Monday, January 29, 2007

World Wine Tour: Welcome to Spain

Bien venido a Espana! Welcome to's a little background on this mega-wine producer. We'll introduce some wine reviews later today.

Spain has always produced quality wines, indeed some of the best in the world. The wines of Spain can be divided into several regions, each one very different from the rest. As far as types of wine is concerned, Spain produces about 11 varieties that range from the generous dry wines, through to the sparkling wines, the rose and the valuable gran reservas.
Spain is well known for its wine, best known are the quality reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, reds and whites from Penedes, fine whites from Rueda, "sherries" from Jerez, and a fine sparkling wine known as cava. However, almost every village in Spain produces its own wine, which is red, white, sparkling or sweet desert wine depending on the variety of grapes produced in each area.

Spain has a similar classification system to France and Italy, with all classified wine regions regulated under the Denominación de Origen (DO) system. Red wines are often labelled as Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva. In Rioja and the Ribera del Duero, Crianza wines are two years old, with at least twelve months spent in cask (elsewhere the oak ageing may legally be restricted to just six months). Reservas are three years old (at least one year in cask), Gran Reservas five years old (two in cask, three in bottle).

Here's a list of the major wine producing regions in Spain.

The wines of this Dominación are famous and develop their best as mature quality wines. The following varieties can be distinguished according to their age:
- Vino de crianza is the one aged for at least one year in vats and another year in bottles. It is usually a three-, four- and five-year old wine.
- Vino de reserva is the one aged for at least two years in vats and another in bottles.
- Vino de gran reserva is aged in oak barrels for at least three years and another in bottles in the famous Rioja underground calaos (cellars). These wines are of the best years.
Denominaciones de Origin are Rueda, Ribera del Duero and Toro. They produce reds and light reds with between 13 and 17% alcohol. They mature exceptionally, well for which Bordeaux barrels and underground wine cellars are used. These wines have a limited production and sell at very high prices. Around Rueda very pale and transparent whites of excellent quality and 11.5-14% are produced. Dry, sherry-type wines are also made there.

It's Denominación de Origin includes Rias Baixas, Ribeiro and Valdeorras. They are light, agreeably acid white and red wines with low alcohol content, excellent companions of the typical Galician cuisine.
Denominación de Origen: Navarra. The area basically produces red wines, which at times reach 14.5% alcohol and are perfectly in tune with the heavy cuisine of the region.

Denominaciones de Origin exists for Campo de Borja, Cariñena and Somontano. In this area, the wines are very red with high alcohol content. Their aroma is very concentrated and their taste is powerful, ideal for very spicy meat and heavy dishes

Here the regions with a Denominación de Origin are Ampurdán-Costa Brava, Alella, Costers del Segre, Penedés, Priorato, Tarragona and Terra Alta. There are magnificent reds, whites and light reds in the area, all of which have a long tradition. All of them tend to be drunk young, not more than one or a maximum of two years old, while the alcohol content lies between 11 and 13%.

Has the following Denominaciones de Origin: Jerez-Xèrés-Sherry, Manzanilia-Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Málaga, Montilla-Moriles and Condado de Huelva. Its wines are the most characteristic of the country and internationally the most famous. They are produced by a unique method, since it is not a wine from one particular harvest, but the result of different mixtures made over the years. They are aged in oak vats and have subtle differences, which are classified into ten groups, Fino: straw colored and transparent, dry, light and very fragrant; 15 to 17% alcohol. Amontillado: amber colored; 16 to 18% alcohol. Oloroso: dark gold, powerful to the taste, yet light; 18 to 20% alcohol. Palo Cortado: halfway between amontillado and oloroso. Raya: of the oloroso family, but less fragrant and less strong to the taste. Pedro Ximenez: sweet and very fragrant. Moscatel: sweet raisin wine. Cream: wine produced by adding alcohol to grape juice which has not really begun to ferment. Color: a wine produced by mixing fresh and concentrated grape juice.Manzanilla: A wine produced in the township of Sanlúcar de Barrameda; very pale, very dry, with an alcohol content of 15-17%.

This region includes the following Denominaciones de Origin: Alicante, Valencia, Jumilla, Utiel-Requena and Yecla, which cover quite different wines. Those from Alicante are reds and rosés with a high alcohol content of between 12 and 16%. Those from Valencia are usually white, dry and very fresh. Jumilla wines are typically fruity red, white and rosé wines made from native grape varieties, particularly Monastrell, as well as imported Syrah and Merlot. Yecla has reds, rosés and light reds with between 13 and 15% alcohol and a very pleasant mild taste.

Anyway, there's a rundown of what Spain has to offer...this powerhouse has a wine for every occasion. I encourage you to try as many as you possibly can.

That's all for now. First Spanish wine rating coming later today...stay tuned.

Remember to swirl, sniff and swig. Cheers!

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