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A brief history of Spanish Wine

The Spanish wine industry is experiencing a flurry of excitement. The 70 regions of Spain are full of energetic and talented winemakers that are producing ever more unique and delicious wines to drink. This country can’t be summarized in a single sentence, however the following guide provides specifics on the main styles and regions, presented in a unique way that is written by Carlos Read whose in-depth knowledge of the country is unmatched. He is also known as the most reliable UK specialist importer of Spanish wines. The regions that produce fine wines like 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 specifically, can serve to explain the vast regional distinctions created by the numerous natural boundaries.

The history of Spain is complex and complicated. Spain didn’t even begin to unite as an entity until the middle of the 15th century. The infrastructure of the country was mostly the result of the work of two major foreign masters which were The Romans (from 3rd century BC until the fourth century/fifth century AD) and the Moors (from 711 until 1492).

A brief overview of the history

The former offered not only roads, aqueducts and amphitheatres, but also thirst and a significant export market. In in the 2nd century AD Rome alone was able to consume around 20 million amphorae of Spanish wine , that ranged from the sweetness of Malaga as well as those clearetes (or lighter wine) of the Amandi region, through the claretes (or light reds) that were produced by Amandi within Galicia (a favorite, especially with spiced lamprey, from Augustus the Emperor Augustus) and finally, and including the Catalan wines of Tarragona and the whites of Alella. Hispanic successes were so impressive that strict new limitations on plantation were imposed on colonies in order to safeguard the native producers.

What is the history of wine in Spain?

The former despite the prohibitions in the Koran and the resulting symbolic destruction of a number of Spanish vineyards in order to make raisins, were, in the modern world, quite sophisticated. The habits of the Christian populace were accepted as was the sale and production of wine. This even though it was in a smaller amount, helped keep the industry thriving. Following the defeat of the Moors and the deportation of Jews production increased steadily due to the increasing demand in the colonies that were expanding. Numerous foreign merchants were involved to fill the void created from the Jews.

Lateron, in the sixteenth century, following Christopher Columbus discovered America, the town of Sherry in Sanlucar de Barrameda became an important transatlantic trade port, and the wines of the region are said to be the first wines to be imported into America. This is why Jerez/Sherry belongs to Spain the same way that Port port is for Portugal and is worthy of its own guide.

Then came an incident of French intervention into Rioja but the actual winemaking revolution took place politically following Franco’s death in the year 1975. The 1980s were the beginning of an incredible technological advancement due to the introduction to stainless steel. The last few years have seen huge funds pouring into new wineries. However, with Spain being the most stricken by recession European nation, a large portion of these are likely to shut down, which could mean restoring something of the natural equilibrium.

The DO System

The primary specifications of the DO (Denominacion de Origen) and its quality control system by ascending rank of the quality are:

Vino De Mesa is the common table wine that is produced in unclassified vineyards. It can be blended and bears no vintage or details of grape varieties.

Vino de la Tierra: Akin to 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) The wine will display a particular year of production and will provide details about the grape variety.

DO (Denominacion de Origen) It is the equivalent to French VDQS AC or 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) as above and mostly seen in Rioja in the years ago, it was introduced with the intent that it would be applied only to the top producers. It was a disaster when it triggered many back-biting and jealousy that the majority of Rioja has now been declared DOCa!

Additionally, a special need to be given to Cava that is the sole DO made based on the winemaking process (in essence, they are sparkling wines that are made using conventional methods) instead of geography.

The last two categories that are that are worth noting and the most current two categories comprise Vinos de Pago as well as Vinos de Pago Calificada (pago refers to the Spanish word for vineyard). They apply to single vineyards with distinct microclimates and an outstanding quality records.

There are over 70 DOs. As although the system might be laudable, as it could be, there’s one significant drawback with autonomies operating the system. The reason is that DO status can be given as a form of encouragement, instead of a sign of actual efforts, improvement and advancement. For instance, the Canary Islands, for instance have an impressive nine DOs however, they have very few wines that are of high value and quality, other than some very good dry whites and dessert wines made by the malvasia grape. The same is true for Rioja. Rioja is currently administered by three autonomous governments including that of Alavesa with the Basques, Alta by La Rioja and Baja by the government of Navarra.

Grape File

Indigenous Grape Varieties

Spain is home to a variety of grape varieties native to the country up to 600 varieties – but the majority of production is based on similar to 20 percent of these.

The most popular kinds are:

Pansa Blanca
Pedro Ximenez
Prieto Picudo
Tinta de Toro (tempranillo in Toro)
Tinto Aragones
Tinto Fino (tempranillo in Ribera del Duero)

Tempranillo Grapes

The most well-known of these is, of course, the famous tempranillo, which is believed by some to be connected to pinot noir. It is the product of many religious pilgrimages towards Santiago de Compostela (see Galicia). It’s a Spanish word meaning ‘the tiny early one’, due to its size and the fact that it is ripe early however, it also comes with numerous names depending on the area where it is grown and it can behave in a variety of ways according to where it’s 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 satisfied with local produced cabernet, chardonnay and chenin blanc, gewurztraminer and malbec, merlot and verdot, sauvignon blanc and syrah, or blends of them. While international varieties of Spanish wines can be attractive, it’s not a surprise that it is the native grapes that are the main focus of the Wine Society’s customers because they produce some of the most intriguing wines.



The kingdom of Navarra, which dates back to the time of the Romans, is of Navarra is home to Zaragoza as the capital city, and is comprised of 4 DOs.

Calatayud is the most westerly and the highest quality, which specializes primarily in garnacha from old vines that is typically deep and full-flavoured.

Campo de Borja – whose fantastic garnachas and tempranillos are typically more succulent and juicy and have more intense red fruit flavors

Carinena is the southernmost and most homogeneous

Somontano is the most far east and coolestregion in the foothills and valleys of the Pyrenees Concentrating the most effective on international styles made of gewurztraminer and chardonnay. But there is there is also cabernet and merlot too.

The Balearic Islands

With a total of approximately 900,000, the islands, which are located immediately to the south of Barcelona include Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera, and Cabrera as well as a few smaller ones. Mallorquin is a language that is like Catalan however it is much more dense.

Like all islands, there is a lot of individuality however, unlike the Canaries the island of Mallorca, the common sense prevails and there are two Dos: Binissalem (with some 15 producers) and Pla I Llevant (with some 11 producers).).

Prior to the outbreak of phylloxera, there was about 27,000 hectares of grapevines in Mallorca however, with tourism being as a major business, this is now closer to 700 acres. The black varieties of the island – manto callet, negro, fogoneu and fogoneu frances make dark, intensely flavored reds in a comparable style like garnacha. Monastrell and Tempranillo, as well as foreign varieties, including cabernet, syrah and pinot noir have also made their way into this. White wines as well as the moll indigenous to Mexico prensal blanco and moscatel/muscat macabeo, and parellada there’s also the chardonnay.

White wines are equally intriguing and have a wonderful aroma, and, often, a certain minerality. But the demand for local wines is high and consequently high prices result in them not being seen outside the islands.

Castilla y Leon

Valladolid The principal city in the region, used to be the capital city of Spain (before the change from Madrid in Madrid at the time of 1561) and is in various ways the religious, spiritual and militarily important capital of Spain. It is home to five DOs:

El Bierzo – way up in the north-west, close to the Galician border, is a specialist in mencia and godello but not as well with the mencia, but much more when it comes to the later. Outside of the DO in the proper sense, there’s the fascinating prieto picudo grape varietal which produces large, rich reds that have great structure and stunning flavors of the purple fruit.

Cigales is located in North of Valladolid although it is mainly known because of its porous, vigorous roses, has a few small-scale producers who concentrate on the stunning old-vine tempranillos.

Rueda located to South of city produces some of the finest commercial whites of the present across Spain. They are mostly made from the greengage and gooseberry-scented verdejo selection (literally the big green variety) and sauvignon blanc (it was the first Spanish region to grow this variety in any quantity) as well as occasionally viura to round out mid-palate.

Toro located situated to the south-west, is possibly one of the most rural areas with the most severe climate. the tintas de Toro wines are often very rustic. There are several top producers, who mostly grow their vines on pebbly soils and producing large low-yielding, black-fruit-scented wines with a huge power (usually 14.5 percent) and that can age extremely over the course of a short time.

Ribera del Duero – is evidently the main DO in the region. The Duero river is a moderator of the extremes of climate in this highand and arid region that is susceptible to intense hailstorms. Named in 1985, its popularity is due to the excellent quality of the tinto Fino, which produces deep, fresh and elegant wines that have a solid structure.

Sheep, along with common porkers (all of which could be killed when they are still in the infant stage) are the primary local diet. Its delicious local dishes is accompanied by its delicious local black pudding and hams, is a perfect match for the wines. Vegans, for instance, will be better off in Rueda and those who enjoy large charcuteries 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 most single grape varietal. Its production is huge but, being made up from Spain’s central meseta the climate is too harsh to produce wines with a high level of quality (hence that the relatively recent Vinos de Pago DOs) and the region is geared toward the volume of production and low prices.

In addition, Valdepenas DO is located near the southern end in La Mancha and really is the name of the DO, which means as a “valley of stones. Cencibel reigns supreme here, producing quality, affordable wines. In addition, there are obviously Don Quijote or Manchego cheese. However, in such a vast, constantly empty space, it’s not surprise that the former went crazy and the latter gives little to no real.

A complete trade empire and nation prior to their uneasy and even a bit tense integration into Spain The autonomy is comprised 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 hybrid of ancient French as well as Spanish) as well as whose lifestyle is primarily collective, that is centered around group activities, whether it’s dancing (the Sardana, for instance) or love of creating humans’ castles (castells) during fiestas.

Culinary specialties include butifarra (a sort of boudin blanc/white pudding) 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 ubiquitous tomaquet/pan con tomato it is just the baguette cut in two , coated with raw garlic coated with olive oil and then into which ripe beef tomato is rubbed in – but oh, how one is unsure of the manner in the manner in which this is done since every person has their own deeply held belief!)

Principal DOs:

Alella located just 20 minutes to the north of central Barcelona It was awarded DO recognition in. is the second-smallest DO within the Spanish peninsula. In addition to producing Cava it also has pansa blanca, the pansa Blanca varietal (a close relative that is a distant relative of the xarel lo) and produces a dazzlingly colorful and distinctive white wines.

Penedes 30 minutes to the to the west from Barcelona is the heart of Spain’s Cava industry. It’s still white wines are produced from the same trifecta of grapes grown locally macabeo macabeo parellada the xarel-lo along with chardonnay. generally crisp, refreshing and short-lived.

Its reds, typically composed of tempranillo, garnacha, carinena as well as cabernet franc and merlot, may be dry and tannic.

Priorat(o) Priorat(o) contrary, initially awarded DO status in 1954 located just an hour south of Tarragona province. It produces distinctive, highly aromatic reds made of blackberry-flavoured garnachathat is made from pure schist (or Llicorella) and usually adorned with cabernet, carinena the merlot, and syrah. A few scrumptious whites with a unique aroma are also produced made of garnacha Bbanca, xarel-lo, ximenez and, sometimes, extremely old super lemony macabeo as well.

Montsant – directly south, has similar varieties, however it is grown on completely different soils, resulting in slightly sharper styles.

Costers del Segre is located directly north in the province of Lerida/Lleida, which is to the west of the backbone mountainous which is the northern boundary of Priorat(o) is comprised of three distinct regions. It has over the past decade, largely thanks to its efforts by Tomas Cusine, acquired a significant following due to its smooth elegant, sophisticated and minerally-scented reds made mostly from cabernet, tempranillo, and merlot. It also produces some refreshing and poised whites.

The last DO worth noting, Emporda or in Spanish El Ampurdan is located situated in Girona province which is located just 20 km less than France. The second-largest city in the province located in Figueras/Figueres has the incredibly bizarre Dali Museum and is also ideal for eating mushrooms. The stunning coastal cliffs are largely unspoiled. It is situated on slate and limestone soils and with the help of a steady, all year long breeze (the Tramontana) there are two varieties of producers. There are boutique wineries producing expensive wines from imported grapes or growers that concentrate on vibrant reds and whites made from local varieties like macabeo, garnacha blanca and muscat to make whites as well as delicate, minerally, fruit driven reds that are made almost exclusively made from carinena and garnacha.


This stunning region is the geographical extensions of Portugal. About equal to Belgium it is composed of 4 provinces: La Coruna, Lugo, Pontevedra and O(u)rense.

With its breathtaking Atlantic coastline to the west and north, it is an absolute fishing and shellfish paradise along its long coastline. However, the interior, which only a few people go, is just as stunning with vast valleys mountains and rivers as well as large-flavoured cuisines that are based on pork as well as eating the customary slaughter (matanza) of pigs that are raised in the home.

Language (gal(l)ego) can be described as a blend from Portuguese along with Spanish with significant Celtic influences, perhaps because of a common fishing culture. This is evident in its deep-rooted music traditions that include bagpipes as well as country dancing.

It is an area of dampness in the globe with more rain than Scotland and its huge areas of forest – mostly maritime pine and eucalyptus have made it the heart of major wood-based industries like chipboard as well as plywood. MDF was also developed in this region.

Rias Baixas DO, the home of albarino is situated in five distinct sub-regions located along the west of the Atlantic coast. In its core, the Salnes Valley in Pontevedra, the wines are typically pure albarino that are planted on granite and cultivated on high trellises that keep the grapes cool and out of the waterlogged soil. However, the region has expanded all the way into the Portuguese border, where different grape varieties like Loureiro (which is delicious, with a delicate rose-petal flavor) and trixadura (which has a distinct characteristic of a catty apple) are incorporated into various blends.

The albarino grape is so popular so high that, from a mere 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 turns golden in color and acquires a distinct petrol-like character. This is probably due to its influence on pilgrims coming from the north of Europe up to Santiago de Compostela, some have associated the grape with the winery riesling.

Galicia: The Interior

The DOs in the interior are Monterrei, Ribeiro, Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacra.

Ribeira Sacra (sacred riverbanks) located situated in Lugo Province devotes itself primarily to red wines that are made of the atypical mencia variety that is yet to be controlled. The most famous black variety in Galicia is extremely well-suited with the pork-based cuisines that are a staple in the interior. It is usually served in small saucers , or the tazas. It is also known as Ribeiro the region most well-known for its wine production. Perhaps what it does best is dry, light and apple-like whites made of trixadura that is often mixed with palomino.

Monterrei in contrast, which is situated in a straight line, east of Vigo and is located within the Province of O(u)rense and is an DO with a northern extremity that’s practically Mediterranean in climate , but whose southerly and more interesting section is Atlantic and extends so far to the south that it’s located in Portugal. The first Spanish inhabitants of California were from this region, bringing vines with them . It is interesting that this stunning yet modest Galican region was named in Monterrey, CA.

There are a few producers focus on dona branca (a white wine that is all about lemons and featuring significant acidity) as well as treixadura and godello (unctuous peach and Greengage). They produce amazing wines with body and softness (honeyed almond, lavender , and lemony apples) which will only improve as they age in bottle.

At the easternmost central extremity, is Valdeorras the home of Spain’s most excellent godellos. This, when handled properly, produces excellent whites.

La Rioja

The most well-known of Spanish wine-producing regions currently has around 600 wineries. The reason for its creation is thanks to French who arrived in the latter part of the 19th century in order to escape phylloxera. They revolutionized the winemaking process with two famous bodegas Murrieta as well as Riscal, were awarded Marchioneses to honor their accomplishments. Prior to the invasion of this friendly group the region had previously produced white wines. Since it is Spain’s premier fine-wine-producing area, Rioja deserves a guide on its own.