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.
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 Today, of course, the jars have been replaced by modern equipment and production processes; Valdepeñas now sells more wine than any other Spanish DO except Rioja.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.
Alicante isn't Spain's largest or most famous wine region. In fact, Alicante is fairly small, and it tends to be overshadowed by its better-known neighbors, Jumilla and Valencia. Alicante has much to offer the wine lover, however, particularly Fondillón, made from monastrell grapes and unique to this DO. Alicante's other wines, particularly its reds, have steadily worked their way up into the ranks of Spain's top-scorers, and the region's award-winning moscatels are also worth trying.
In December 2008, the Navarra DO will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its first constitution. Of course, Navarra has been producing wines for much longer than 75 years. In fact, archaeological finds from the second century B.C. include Roman-era earthenware wine jars. Perhaps the DO should be celebrating its 2,075th anniversary instead.
Cariñena's winemaking heritage goes back a long way. The Romans who built Carae, today's Cariñena, discovered that the local inhabitants mixed wine and mead – a fermented beverage made from honey and water – as early as the third century before Christ. The Romans continued this winemaking tradition, as they did wherever they settled in western Europe.
The Jumilla DO has turned potential disaster into triumph. In 1989 – long after most Spanish wine growers had encountered phylloxera, lost nearly everything, and replanted – the insect finally arrived in Jumilla, with predictable results. As phylloxera spread, grapevines succumbed, and Jumilla's growers had to make some hard choices.