Wine 101: Spanish Wines

Spain has a rich history of winemaking, dating back thousands of years. The country is the world’s third-largest producer of wine, with over 2.5 million acres of vineyards spread across seven main areas and sixty-nine official designation regions. Spanish wines are known for their bold flavors and unique characteristics, making them a favorite among wine connoisseurs worldwide. When they say wine is cheaper and better than water, it may really be true here. 

History of Spanish Wine

The history of Spanish wine can be traced back to the Phoenicians, who introduced grape cultivation to the region around 1100 BC. Over the centuries, the Romans, Moors, and Christian monks shaped the Spanish wine industry. During the Middle Ages, the production and trade of wine played a crucial role in the economy of many Spanish regions and was largely influenced by monasteries in the Catholic Church. Monks were responsible for cultivating vineyards and producing wine, and many of them became experts in the art of winemaking. The monks also helped to spread viticulture throughout Spain, introducing new grape varieties and refining winemaking techniques.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Europe experienced a phylloxera epidemic that devastated many vineyards. However, by the time the epidemic reached Spain, many solutions had been found, and the country’s wine industry continued to flourish. Today Spain is one of the largest wine-producing countries in the world, renowned for its Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat, and sherry wines, among many others. 

Regions to Know

Each wine region produces products specialized to the area due to unique climate, soil, and grape varieties. Some of the most famous wine regions include Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat, Rías Baixas, and Jerez.

Rioja is Spain’s most famous wine region known for its high-quality red wines made primarily from the Tempranillo grape. These wines are often aged in oak barrels, giving them a distinctive flavor profile characterized by vanilla, spice, and red fruit notes. Rioja wines are also known for their ability to age well, and some of the best vintages can be cellared for decades.

Our Top Pick: 27368 – Muga Rioja Reserva

Ribera del Duero is another popular wine region in Spain located in the northern part of the country. The area produces full-bodied red wines from the tempranillo grape, known locally as Tinto Fino. These wines are characterized by their dark color, complex flavor profile, and firm tannins, which make them an ideal pairing for rich meat dishes.

Our Top Pick:15408 – Matarromera Crianza

Priorat is a relatively small wine region located in the northeast of Spain, near Barcelona. The area is known for producing powerful, full-bodied red wines made from a blend of garnacha and Cariñena grapes. These wines are often aged in oak barrels, giving them a complex flavor profile characterized by black fruit, chocolate, and spice notes.

Our Top Pick: 24593 – Bodegas La Cartuja Priorat 

Rías Baixas is a wine region located in the northwest of Spain, in the autonomous community of Galicia. The area is known for producing fresh, crisp white wines from the Albariño grape. These wines are characterized by their bright acidity, citrusy flavors, and minerality, which make them an ideal pairing for seafood dishes.

Our Top Pick: 17186 – Columna Albariño

Finally, Jerez is a wine region in southern Spain, in Andalusia. The area is known for producing Sherry, a fortified wine made by adding brandy to wine during fermentation. Sherry comes in various styles, from dry and crisp to sweet and rich, and is characterized by its nutty, oxidative flavor profile.

Our Top Pick: 27433 – Emilio Lustau Fino Sherry

Trivia for the Dinner Table

The traditional method of serving sherry in Spain involves pouring the wine from a height of about two feet into a small glass called a copita. This is said to help release the wine’s aroma and flavor.

In the town of Haro in the La Rioja region, an annual wine battle called Batalla del Vino is held yearly. Participants drench each other with wine using buckets, water guns, and other forms of attack.

The average Spaniard drinks around twenty-two liters of wine per year, making Spain one of the largest wine-consuming countries in the world.

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