Spanish Wine - Regions and Varietals
Reading the Spanish Wine Label
There are several different classifications of Spanish wines. The highest
quality wines are DOCa, Denominacion de Origen Calificada. Only wines
bottled in the Priorat and famous Rioja regions bear this distinction.
The Consejo Regulador (wine region supervision) decides if a wine meets
the requirements for the next classification, DO, Denominacion de Origen.
Many prestigious and well-known wines fall into this category. DO Pago wines
are produced in one property in a small area. VdIT, VC and VdM are all table
Another thing to look for on the label is the bodega, meaning vineyard, usually
at the top. Next, going from the label's top to bottom, will most likely be the
region the wine is from. Under this will be the grape varietal from which the wine
is made and then the cosecha, or vintage. The joven means the wine is young,
dulce means sweet and cava is sparkling wine. Crianza is a wine aged two years,
with at least six months in oak. Reserva wines are aged three years, with at least
one year in oak. Gran Reserva wines are aged five years with at least two years in oak.
Wine Regions of Spain
The most famous region is Rioja. The wines of this region are aged in American oak
as opposed to French oak. According to the New York Times, the overpowering oak
flavor from American oak truly belongs in wines of Rioja, lending a spicy vanilla flavor.
There are many varieties and production methods from this region, but the red wines
tend to be thick, fruity and creamy.
One of the most affordable regions is Valdepenas. In this area 100 percent Tempranillo
Reserva and Gran Reserva are produced.
The Rueda region produces many fine white
wines and the Navarra region has seen the greatest increase in quality in recent years.
Other regions producing quality Spanish wines include Ribero del Duero, Campo de Borja,
Toro, Ribeiro, Valencia, Priorat and Penedes.
Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible says:
"Spaniards talking about making wine use the term elaborar, to elaborate, not fabicar
to produce or manufacture. To elaborate something, Spain's winemakers say, implies
consciousness, time and the labour of creation and nurturance."
A Quick Tour of the Wine Regions of Spain
Getariako Txakoli, Bizkao Txakoli and Arabako Txakoli
•The Basque country on the Northern coast where the Pyrenees meet the Atlantic
contains three small DO regions Getariako Txakoli, Bizkao Txakoli and Arabako Txakoli.
The local grape varieties Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Beltza and Folle Blanche are
used to make refreshing low alcohol but highly acidic white wines.
•Rias Biaxas is on the Atlantic coast just above the border with Portugal. Here
Albarino is the favoured variety making Spain's best crisp white wines.
•The Rioja region straddles the Ebro River in the northern part of Spain's Meseta or
central tableland. It is Spain's leading wine region producing mainly red wines from the
Ribiera del Duero
•Ribiera del Duero is south of the Rioja along the Duero River. Again the main grape variety
used is Tempranillo, here known as Tinto Fino. Other red wine varieties include Garnacha
(Grenache) and Cabernet Sauvignon which are minor blending partners to the Tempranillo.
This DO boasts Spain's most expensive red wine - Vega Sicilia Unico.
•Also in the North of Spain is the DO of Navarra, named after the province known in English
as Navarre. It is overshadowed by Rioja, it's southern neighbour. Garnacha is the traditional
variety used here but Tempranillo is increasingly used. Red and rose wines are made with
these varieties and some white wines are produced from Macabeo and Chardonnay.
•Penedes to the south-west of Barcelona is best known for the production of Cava, Spain's
sparkling wine. Still white wines made from Chardonnay and other varieties as well as red
and rose wines, often made from Cabernet Sauvignon are also produced here.
•In the South of Spain is Jerez in sun kissed Andalucia is world famous for its sherry.
These beautiful wines are not the only treasure to be found here. Jerez also lays claim
to being the originator of tapas, the delightful small smacks that have taken the world
by storm, and an indispensible accompaniment to sherry.
These are just a few of the sixty or so Spanish wine regions. All are undergoing modernisation
and improvements as they compete in the world market.
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