Wines regions of Spain
With a long winemaking history and a relatively new entrance in wine production compared to France and Italy, Spain saw an extraordinary level of investment in new and reclaimed vineyards and new bodegas at the end of the 20th century. These steps helped Spain progress by making rapid strides to become a major wine producer in the world. Despite the region’s varied temperatures, its vines’ peculiar geography and heights have resulted in high-quality wine production.
Grape growing in Spain began thousands of years ago
Many archaeologists think that grapes were initially planted in Spain between 4000 and 3000 BC. This predates the wine-growing culture of the Phoenicians, where the trade station of Cadiz in southwestern Spain was created around 1100 BC. The Carthaginians provided new and sophisticated concepts for planting grapes, a people from ancient Carthage in modern-day Tunisia.
Rome conquered Hispaniola following a long series of conflicts, which led to the Roman conquest of what is now Spain. Spain has the most vineyard area globally, yet its climate varies significantly from region to region. The topography of Spain has a significant role in grape cultivation and the type of wine produced; hence understanding Spanish wines necessitates an understanding of the regional topography and climate.
The Rioja Region
The Ebro River valley in northern Spain is home to the Rioja wine area, which spans three autonomous communities: La Rioja, Navarre, and Alava. There are three regions of Rioja: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja, and Rioja Alavesa, which are further subdivided into smaller regions. The Rioja wine is distinctive from region to region due to each of their unique climates.
Rioja Alta is the higher-elevation western sector of Rioja, frequently regarded as the best-quality region for wine production. It is known for its wines with well-balanced flavors and aromas. Alavesa wines have a larger body and more acidity than those from other parts of the area. Rioja Baja is located in the southeast region, where the climate is drier and hotter, resulting in more alcoholic and darker-colored wines. Red, white, or pink Rioja wines often blend various grape varietals (rosado).
- Wine production in La Rioja dates to the Phoenicians Era.
- Rioja wines are branded depending on minimum maturing requirements.
- A red Rioja that is to be branded a reserve must be matured for at least a year in oak barrels and two years in bottles before it can be called such. This region’s winemakers are renowned for keeping their wine longer than necessary before selling it to their clients.
In the early 18th century, Bordeaux-influenced winemakers first used oak barrels to age Rioja wine, giving it distinctive vanilla aromas that have synonymized it with the region ever since.
Aside from Tempranillo, the most regularly planted red grape in the Rioja area, Garnacha, Graciano, and Mazuelo are also frequently used to create Rioja wines. Most Rioja blends are composed of Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Mazuelo, with significantly lesser percentages of Graciano and Mazuelo. Viura, Malvasia, and Garnacha Blanca are this region’s most often cultivated white grapes.
Also read: Wine Guide: Tempranillo
Want to read more? Try these books!
Spain: A unique history by Stanley G. Payne.