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Enlarge Spain mapIntroduction to Spain

Spain holds the award of being the country with the largest area “under vine” (that is, the country with the most square meters of vineyards). However, they don’t produce the most wines because these vineyards aren’t densely planted and don’t produce big crops of grapes.

Like France and Italy, Spain also has a classification system for its wines. The most exclusive categories are DOC/DOCa, followed by DO Pago, DO, Vino de la Tierra (or VdlT) and Vino de Mesa.

 

Spain also has rules about ageing of their wines. The following rules apply to the labeling of quality wines:

  • “Joven”: young wine. This requires little or no ageing before it is bottled and sold.
  • "Crianza”: must be aged for a minimum of 1 year (for whites/roses) and 2½ years (for reds).
  • "Reserva”: must be aged for a minimum of 2 years (for whites/roses) and 3 years (for reds) – these wines are generally the better wines from good vintages.
  • “Gran Reserva”: must be aged for a minimum of 4 years (for whites/roses) and 5 years (for reds) – these wines are generally only produced in exceptional vintages (Gran Reserva whites are rare).

 

Rioja

Spain’s most famous region is Rioja, in the north of the country. This comprises three separate areas, but most wines are a blend of all 3 areas.

The grapes used here are predominantly Tempranillo (making fruity wines that age well), but many other grapes can be used in the wines. 75% of wines produced here are red. Traditional Reserva/Gran Reserva Riojas are heavy wines with meaty, caramel flavours; while modern styles are much fruitier.

Try Hacienda Don Ramon Winemakers Choice 2007 by Rodolfo Bastida.

 

Catalunya

Traditionally, Catalunya was known for its production of Cava. Stretching from the coast to inland Spain, this region has a wide variety of climates, and therefore a wide variety of wines. Some new, trendy wines come from Priorat (aka Priorato).

Traditional-style Priorat wines are made from Grenache and Carignan grapes, have a very high alcohol level, with mushroom and game aromas. The modern-style Priorats add some “international varieties” to the Grenache and Carignan (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir along) – they have a much fruitier taste.

 

Ribera del Duero

This is one of Spain's most up-and-coming areas and has some of Spain’s greatest wines. Most of the best wines are made from 100% Tempranillo grape. These wines are much thicker, darker in colour, more powerful, with more blackberry tastes than Rioja’s Tempranillos. The best wines of Ribera del Duero are often compared to France’s top Bordeaux wines.

 

And finally...

Ever wondered what the most grown grape in the world is? The answer is Airen. Never heard of it? Not surprising, as most of it is used to make Brandy in Jerez.

If you want some, The Sampler has good examples.