Wine Regions of Spain
All the world’s greatest wine regions share one aspect in common: they are married to a grape or grapes that ripen slowly and exhibit differentiated and sometimes fascinating flavors in differing microclimates within that region
We cannot accurately measure the role of the slow maturation in the development of the greatest wines, although there is no doubt. For wines, Spain can rely on some strong attributes and not the least: the vast variety of grapes, the sun, the altitude, the proximity to the sea and the ocean, the different types of soils, and finally the extraordinary capacity of adaptation and the evident ingenuity exhibited by winemakers to the many challenges they have managed to tame for thousands of years until today. It is through different climatic zones that we will have you to discover the wine in Spain in all its flavors.
The northern and northwestern portion of Spain, exposed to the northern Atlantic, can be cool to cold, wet, and green—thus its name, España Verde. The sheltering fortification of the Cordillera Cantábrica, looming above Rioja, is unavailable to much of Green Spain as it stretches from Galicia to the Pyrenees. The regions of Ribeiro, Ribera Sacra, Valdeorras, and Bierzo enjoy pockets of protection from the cool, sometimes cold, and often wet coastal influences; Rías Baixas, unfortunately, bears the full force of Atlantic weather. Western Green Spain regions tend to produce high–acid white wines from tart, relatively unripe grapes, while sites in the Pyrenees generate shockingly bracing white wines under the rubric of Txakoli. Continue Reading
The Duero River Valley
The Duero River Valley encompasses the wine production area of Castilla y León vineyards around the River Duero. This is the old seat of Spanish nobility when the Moors still controlled the southern portion of the country, and it extends as far northwest as Bierzo, though that area has more in common with Green Spain than with the rest of Castilla y León. The remarkable Duero River offers shelter to some of Spain’s greatest wine regions. It originates high in the Sierra de Urbión, at the top of the Sistema Ibérico, and 940 kilometers later empties into the Atlantic at Oporto, the city in Portugal that gives its name to a famous fortified wine. If Portugal’s remote Douro River is downriver, then those Duero River Spanish vineyards are very high in elevation indeed. That altitude brings advantages, such as long and cool growing conditions and cool–to–cold nighttime temperatures that preserve acidity, but also disadvantages—there will be vintages in which the wines don’t ripen properly. Continue Reading
The Ebro River Valley
Although the Ebro river actually runs though various autonomous regions from Cantabria to Valencia, the DOs gathered in this macro wine region are mainly located in the provinces of La Rioja, Álava, Navarra, Huesca and Zaragoza.
For now, investments remain focused upon Rioja wine, the traditional area of quality, while others are looking toward Navarra wine, Calatayud wine and Cariñena wine, historically the areas known for quantity. In the foothills of the Sistema Ibérico, the less–known and limestone–rich DOs of Campo de Borja, Calatayud, and Cariñena offer excellent value and sometimes great wines too, if only from a handful of focused producers at the moment. Continue Reading
Almost two-thirds of all Spain’s vineyards are on these arid, lifted plains. Spain’s first three DO Pagos, Dominio de Valdepusa, Finca Élez, and Guijoso, are found in this area, and now there are a total of 14. Why here? The northern portion of the Meseta pitches its arid plateau to the edges of the Meseta Central and the Sistema Ibérico; the vineyards might be hot and dry, but they often lie at high altitudes, and nighttime temperatures can be mild as a result.
For the moment, Airén remains the most widely planted grape at over 70% of the vineyards. In La Mancha, the most extensive wine-growing region in the world, nearly half of the vineyards are not guaranteed to be granted the use of the DO label as they have to comply with strict criteria as set out by the Regulating Council. Continue Reading
The Mediterranean Coast
This massive region spans the eastern coast of Spain from its northern border with France to the border with Andalucía in the south. Within this vast expanse a wide variety of wines are produced, from crisp, fragrant sparkling Cava wines and dry whites to dense and earthy wines made from Garnacha, Cariñena, Monastrell, and more. Here coastal influences prove more significant than the continental extremes of the Meseta. In Cataluña, which occupies triangle-shaped area south of the border with France in Spain’s northeast, elevation as well as proximity and exposure to the sea are crucial to understanding what is made there and why. The vineyards of the area may be fairly moderate and coastal, as in Alella, or remote and mountainous, as in Priorat. This area is home to 95% of the country’s total Cava wine production, but the exotic, powerful, warm and mineral-laden wines of Priorat also are made within its borders.Continue Reading
The ancient lands of southwestern Spain have been planted to vineyards for nearly 3,000 years.
To most visitors, the Sherry wine–producing parts of Andalucía appear as more moonscape than landscape, but the mountains carry other possibilities. With abrupt shifts in elevation, fascinating dessert wines have been produced within areas in Montilla-Moriles and Málaga.
And Andalucía’s most famous wine area, Jerez (Sherry), receives more rainfall than most other parts of southern Spain. That rain is captured by the special limestone–rich soils of the area; they’re called albariza soils, and they bake in the summer sun into a hard crust, trapping cool moisture for the vines’ needs
Spain owns two great groups of islands: the Balearics east of Valencia in the midst of the wide Mediterranean and the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa in the vast Atlantic. The Balearics were a crucial port of call for sailors traveling east or west between Spain and the rest of the Mediterranean. The Canaries were an even more crucial outpost during the long voyages from the Old World to the New. Christopher Columbus’ father–in–law toiled there as a tobacco grower and trader. Balearic wines and the Canary Islands wines are more than curiosities and well worth seeking out. Continue Reading