E viva España! We love sensual and modern Spain, marked by the many twists and turns between periods of glory and despair. The strength of resilience and renewal is reflected in the multi-faceted Spanish wines. The Spanish art of living necessarily involves appreciating the depth and richness of everything we do and everything we taste. Emoti...
E viva España! We love sensual and modern Spain, marked by the many twists and turns between periods of glory and despair. The strength of resilience and renewal is reflected in the multi-faceted Spanish wines. The Spanish art of living necessarily involves appreciating the depth and richness of everything we do and everything we taste. Emotion comes first: and Spanish wines inevitably follow this trend: greediness and sensuality!
Subject to climatic constraints limiting productivity, it ranks third in terms of wine production, behind Italy and France. Its vineyard is compartmentalised, sometimes landlocked, given the great variability of climates and terroirs. This arrangement confers a rich range of local specificities.
The history of Spain is exceptional! Colonised then colonising, united then divided, the ups and downs of its history have shaped its wine-growing landscape. Introduced by the Phoenicians, organised by the Romans, limited (but tolerated) by the Ottomans, transported by the Conquistadors and then exported throughout the world, Spanish wines have followed these ups and downs and have adapted brilliantly. This process has given rise to innovative techniques and avant-garde wines, that incorporate international novelties while preserving tradition.
Today, Spanish wines are top-of-the-range products which make some of their more pretentious neighbours pale. If for more than a century, the legendary Vega Sicilia alone has been the flagship of Spanish wines, other great names have been forged in recent decades such as Pingus, Ermita and the famous Clos Mogador. Loyal to the culture and climate of Spain, Spanish wines always offer a festive and bewitching emotion whatever the price range. With the progressive arrival of legislation on the protection of appellations, it would not be surprising to see more and more pearls emerge in the years to come?
Spanish wines are very varied. A multitude of grape varieties are cultivated, although some, such as Tempranillo, are present in several appellations. Most of the appellations are very recent, while for others, the legislative processes are still ongoing... How do you untangle all this? The online wine shop offers a variety of information about wines, producers and wine-growing regions in Spain...
Although Spanish wines are dominated, at least in reputation, by red wines based on Tempranillo (Rioja, Ribera del Duero, etc...), Grenache (Priorat, Montsant) or Monastrell or Mourvèdre (Valencia, Almansa, Jumilla, Yecla, and Alicante), the most planted grape variety in Spain is Airén. It is in fact the third most planted grape variety in the world in terms of surface area (behind Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), although it is almost exclusively planted in Spain. The most surprising thing is that it is a white grape variety! It is authorised in the DOs Alicante, Bullas, Jumilla, La Mancha, Valdepeñas and Vinos de Madrid for the production of table wines. Its main use remains, however, for the production of brandy.
Large areas of Catalonia are dedicated to the cultivation of the grape varieties Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, which are also white. They are used in the composition of the famous Cava, a sparkling wine produced using the traditional method.
Spanish wines from the south of the peninsula are dominated by the production of Xeres DO (or sherry), fortified wines made from the Palomino, Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel grape varieties, which are also white!
At the end of the 19th century, Priorat had about 5'000 ha of vines, but the arrival of phylloxera led to the devastation and near abandonment of this vineyard. Replanting was carried out sparingly from the 1950s onwards. At the beginning of the 1980s, a group of visionary winegrowers, led by René Barbier, spotted the potential of the region and decided to revive the production of quality wines, based on Grenache, but also on international grape varieties such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan. Five winegrowers worked together until 1989, when they produced their first joint vintage, marketed under five different labels: Clos Mogador (Barbier), Clos Dofi (Palacios, then Finca Dofi), Clos Erasmus, Clos Martinet and Clos de l'Obac.
The wines of this region have since reached the heights of notoriety among the greatest sommeliers and wine lovers of the planet! Yields are generally maintained at levels well below the legislation in order to obtain exceptional concentration and precision. Priorat, an enclave in Montsant, is today the only region along with Rioja to enjoy the DOQ or DOQa classification, a guarantee of the quality of the wines it produces.
Spain has always been at the heart of great movements of conquest, contributing to the fabulous history of the migration of grape varieties and the development of winemaking techniques.
Trade relations with England have always involved the wine trade. Following the loss of Gascony by England in 1453, Spain took a leading position in wine exports against Bordeaux! Then, Spain of the Conquistadors, wine was very much in demand for their travels. It is thus reported that Magellan's budget for Jerez wines exceeded that of his weaponry! At the same time, Spain was considerably developing viticulture in South America, which would later contribute to the exceptional growth of Argentinean and Chilean vineyards! The loss of the supply of sweet wine from the eastern Mediterranean (Ottoman Empire) then contributed to the dominance of the export of Spanish wines of this type.
Then comes the arrival of phylloxera. Its late arrival in the vineyards of the Iberian Peninsula has allowed Spanish wine producers to reap two benefits! At the very beginning of the disease, they were able to continue exporting and then they were able to take advantage of the experiences and solutions developed by its neighbours.
The many journeys that Spanish wines had to make favoured the development of ageing techniques, such as fortification and maturing in barrels. As a result of their many journeys, today we find varieties endemic to Spain such as Grenache and Mourvèdre in the great appellations of neighbouring countries and all over the world.
Rioja DOC and Ribera del Duero DO (hopefully soon DOC) are among the most renowned regions in Spain. In both appellations, we can find a favourable terrain for Tempranillo, the great lord of the Spanish red grape varieties. But what makes the wines that are produced in one region different from the other?
A history of climate
Sometimes called Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais, Tempranillo is an early ripening grape variety. Thus in cooler regions, such as Rioja, it will offer finer and more delicate wines with more pronounced tannins. On the other hand, in the Ribera del Duero, where the drier continental climate can sometimes be very extreme, it will offer more power and seduction with more ripe and silky tannins.
A history of blending
Although a few prestigious houses vinify their great vintages with Tempranillo as a single variety, most make light blends with other varieties. In Rioja, blending is generally done with Grenache, Graciano or Marzuelo. These more traditional blends with endemic grape varieties bring a great authenticity and a beautiful expression of the terroirs. In Ribera del Duero, on the other hand, blending is done preferably with international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Malbec. They strengthen the structure and the fruit bringing a modern touch to the wines produced.
A history of taste
In short, and without making too generalised trends, Rioja wines will be lighter, more rustic and will offer both pastoral and authentic comfort. Ribera del Duero will present more powerful, more elegant wines, capable of offering a solemn, even baroque warmth.
There are 4 different types of Spanish wines, depending on the length and type of maturation:
Roble : 2 years of ageing, including at least 4 months in oak barrels ;
Crianza : 2 years of ageing, including at least 12 months in oak barrels;
Reserva: 3 years of ageing, including at least 12 months in oak barrels;
Gran Reserva: 5 years of ageing, of which at least 24 months in oak barrels.
Your specialist: alfavin.ch
Due to the complexity of the terroirs and the diversity of grape varieties that Spain has to offer, this brief presentation does not present the richness of Spanish wines as a whole. From the great diversity, we have selected for you over the last few years, some nuggets that are produced there. By clicking on the category of Spanish wines in our online wine shop, you will access all the relevant information to find the wine that corresponds to the criteria of your choice. Whether you are looking for the charm of Ribera del Duero, the power of Priorat, the elegance of Montsant, the seduction of deep white wines or whether you want to let yourself be tempted by the discovery of unknown regions, we offer you educational sections as well as technical descriptions of the wines in our assortment. Good research and good discoveries!
Your Spanish wine expert and advisor, alfavin.ch