Spain is one of the greatest players in the industry of wine in the world.
In first place, According to the OIV data, Spain remains the country in the world, with the largest number of vineyards, with 1,032 million hectares devoted to vine cultivation followed by France and Italy. The vine is the 3rd most cultivated crop in Spain, after cereals and olives.
Besides, recently, Spain has taken over from France and Italy as the world’s top wine producing country being for the first time ever, at first place in the global ranking. During the last year its production increased by over 40%. We could reach that position thanks to the investments carried out in this sector and, as well, thanks to the favorable climate conditions of the last year.
Spain is a country with a rich wine-making history. It’s impossible to determine the exact origin of vines in Spain. Some archeologists believe that the vines were cultivated as early as 4000 years ago. Although, the great expansion and commercialization of Spanish wine didn’t take place until the Roman Empire.
Fortunately, the popularity of Spanish Wines at international level, has been improving a lot during the past two decades, and as a result, Spain has been wining market share abroad. Nowadays, Spain is the world’s second largest exporter, in terms of volume, surpassed only by Italy.
Iberian Peninsula is a privileged placed for wine production. We can observe how climatic differences and the great variety of soils provide a very diverse offer of wines.
Every Autonomous Region in Spain cultivate vines, always respecting its own characteristics and tradition. In that way, Spain is a highly competitive offering a wide range of wines, from sweet wines, complex reds or fresh whites or even sparkling wines.
Spain has always been very concerned about making quality wines. We can find 89 zones which produce PDO wines, of which 67 are Denomination of Origin (DO), 2 are Qualified Denomination of Origin. (DOCa), 6 are Quality Wine with a Geographical Indication. (Vino de Calidad) and 14 are Single Estate Wine (Vino de Pago). This division has been made in accordance with the European production model, what it means: strict control over the quality and quantity produced, control over the genuineness of wines produced in each wine areas, and control over the growing and producing practices
Spain’s most renowned winemaking region, Rioja continues to produce exceptional wines. Its winemakers are actively engaged in a lively debate about how best to retain the traditional ways while embracing modern viticultural practices and vinification techniques to make the finest wines possible. The Bordeaux methods brought to Rioja in the 1850s are still employed today. Both traditional and modern styles of Rioja remain popular with Spanish wine lovers and winemakers continue to refine their methods and knowledge of their vineyards. For winemaking terroir, Rioja has some of the best in the world. There are three subzones, each with different soils and climate. In Rioja Alta and Alavesa, limestone soils rich in calcium carbonate predominate with concentrations of clay, chalk, iron and trace elements, while in Rioja Baja, there are clay and alluvial (well draining) soils. Rioja enjoys hot summers and cool, mild autumns marked by substantial day/night temperature variations that are beneficial to the development of phenolically ripe grape skins. Spain is the first country in vineyards planted area, with more than one million hectares but only represents the third producer country. Due to soil poorness, vines are separated from each other to avoid the competition for resources and entails low yields.
The most important wine regions are related to the biggest rivers:
- Ebro river irrigates La Rioja and the part of the Catalan wine regions
- Duero river irrigates the region of Ribera del Duero
- Tajo river irrigates La Mancha region
- Guadalquivir river irrigates the region of Sherry production.
On the other hand, Cantabrian Mountains and the Pyrenees protects the inland from rain and cold. This is the case of La Rioja and Aragon regions. The Spanish centre is dominated by a plateau and has a more extreme climate, whereas Southern regions are the hottest and to mitigate the high temperature by planting the vines in hills. In Spain there are similar categories for wine as those in France, Italy or Portugal:
- Vino de Mesa: Unclassified vineyards or grapes (table wines)
- Vino de la Tierra: Larger geographical regions (Comunidad Autónoma)
- Vino de Calidad Producido en Region Determinada: This is the step before the Protected Designation of Origin
- Denominación de Origen (D.O.): Protected Designation of Origin (DPO)
- Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca): It is a DPO with a track record to assure further quality
* Most producing regions are D.O. or Vino de la Tierra and there are only two D.O.Ca (Rioja and Priorat).
* The Consejo Regulador is the standardization body of the D.O. and decides on the types of grapes allowed, the maximum yields, the aging time or the labels.
* When buying a wine bottle it is important to pay attention to the aging time. Depending on this there are four designations, from vino joven (young wine) which has been few time or no time in wood aging to Gran reserve (for red wines at least five years of aging; four years when white wines):
- Vino joven
- Gran Reserva
Although there are lots of variety grapes in Spain, only 20 are the most commonly used which include:
- Red wines: Tempranillo, Garnacha or Monastrell
- White wines: Airen, Albariño, Palomino, Macabeo
- Cava: Parellada, Xarel·lo and Cariñena
Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes produce full-bodied red wines. They are widely used in La Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Valdepeñas or Penedès regions. Garnacha is the predominant in Aragon and Priorat region.
Palomino is frequently used to produce Jerez wines (Sherry) in southwestern Spain
Albariño is used in the Rías Baixas region (northwestern Spain)
D.O.: Abona, Alella, Alicante, Almansa, Arlanza, Arribes, Benissalem, Bierzo, Bullas, Calatayud, Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Catalunya, Cava, Cigales, Conca de Barberà, Condado de Huelva, Costers del Segre, El Hierro, Empordà, Gran Canaria, Jerez, Jumilla, La Gomera, La Mancha, La Palma, Lanzarote, Málaga y Sierras de Málaga, Manchuelo, Manzanilla-San Lúcar de Barrameda, Méntrida, Mondéjar, Monterrei, Montilla-Moriles, Montsany, Navarra, Penedès, Pla de Bages, Pla i Llevant, Priorat (D.O.Ca), Rías Baixas, Ribeira Sacra, Ribeiro, Ribera del Duero, Ribera del Guadiana, Ribera del Júcar, Rioja (D.O.Ca), Rueda, Somontano, Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tarragona, Terra Alta, Tierra de León, Tierra del Vino de Zamora, Toro, Txacolí de Álava, Txacolí de Bizkaia Txacolí de Getaria, Uclés, Utiel-Requena, Valdeorras, Valdepeñas, Valencia, Valle de Güímar, Valle de la Orotava, Vinos de Madrid, Ycoden-Daute-Isora, Yecla,
This region is situated a plateau and is irrigated by Ebro river. In general, the climate is continental.
The D.O.Ca (AOC) includes La Rioja region and parts of Navarra and Araba (Euskadi) and is divided into three areas:
- Rioja Alta: It is western area and has the higher elevations. Wines of this area have fruit flavours and are lighter
- Rioja Alavesa: It is the area belonging to the Basque Country. Wines are full-bodied and have higher acidity
- Rioja Baja: This area has the influence of the Mediterranean climate. Its wines have a higher alcohol content but less acidity
Rioja D.O.Ca is famous because of its red wines, which represent the 85% of the production, though it also produces white and rosé wines. The main characteristic of La Rioja D.O.Ca is the oak aging.
Red wines are based on Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, Mazuelo and Maturana Tinta grapes.
White wines are made of Macabeo (Viura), Malvasía de Rioja, Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Blanca, Turruntés de Rioja, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo.
Rosé wines are mainly made of Garnacha.
Bodegas Familiares PROVIR is a non-profit winemaking association that represents the social interest of around 70% of Small and Medium-sized wineries in La Rioja region and it is made up entirely of wineries with their own vineyards of even 80 years old. The yearly wine production of all associated SMEs can reach values around 16 million litres of which 26% are exported.
Jerez (Sherry) wine is produced in the south-western Spain. It is a fortified wine made from white grapes (basically, Palomino, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes). Once the fermentation is complete, the wine is fortified by adding grape spirit raising the alcohol content. It ranges from light to darker and from heavier to sweet wines.
It is a sparkling wine made with the same method as Champagne but different types of grapes (Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Subirat). Most of the production is white wine but since some years the production of rosé is increasing. The range can vary from very dry to sweet.
It is mainly produced in the Penedès region (northeastern Spain).