The Spanish climate is conducive to growing vines and this is mirrored in the wines that are produced there. Both the history of vineyards in Spain and the amount of wine produced underscore their significance, and some Spanish wines have garnered considerable acclaim.
What is the history of winegrowing in Spain ?
Wine has been grown in Spain since Antiquity. However, the success of the Spanish wine industry is relatively recent as its development truly began in the 19th century. At that time, the vineyards of Bordeaux were ravaged by disease and French winegrowers decided to invest in the Iberian Peninsula to compensate for lost acreage. Spanish winegrowers would subsequently benefit from the expertise of their French counterparts.
Then in the 1970s, Spanish wine became increasingly popular, enabling winegrowers to invest and equip their properties efficiently. Unfortunately, at the time, quantity came before quality and it was not until the 1980s that Spanish vineyards began to develop wines whose quality became renowned.
To this day, Spain is one of the largest wine producing countries in the world
Wine production and appellations in Spain
A large chunk of Spanish land is dedicated to winegrowing. In fact, Spanish vineyards cover around one million hectares. The Castilla-La Mancha region alone represents half of vineyard acreage in Spain.
The scale of vineyard acreage makes Spain the world’s leading country, though volume-wise, its production is below that of France, for example.
Because of its extensive area under vine, Spain has introduced a relatively complex appellation system. The main designations are:
- Denominación de Origen or DO;
- Denominación de Origen Calificada or DOCa;
- Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica or VCIG;
- Vino de la Tierra;
- Vino de Mesa.
Labels on bottles of Spanish wines then display a number of statements regarding the wine’s ageing process:
- ‘Vino joven’ for young wines;
- ‘Crianza’ for wines matured for at least two years, including at least one year in casks
- ‘Reserva’ for wines matured for at least three years, including at least one year in casks;
- ‘Gran reserva’ for wines matured for at least five years, including at least three years in casks.
What are the main wines produced by Spain?
The most famous and oldest Spanish wine is Rioja, a balanced red wine that boasts DOCa status.
Other Spanish red wines include Valdepeñas, which is light and full-flavoured. It is one of the most iconic wines in Castilla-La Mancha.
There are also the wines of Ribera del Duero.
Txakoli is grown in the vineyards of Spain’s Basque Country. This semi-sparkling white wine is made from grapes that are still green, giving it hallmark acidity.
Spain’s vineyards are extremely diverse and produce an extensive array of wines, all of them boasting great flavours.