Influences from the Mediterranean cultures of Phoenicia, Carthage, Greece, and Rome established a tradition of grape growing and wine production that flourished until the 8th Century Moorish conquest.
Spain has the largest wine-growing area in the world, covering a surface area in excess of 1,200,000 hectares (compared to 900,000 ha for France). In spite of this, the country is the third largest producer of wine in the world, the largest being Italy and France.
Spain exports a third of its production, particularly to the USA, the UK and Germany and is capturing the attention of many wine enthusiasts.
The Spanish wine sector has changed considerably in recent years.
A food and wine transformation – evolving over the last several years – has made Spain an exciting player on the international stage.
In the process, Spanish winegrowing has been modernised, surface areas have increased, the practice of irrigation has been developed, mechanised training of wines has been introduced in place of gobelet pruning, and finally new barrels are increasingly made out of French oak instead of the old barrels of American wood. Although this country’s wines have been grossly overlooked, changes are on the way as tremendous investments are being made to Spain’s wine industry in viticulture and equipment.
Spain is lucky enough to possess its own grape varieties: red varieties such as tempranillo, monastrell (mourvèdre), verdejo, albariño and numerous special varieties. As one would expect, we also find the chardonnay, sauvignon and cabernet sauvignon varieties but in most cases they are used only for assemblage with local varieties.
The major red grapes in the area are the tempranillo and the garnacha; the latter was brought to France, where it’s now called Grenache.
Wines bearing the DO distinction ("Denominacion de Origen") are prestigious Spanish wines produced in a demarcated production area and are made according to parameters governing quality and type. Each DO must be regulated by a Governing Body (Consejo Regulador) that is responsible for ensuring the use of grapes of the authorized varieties, and compliance with parameters governing production per hectare, approved methods of wine making and ageing times.
“Denominación de Origen” is an appellation primarily used for Spanish wines, but also other foodstuffs. It is parallel with the hierarchical AOC system of France (1935) and Italy (1966).
The Spanish government designation “Denominacion de Origen” on the labels, is according to the amount of aging the wine has received.
- Cosecha wines (meaning "vintage") are young and are not usually aged in wood.
- Crianza wines are aged for two years with at least six months in a cask.
- Reserva wines are aged for at least one year in an oak cask and at least one year in the bottle, with a further year in either.
- Gran Reserva wines are aged for at least 24 months in oak, and at least three years in the bottle and a minimum of five years total at the winery.
ROBERT PARKER reasserts Spain’s importance as a wine superpower.
The world-famous wine critic declares Spain has quickly become one of the world’s leading wine producers:
“Life is a journey of discovery and Spain has given me some of the greatest discoveries in my professional life. The idea that there is a young generation of men and women heading major wineries and that they are committed to making great wines is just huge,” declared Robert Parker, who recently received a prize for “A Lifetime’s Dedication to Wine”, awarded by Spain’s National Wine Fair FENAVIN 05/24/2007.