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Description to Spain

The parliamentary hereditary monarchy of Spain (officially the Kingdom of Spain) with its capital Madrid is a state on the Iberian Peninsula in south-west Europe. The national territory covers 505,970 km² and is divided into 17 autonomous regions. There are borders to the west with Portugal and to the north-east with France, separated by the 430 km long Pyrenees mountain range (in which the dwarf state of Andorra lies). Spain also includes the large archipelagos of the Balearic Islands (with the main island of Majorca) in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands (including Tenerife and Lanzarote) in the Atlantic, as well as the two autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the North African coast as enclaves in or with a border with Morocco. Several islands located directly off the Moroccan coast also belong to Spain. Viticulture is practised in all regions of the country and also to a greater extent on the Balearic and Canary Islands.

Spanien - Karte mit Regionen

History

Viticulture in Spain has an ancient tradition, as vines were cultivated here at least around 5,000 years ago. The Phoenicians founded the city of Gadir (now Cadiz) around 1100 BC and traded wine extensively in the Mediterranean region. The first heyday came in 200 BC, when the Romans favoured wine from Baetica (Andalusia). This development was halted by the Moorish invasion in 711. For religious reasons, the Muslims cleared large parts of the vineyards or only allowed the production of sultanas. They brought with them the art of distillation, which was not used for alcoholic drinks, but for essential oils, as fragrances and flavourings.

It was not until 700 years later that the Christians succeeded in reconquering the land (Reconquista) and, as they advanced southwards, they planted new vineyards. At that time, there were many kingdoms, including Aragon, Asturias, Galicia, León and Castile. The all-encompassing Kingdom of Spain was then founded in 1516 by Charles I, later Emperor Charles V (1500-1558).

Colonial period

As in many other countries, it was mostly Catholic monastic orders that planted vines near their monasteries for the production of mass wine. In the centuries that followed, viticulture developed into an important economic and export sector. After the discovery of America in 1492 by Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), the first colonies were established in the New World. The Spanish conquistadores subsequently planted vines from their homeland in the colonies. Among them was Listán Prieto, which originated from Castile-La Mancha. Under the name Mission (Misión), this became the progenitor of many so-called Criolla varieties, especially in Central America and South America, thus initiating viticulture on this continent.

Modern times

In the second half of the 19th century, as in all European countries, phylloxera invaded Spain and destroyed a large part of the vineyards. However, the Rioja region was spared for the time being and by the time the pest reached this area at the beginning of the 20th century, most of the vineyards had already been planted with grafted vines. The French were no longer able to meet the demand for wine in their own country due to the vineyards destroyed by phylloxera. At first, French merchants bought large quantities of wine in Spain, and later many French winegrowers emigrated to Spain and began cultivating wine. Their sophisticated cellar technology has had a lasting impact on viticulture to this day.

Between July 1936 and April 1939, a civil war broke out between the democratically elected government of the Second Spanish Republic and the right-wing putschists under General Francisco Franco (1892-1975). During this time, vineyards and many wineries were destroyed on a large scale. After the opening of the borders and accession to the European Union in 1986, Spanish viticulture experienced a new beginning. From the 1960s onwards, a great boom began with the typical Spanish wines Rioja and Sherry. Today, Spain is one of the most dynamic wine-producing countries in the world.

Soil & climate

Spain is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe. The western mountain ranges are largely made up of metamorphic and crystalline rock. Slate is the most common parent rock of the country's best vineyards. This occurs mainly on the Catalan coast, in the highlands of Priorato, in the Rioja region and in the Douro port wine region. In large areas of the lowlands in the north and east, the parent rock consists of sediments. In the coastal regions, light, sometimes sandy soils dominate. In the sherry region of Jerez, the highly calcareous Albariza soil can be found. The Canary Islands, on the other hand, are of volcanic origin.

The country is criss-crossed by several large bodies of water with a positive influence on viticulture. These are mainly the Ebro and Duero in the north, the Tagus in the west, the Guadiana in the south and the Júcar and Turia in the east. Spain is divided into three main climate zones. In "green Spain" in the north with Aragon, Asturias, the Basque Country, Galicia, Cantabria, Catalonia, Navarre and La Rioja, there is a high level of precipitation with hot summers and cold winters. In the centre is the extensive central plateau of Meseta (tableland) with the regions of Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha. It is characterised by extremely hot summers, cold winters and low rainfall. The third zone is the coastline with southern Catalonia, the Levante and Andalusia. Here, sea breezes alleviate the hot summers, but there is little rain.

Regions & growing areas

In 1970, a classification system with controlled designation of origin was introduced, modelled on the Italian and French wine laws. The 17 Spanish regions are listed in the table. The DO, DOCa and VCIG areas (quality wines) and IGP areas (country wines) are listed under the regions:

Spanien - DO-Bereiche

Region (German)

Region (Spanish)

Capital city

Hectares

Andalusia Andalucía Seville 32.000
Aragon Aragón, cat. Aragó Saragossa 34.000
Asturias Asturias Oviedo 100
Balearic Islands Islas Baleares, cat. Balearic Islands Palma 2.000
Basque Country País Vasco, Basque Country Euskadi Vitoria-Gasteiz 13.500
Extremadura Extremadura Mérida 80.000
Galicia Galicia, gal. Galicia Santiago de Compostela 10.000
Canary Islands Islas Canarias Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 11.000
Cantabria Cantabria Santander 100
Castilla-La Mancha Castilla-La Mancha Toledo 300.000
Castilla y León Castilla y León Valladolid (seat of government) 72.000
Catalonia Cataluña, cat. Catalunya Barcelona 52.000
Madrid Madrid Madrid 11.500
Murcia Murcia Murcia 23.000
Navarre Navarre, Basque Country Nafarroa Pamplona 17.000
Rioja La Rioja Logroño 60.000
Valenciana Valenciana Valencia 58.000

Grape variety index

In 2022, the vineyards covered 954,724 hectares and the wine production volume was 35.7 million hectolitres. This makes Spain the world leader in terms of vineyard area. There are over 600 grape varieties, the majority of which are indigenous. A novelty is the Airén, which is almost exclusively found here and has long been the most widely cultivated variety in the world. The grape variety index with the top 50 (Kym Anderson statistics):

Grape variety

Colour

Synonyms or Spanish name

Hectare

Airén white Burra Blanca, Colgadera 203.276
Tempranillo red Cencibel, Chinchillana, Tinto del País 193.597
Bobal red Moravio, Tinta Madrid 59.189
Garnacha Tinta red Grenache Noir, Cannonau 54.606
Monastrell red Mataro, Mourvèdre 41.303
Macabeo white Viura 36.963
Cayetana Blanca white Jaén Blanco, Pardina 36.252
Cabernet Sauvignon red - 20.139
Palomino white Palomino Fino, Listán Blanco 20.110
Syrah red Shiraz 19.488
Alicante Henri Bouschet red Garnacha Tintorera 19.294
Verdejo white Albillo de Nava 17.923
Merlot red - 12.852
Muscat d'Alexandrie white Moscatel de Alejandría, Moscatel Gordo 9.534
Xarello white Pansal, Premsal, Xarel-Lo 8.534
Pedro Ximénez white Pedro Ximenes, Pero Ximén, PX 8.528
Mencía red Jaén du Dão, Loureiro Tinto 8.489
Parellada white Montañesa, Montona, Perrelada 7.137
Chardonnay white - 6.866
Mazuelo red Cariñena, Samsó, Carignan 5.461
Alvarinho white Albariño 5.393
Tinto Velasco red Tinto de la Pámpana Blanca 5.369
Chelva white Chelva de Cebreros, Mantúo, Uva Rey 5.029
Sauvignon Blanc white - 4.562
Alarije white Acería, Alarije Verdoso, Arin 4.407
Prieto Picudo red Prieto Picudo Tinto 4.293
Zalema white Del Pipajo, Perruna, Zalemo 4.015
Pardillo white Blanca Pequene, Marisancho, Pardilla 3.283
Listán Negro red Almuñeco, Listán Morado, Negra Común 2.847
Beba white Beba de los Santos, Blanca de Mesa 2.556
Merseguera white Esquitxagos, Marisancho 2.373
Graciano red Monastrell Menudo, Moristell, Tintilla de Rota 2.080
Garnacha Blanca white Grenache Blanc 2.061
Petit Verdot red - 1.804
Juan García red Malvasía Negra, Mouratón, Négron de Aldán 1.409
Malvasia de Colares white Malvasía 1.362
Muscat Blanc white Moscatel Commun, Moscatel de Grano Menudo 1.350
Marufo red Brujidera, Crujideiro, Moravia Dulce 1.316
Trepat red Bonicaire, Carlina, Trepat Negre 1.199
Negramoll red Mollar, Verdejo Negro 1.149
Albillo Mayor white Albilla, Pardina, Turruntes 1.145
Welschriesling white Borba 1.064
Pinot Noir red - 969
Trajadura white reixadura Blanca, Verdello Rubio 942
Planta Nova white Tortozón 864
Godello white Godelho, Prieto Picudo Blanco 822
Perruno white Casta de Montúo, Firmissima, Getibi 745
Rojal Tinta red Rojal 736
Rufete red Tinta Pinheira 714
Cabernet Franc red - 680


Wine categories / quality levels

The central body for all quality wines is the INDO (Instituto Nacional de Denominaciónes de Origen), whereby each DO region has its own supervisory authority, the "Consejo Regulador". This is made up of employees from the Ministry of Agriculture, winegrowers, producers, traders and biochemists. With the "Reglamento", this authority defines the authorised grape varieties (and also decides on new plantings), the permitted rootstocks, the yield in hectolitres per hectare, the planting density, the pruning and the winemaking methods(ripening technique, alcohol content, residual sugar, dry extract values). The label is only approved after organoleptic testing of the wines by a committee of the Consejo. In August 2009, the EU wine market regulation came into force for all member states with fundamental changes to the wine designations and quality levels; the new designations are (see also under quality system):

  • Vino (formerly Vino de Mesa or table wine) = wine
  • IGP (formerly VdlT) = country wine
  • DOP = or the alternative designations VCIG, DO, DOCa, Vino de Pago = quality wine

IGP (Indicación Geográfica Protegida)

Country wine with a protected geographical indication. There are a total of 42 IGP areas (country wines).

DOP (Denominación de Origen Protegida)

In the case of quality wines, there are four different categories within the DOP designation, which may continue to be used as traditional designations.

VC or VCIG (Vino de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica)
Quality wine with a protected geographical indication. It applies to wines that do not fully fulfil the DO standard but are above the IGP standard. There are 8 VCIG areas.

DO (Denominación de Origen)
Quality wine with a protected designation of origin. There are 72 DO areas (VCIG and DO).

DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada)
Quality wine with a protected designation of origin. This level was introduced in 1988 (and is roughly equivalent to the DOCG in Italy). It is only awarded to wines from outstanding areas whose production is particularly carefully controlled. Only two areas have been classified so far, namely Rioja in 1991 and Priorato in 2001. Ribera del Duero is mentioned as the next possible candidate.

Vino de Pago(DO) / Vino de Pago Calificado (DOCa)
Quality wine with a protected designation of origin. This designation was introduced in 2003 for vineyards with a special character. They can be located within a DO or DOCa area, but also outside of it. They are usually owned by a single winery. A list of the 23 areas can be found under Vino de Pago.

Quality designations

There are also a large number of traditional designations in connection with winemaking and quality. The most important of these are

Maturity

Traditionally, Spanish wines are only marketed when they are ready to drink. Depending on the type of wine, there are specifications for the ageing time in barrel and/or bottle. Top producers often exceed these deadlines by far. White and rosé wines only have to mature for six months in the barrel and may be marketed one year earlier; there are hardly any Reservas or Gran Reservas. There are the following designations for red wines:

Joven

Young wine that is sold the year after the grape harvest and has only matured briefly (maximum six months) or not at all in the barrel. These are intended for immediate consumption.

Crianza

These wines must be matured for at least 24 months, of which six months in the barrel and 18 months in the bottle.

Reserva

These wines must be aged for at least 36 months, of which at least 12 months must be in the barrel and the rest in the bottle. Reserved for DO and DOCa wines.

Gran Reserva

These wines must have matured for at least 60 months, of which at least 18 months (until 2005 it was 24) in the barrel and the rest in the bottle. Reserved for DO and DOCa wines.

Ageing classification

Irrespective of the regulations for Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, there are designations that may be used depending on the ageing and type of maturation. These are Añejo (24 months), Noble (18 months) and Viejo (36 months). These designations attest to the "better quality" of wines with a higher age.

Label

Among other things, the label indicates the degree of sweetness depending on the residual sugar content (seco = dry, semiseco = semi-dry, abocado = semi-sweet, dulce = sweet) and the type of wine (Clarete = light red wine, Cava = sparkling wine, Tinto = dark wine, Rosado = rosé wine, Generoso = dessert wine).

Map Spain Regions: Foods and Wines

In this section you will find
currently 165,636 Wines and 25,036 Producers, including 3,179 classified producers.
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