Discover Spanish wine information including an overview of the world's third largest wine producing country and its history. Also, learn more about Spanish red wines including both native and international varieties grown throughout the country.
Spain is third in production behind France and Italy. While France and Italy trade off for the number one and two spots, Spain remains a constant at number three.
The interesting thing about Spain is that it has more hectares (or acres) of vines planted than any other country in the world. Due to the drier climate, the producers plant the vines further apart than other regions so each plant has enough nutrients to flourish. This is the reason it has the most hectares (or acres) planted, but remains at number three for production.
Starting in 1996, Spanish winemakers could irrigate, but need special permission from the government. Again, this is due to the dry weather in most of the country. Irrigating is one of the reasons their quality increased during the last few decades.
Spain is one of the few countries in the world that still believes in releasing wines only when they are ready to drink. Each Spanish region has slightly different regulations around aging them, but they all follow some similar high-level guidelines. On the back of Spanish wines is a label with information on its aging history. Usually the longer it ages, the quality increases and so does the price. Here are some of the basics to know when buying Spanish wines:
Bodega is a Spanish wine information term meaning any location where a wine is bottled and distributed for commercial sale. This is a term on many Spanish wine bottles. The meaning is broad and refers to anything from a winery to a local cooperative.
Another Spanish wine information term is terreno. This describes any environmental elements that affect quality. This includes the soil, amount of rain, amount of sunlight, temperature, etc. It is similar to the French term terrior.
Vineyards have grown in Spain for many years. However, the first official documentation of wines is around the year 500 BC. At this time, Greeks made it near present day Cadiz on the southern coast of Spain. Today, this region produces the famous fortified wine, Sherry.
The Romans arrived around the 3rd century BC. They turned production into a true business. As with other regions in this part of the world, the Romans improved the techniques and the overall quality.
A tragic time for production in Spain was from the early 700s to the late 1400s. This is when the Moors occupied much of Spain. They did not understand the value of high quality wine, so turned them into table wines. For a while, they also enforced a prohibition where winemakers could not produce or sell any.
The Moors did bring a couple of advancements to the industry. They invented distilling. They also created some of the highest quality fortified wines near Cadiz. Sherry is from this region today, one of the highest quality fortified wines in the world.
In 1650, wine makers in Rioja, one of the top Spanish regions today, developed the first quality regulations. The region is close to Bordeaux in France and many producers watched it closely. They understood how regulations would improve the quality of wines in the region and increase demand.
In the 1860s and 1870s, phylloxera spread throughout the French regions. Based on Spanish wine information the grape supply was limited in their regions, so they sourced grapes from Rioja and other Spanish regions.
Another important year for Spanish wines is 1872. The Spanish wine information documents show this as the year cava was first bottled. Cava is a famous sparkling from Spain. Throughout the 1800s, winemakers tried different techniques to create something out of their lower quality grapes. Winemakers created cava and it is now one of the most popular types of Spanish wine on the market today.
The Spanish civil war was from 1936 to 1938. This was another tough time for this industry in Spain. It took until the 1950s for the wine industry to get back into full swing again. However, by this time, it was really low quality and cheap.
There is a lot of Spanish wine information around the hundreds of grape varieties in the country. There are a number of reds and whites native to Spain. Some of them grow in small amounts in only one or two regions in the country. According to the Spanish wine information, the country also grows a number of international varieties.
Tempranillo is the most popular Spanish wine. When you hear people talk about wines from Spain, they are often referring to this fruity, spicy red that is native to the country. You will find it with different names in some regions such as Tinta del Pais in Ribera del Duero region, Tinto de Toro in the Toro region, Ull de Llebre in Penedes near Barcelona and Cencibel in the La Mancha region in central Spain. Some of these are local Tempranillo clones, but all have similar characteristics. Review ratings and prices on some classic Tempranillo wines from Spain.
Grenache (called Garnacha in Spain) is another native red grape variety. It is commonly grown and one of the most planted reds in Spain.
You will also see names of several other native reds from Spain including Moristel, Mourvedre (named Monastrell in Spain) and Mencia. Most of these grow in just one of two regions in the country.
International varieties also grow throughout Spain. The most popular are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Pinot Noir. Many of the fine wines from Spain are from one of these international varieties.
The three most popular regions in Spain are Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat. All three focus on reds. Learn more about these and other Spanish wine regions featuring red wine.
Similar to France and Italy, quality control systems are in place to regulate Spanish wines. There are a few different quality levels and systems in place. Spanish wine information for these systems is well documented.
The Designation of Origins system satisfies the European Union's Quality Wines Produced in a Specific Region (QWPSR) requirement. This system is at the same level as the AOC system in France. It regulates the growing region, the types of grapes grown, the amount of wine produced per hectare (or acre), blending rules, what is added to labels for each region and more. The rules are strict and quality control for the finished product is high.
There are four levels of wines in this system:
The other three categories are outside of the EU QWPSR regulations. The Spanish wine information and regulations for these categories are less strict which offers more flexibility for the wine makers. However, the price paid for these wines is usually less than wines in the DO system.
The top category is Vino de La Tierra (VT or VdlT). These are simple country wines. These regions do have regulations, but just not as many as the DO system listed above. This is similar to the Vins de Pays system in France.
The next category is Vino Comarcal (VC). These are local wines with regions much larger than VT wines. The quality of Spanish red wines is lower than VT wines.
The last category is Vino de Mesa (VM or VdM). These are standard table wines. These are the least regulated and have the lowest quality. They are only required to add the color of the wine to their labels and that it is from Spain.
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