Spain is like the wild, wild west when it comes to wine. Unlike France, where individual plots of land have been set aside for centuries as the best spots for winemaking, producers in Spain are still out searching for new terroirs, new regions and new (old) indigenous grape varieties that have been pushed aside in favor of commercial winemaking. In the 1970s, Spain’s winemaking reputation was for poor-quality bulk wine. Today, regions like Priorat, Montsant and Mallorca are eclipsing the better-known regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero.
Spain has more area under vine cultivation than any other country in the world, according to Wines From Spain. While much of Spain's wine production remains in-country, Spain exports wines to many other nations, including the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. Russia and Italy are importing more Spanish wines than ever before.
Though Spain is better known for the red wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, the Rueda, located north east of Madrid, is home to arguably Spain’s best white wine, Verdejo. Similar in style and characteristics to Pinot Gris, Verdejo fully expresses itself in the high altitude of Rueda where it showcases lemon and citrus, minerality and above all, a sharp acidity which makes it compelling with the tapas so that are so ubiquitous around the region. It’s also inexpensive, with bottles exported to the U.S. usually less than $15. Verdejo has been planted in this area for over a thousand years, and it’s believed it was brought to Spain by the Moors. Some producing vines date as far back 130 years. However it has been only in the last few decades that Verdejo has proved to be the best fit for the cooler Rueda region.
Subscribe to the IntoWineTV Podcast on iTunes In this episode of IntoWineTV, host Lisa Kolenda and wine experts Bartholomew Broadbent, Laely Heron, and Mulan Chan convene at one of San Francisco's finest restaurants, Incanto, to taste and discuss wines from regions not typically associated with wine, including Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, and Andalusia, Spain. Theme: Wines from Strange Places Find Veleta Cabernet Sauvignon Wine: 2006 Veleta Cabernet Sauvignon ($16) Region: Andalusia, Spain Varietals: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon , 10% Merlot Alcohol content: 14%
Spanish red wines are popular around the world. In fact, Wines From Spain reports that 43 million people around the world say they drink Spanish wine "often," according to a recent study.
Valencia's association with wine and the wine trade dates back to Neolithic times. Excavations of ancient gravesites have helped archaeologists document this tradition of grape cultivation. Certainly Valencia's long history as a prominent port city has bolstered its connections to winemaking and wine exports. Today, Valencia is Spain's third-largest city and biggest wine export center; its exporters send products from the Valencia DO to markets around the world.
Ribera del Guadiana is one of Spain's newest wine regions. The Extremadura area, which borders Portugal, Andalucía, Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León, has a long history of winemaking. The area's only DO, Ribera del Guadiana, was not established until 1997, when Extremadura's six Vino de la Tierra regions were combined. Ribera del Guadiana's diverse terroirs and large list of approved grape varieties have given the region's winemakers a lot to work with. The resulting wines vary greatly in style and quality, but Ribera del Guadiana's winemakers have established a significant goal, to make high-quality wines in the modern style that reflect the uniqueness of Extremadura.
Valdepeñas, which translates to "valley of stones," has been part of Spain's winemaking heritage since at least the 4th century B.C. The area is known not only for its long history of exporting wines but also for its tradition of fermenting wines in huge (1,600 liter) jars called tinajas. In centuries past, winemakers partially buried these large earthenware vessels in the earth, which helped keep the wine cold throughout the fermentation process. Today, of course, the jars have been replaced by modern equipment and production processes; Valdepeñas now sells more wine than any other Spanish DO except Rioja. The Valdepeñas region has long held a reputation for producing quality, value-priced wines.
When you see references to Spain's Somontano DO, you'll also notice adjectives like "exciting" and "modern." In The Wines of Spain , author Julian Jeffs calls Somontano's wines "some of the best in Spain."
Spanish wine expert Julian Jeffs calls Terra Alta "a place to watch." Winemakers in this remote northeastern region have set their sights high. They hope to make Terra Alta a star player on the international winemaking stage, following in the footsteps of their neighbors from Priorat. With wine lovers around the world focusing on value as well as quality, Terra Alta's winemakers have an opportunity to do just that.