera system – the barrels are arranged in multilayer piles, the wine is properly withdrawn and mixed in different layers of the pile, allowing to get a similar texture and flavour of the wine every time. The best type of sherry is dry fino, but there are also large quantities of sweet sherry – dark and thick wines with the taste of caramel and nut. To make them, the Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez strains are used.
Wine categories and labels:
DO - Denominaciỏnes de Origen – quality wine class
DOC - Denominaciỏnes de Origen Calificada – the highest appellation level – currently containing Rioja and Priorat.
VdT – Vino de la tierra – local wine
VdM – Vino de mesa – table wine
Some Spanish wines are characterised by both barrelling and bottle ageing before finally hitting the market. Hence, the label shows adequate indications (each appellation has their own regulations in this regard, but most are close to the values specified below):
Crianza - means that the wine has been ageing for two years, including from 6 to 12 months (depending on the appelation) of barrelling
Reserva - wine ageing three years, including at least one year of barrelling and bottle ageing
Grand Reserva - the most mature, 5-year-old wine. During this time, it spent two years oak-barrelled and three in the bottle.
Cosecha – a Spanish term for vintage.