Spanish wines ,far from ordinary
Spain is an ancient wine-producing country that vies with France and Italy as the number-one wine producer in the world. Spain’s wine heritage is at least three thousand years old; vineyards in today’s Sherry region were planted by the Phoenicians around 1,100 BC. Wines from vines grown along the sunny Mediterranean coast and the cooler Atlantic coast were traded and consumed by the Romans. But the arrival of the teetotaler Islamic Moors in 711 AD put an end to Spanish wine commerce until the Moors’ final defeat in 1492. With the Iberian Peninsula freed from Islamic rule, wine returned with a vengeance.
But with the limited exception of Sherry, only Rioja enjoyed much international awareness until the late twentieth century. Wealthy producers such as the Marqués de Riscal, Marqués de Murrieta and Vega Sicilia had the wherewithal to produce wines that brought international attention, but Spain mostly operated under the radar, ruled as it was by a military dictatorship until the mid – 1970s.
Spain is actually the third largest wine producer in the world and has the most land dedicated to vineyards–over a million acres. Spanish wines range from great values to highly prestigious wines, such as Alvaro Palacios’ L’Ermita and Vega Silicia’s Unico.
There are over 60 different regional DOs producing everything from light and zesty Albariño to inky black Monastrell.The best way to start understanding the area is break into 7 distinct climates.
Northwest “Green” Spain
Galicia, very unlike the rest of Spain, is where lush green valleys are plentiful and the common cuisine includes lots of fresh fish. Albariño is the champion grape of the sub-region called Rias Baixas (RYE-us BYE-shus), which skirts the coast. The area specializes in zesty white wines and a few aromatic red wine made with Menica(MEN-thi-yah):
Ebro River Valley
The sub regions of La Rioja and Navarra are found in the Ebro River Valley. Here, Tempranillo is kingand long-standing bodegas such as Lopez de Heredia and Marques de Murrieta make age-worthy wines. Navarra is known mostly for rosado (rosé) wine made with the grape Garnacha(aka Grenache). The region also produces oak-aged whines of Viura(Macebeo). In Basque country, zesty white wines called Txakoli (“CHALK-olli” ) are common.
The coast is a very diverse macro-region that contains the sub-regions of Valencia, Catalonia and Murcia. Catalonia is known for Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and a highly acclaimed red wine sub-zone,Priorat.Valencia and Murcia are warmer growing regions that produce a bulk of value wines from deep red Monastrell to aromatic white Malvasia and the widely planted Airén.
Duero River Valley
The Duero River is the same river as the Douro in Portugal. This region is notable for the minerally white wine, Verdejo, of Rueda and the bold red wines of Toro, Ribera del Duero and Leon. The wine grape of this region is Tempranillo and in Toro it’s called Tinta de Toro, where it is considered to be a slight mutation of the Tempranillo grape. Ribera del Duero is home to one of the most famous wineries in Spain: Vega Sicilia.
The central plateau or Meseta Central is the inner plateau of Spain which is home to the capital city, Madrid. The area has an average elevation of 2,300-2,600 feet and is dry and sunny. Because of its climate characteristics, vines are spaced very far apart and close to the ground. Some of the best value red wines of Spain can be found here made of Garnacha, Tempranillo and even the rare, Petit Verdot.
Andalucía is a very hot and dry region famous for Sherry. Stark white albariza soil makes Palomino Vineyards in Cádiz look like a moonscape. The even hotter, Montilla-Moriles produces fortified dessert wines that are called “PX“. An aged PX, such as Bodegas Toro Abala, have similar nutty-date flavors like Tawny Port.
The Islands (includes The Canary Islands)
The Islands of Spain offer a wide range of wines from Listan Negro-based reds to dessert wines made with Moscatel. The volcanic soils of the Canary Islands add a gritty taste of rustic minerality. Currently, there are very few exporters of the limited wines of the Islands of Spain. Perhaps you might as well just make a point to visit.
Spanish wine is the most popular on the planet, according to the latest international export figures, but few of the country’s vineyard owners will raise a glass to that news; on average their vintages fetch less than a third of the price of those sold abroad by France.
Spain exported a record 2.4 billion litres of Rioja, Ribera del Duero and other wines , significantly bettering second placed France’s two billion litres, according to the Spanish Wine Market Observatory,
At the same time, exports brought in €2.6bn in sales. But Spanish wine makers’ glasses are half empty, as their French counterparts raked in €8bn. more than three times as much. Even Italian wine commanded sales worth €5bn last year.
Experts point out that Spanish vino is often sold in bulk. The price per litre fell last year by 2.9 per cent, to €1.10. “The situation is frustrating, but we know what we have to do to catch up,” Rafael del Rey, the head of the Spanish Wine Market Observatory, told the Independent.