Spanish Wines Demystified

Bierzo: Wine on Spain’s Pilgrim Trail

Wines and mines have been part of Bierzo’s history since Roman times.  After the remains of Saint James were discovered in the ninth century, pilgrims, too, became part of Bierzo’s heritage.  In fact, some locals will tell you that the Mencía grapes grown in Bierzo were first brought to the region by pilgrims headed toward the famous cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where Saint James is buried.  Monks who came to Bierzo from France to serve the pilgrims expanded the area’s vineyards.  The history of Bierzo is tied to its vineyards, mineral resources and monastic tradition.

Cava: Spain’s Sparkling Wine Treasure

Even if you’ve never heard of any other Spanish wine, chances are you’ve heard about cava.  This is due to the huge international presence of cava sparkling wines.  Freixenet and Cordoníu are the two best-known producers of cava and both wineries have done a marvelous job of marketing Spain’s sparkling wines outside of their home country.  In fact, Spain exports more than half of the sparkling wines it produces, according to the Peñin Guide to Spanish Wine 2007.

Rías Baixas: Refreshing Wines From Northwestern Spain

The weather warms. You dust off your gas grill. It’s time to start thinking about wines for summer. Albariño wines from Rías Baixas are a perfect choice.

Wine writer Hugh Johnson calls Rías Baixas Galicia’s best DO. Recently, the DO launched a U.S. marketing campaign. Chances are you’ll see some Rías Baixas wines at your local wine shop, with notes about their refreshing taste and good value.

Vinos de Madrid: Wine Tradition in Spain’s Capital

Madrid is not only the capital of Spain but also one of Europe’s great cultural centers. Tourists flock to Madrid to see its museums and plazas and to enjoy Spain’s famous tapas. Many visitors don’t realize that Madrid has a wine region all its own, the Vinos de Madrid Denomination of Origin (DO).

Spain’s Priorat Wine Region: Small but Mighty

You can hardly find Priorat, or Priorato in Spanish, on a map, it’s so small. This tiny Catalonian wine region covers just 4,151 acres – Rioja, in comparison, is over 150,000 acres in size – but Priorat’s impact on the world of wine is large.

Toro: Spain’s Up-and-Coming Wine Region

Last week, LVMH, owner of Moët Hennessy, Louis Vuitton and many other famous luxury labels, announced that it has purchased Bodega Numanthia Termes. The Toro winery will be in good company – Moët Hennessy also owns Dom Pérignon, Veuve Cliquot and many other well-known wine brands.

Numanthia Termes commands high prices for its top wines, and with good reason.

La Mancha: Spain’s Largest Wine Region

Let’s face it, when you hear someone say, “La Mancha,” you think of windmills – and a certain self-styled knight – rather than wine. It’s time to connect this region’s name not only to Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel but also to La Mancha’s wines. After all, La Mancha isn’t just Spain’s largest wine region, it’s the largest in the world.

The La Mancha DO covers about half of the Castile-La Mancha region, stretching from just east of Toledo south to Puertollano, and east to La Roda.

Rueda: Spain’s Cutting-Edge Wine Region

Rueda wines made news this summer when MSNBC.com’s wine expert, Edward Deitch, recommended a 2006 Rueda Verdejo made by Marqués de Riscal, calling it “top-value”, “easy-to-drink” and “satisfying.” 

Rueda, a DO since 1980, is located in northwestern Spain, in the Castilla y León region. The Duero River flows through Rueda’s northwestern corner. Several tributaries branch off from this important river, providing, through their flooding, soils that are excellent for growing wine grapes.

Rioja: Spain’s Flagship Wine Region

A Proud History
Spain’s most famous wine region has been producing wine since at least the 9th century. Because monastic communities throughout Europe made wines and other products to sell, Spanish monks were Rioja’s first large-scale wine producers. As early as the 17th century, Rioja’s local winemakers began to work together, establishing the Royal Economic Society of Rioja Winegrowers to promote their interests. This tradition continues today with the Control Board of the Rioja Designation of Origin, the governing body of Rioja’s Denominacíon de Origen Calificada (DOCa).

Spanish Wine Varietals

Just as Spain has 68 wine regions, so, too, does it boast dozens of grape varieties. In fact, the Peñín Guide to Spanish Wine says that Spain has 50 native varieties, not including international grapes such as chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon.

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