Spain has over over 1.17 million hectares planted with vineyards – making it the most widely planted wine-producing nation and amongst the top three largest producers of wine in the world. This is due, in part, to the very low yields and wide spacing of the old vines planted on the dry, infertile soil found in many Spanish wine regions. Another reason is that Spanish winemakers often cut the branches so that there is only one bunch of grapes on each. This helps concentrate the taste and flavour. For a detailed explanation on how wine is made, see Winemaking.
The country has an abundance of native grape varieties, with over 400 varieties planted throughout Spain though 80 percent of the country’s wine production is from only 20 grapes — including the reds Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Monastrell; the whites Albariño from Galicia, Palomino, Airen, and Macabeo; and the three cava grapes Parellada, Xarel·lo, and Macabeo.
When you look at a Spanish wine and see the terms Joven, Crianza, Reserva, or Gran Reserva, they’re telling you about how long the aging was: those Gran Reservas have been cellared the longest, and a bottle with ‘Joven’ on the label didn’t spend nearly as much time resting at the winery.
Spanish wines are well known for their full taste, often with fruity and flowery notes on a deep tannin base. They owe it to the rigorous care taken of grapevines and to the great importance given to the wine making process.
Spain has a relatively large number of distinct wine-producing regions, more than half having the classification Denominación de Origen (DO, Designation of Origin), such as Ribera del Duero, Penedés, Rueda and Valencia, one of the oldest wine regions in Spain with more than 2,700 years of history.
Valencia´s high altitude, inclination and proximity to the Mediterranean Sea are identifying geographical features that are impregnated in the wines produced in this wine region. There are two regions nominated as Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa, Designation of Qualified Origin)) – Rioja and Priorat. While most regions produce both red and white wine, some wine regions are more dominated by one style than the other. Some other well know regions include Rías Baixas in the northwest region of Galicia known for its white wines made from the Albariño white grape, Penedés for its Cava sparkling wines, Jerez (Sherry) a famous fortified wine from Jerez de la Frontera.
Facts about Spanish Wine
Here are some interesting facts you probably didn´t know about Spanish wine:
- Spanish wine was the Roman´s favorite drink
- A record breaking exporter
- Spain is the top exporter of wine in the world. In 2018, Spain exported 21 million hectoliters, compared to Italy’s 19.7 million and France’s 14.1 million. 2018 was also a peak year for wine production worldwide. Overall, 292.3 million hectoliters of wine were produced compared to 249.8 million in 2017.
- Different classifications
- Spain has just under 80 wine regions across 17 provinces of the country. They are classified as Denominación de Origen (DO) and Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOC). Both denote wineries that meet stringent requirements to produce wine, with the DOC designation being the highest quality. Currently only two regions have met DOC requirements in Spain: Rioja and Priorat.
- There are over 400 grape varieties in Spain
- Cava isn´t just produced in Catalonia
- Spanish wine was Picasso´s muse
- La Rioja has been making wine for nearly 1000 years
- Altitude wines. Altitude wines can be found in Spain.
- The Franco years were dark days for Spanish wine
- The Franco dictatorship was a dark time for wine production, as wine was not allowed to be exported. Franco was a Catholic and teetotaller, believing wine should only be used for church sacraments and not much else.
- Spain is the #1 worldwide producer of organic wine
- Sherry is uniquely Spanish
- Sherry (also called Jerez and Xeres) is originally from the Jerez de la Frontera region of southern Spain. In fact, no other wine region in the world is allowed to use the terms Sherry, Jerez or Xeres as the region has a trademark on the brand names, similar to the French region of Champagne. Sherry production dates back to the 8th century, and speculation says it’s been around for much longer. It was first exported in the 12th century and became extremely popular in England, after which other regions began to adopt the same winemaking methods to make their own variations of Sherry. In the 16th century Sherry was regarded as the finest wine available in Europe.
- Sangria is for the tourists
- Sangria is not a very common drink in Spain today, although its history is strongly associated with Spain. It is a fruit punch – usually wine with several different fruits and carbonated beverages. Most tourists come to Spain looking for paella and sangria. Although a “tinto de verano” – red wine, ice, and either lemon soda or “Casera” (artificially sweetened soda water) – is more common, sangria is not. Oh, and yes, it is true: good paella´s are not so easy to find.
- Spanish wine
- A beginner´s guide to Spanish wine
- Wine basics, Beginners´s Guide
- Spanish wine regions
- Classification of Spanish Wine
- A beginner´s guide to Spanish wine – SeriousEats
- A beginner´s guide to Spanish wine – Vintage Cellars
- Is your French wine made in Spain?
- Millions of liters of Spanish reds and whites get exported for bottling in other countries
- Wine in figures
- The Spanish vineyard revolution
- Forty years ago, Spanish wine was precisely nowhere on the global map. Now, it has almost legendary status among connoisseurs the world over. This is the story of how this change came about.