As we promised, our actual article is about the top Spanish wine regions. Just read the following lines. They believed in it and they succeeded because they understood that the Spanish modernity is happening before their eyes, somehow, with a tribute to the French tradition, based on the concept of thought.
If the traditional system of bodegas -with purchase of grapes for wine growers- remained the rule on the peninsula, pioneers embarked on the philosophy of specified vineyards. Contino is leading the way in Rioja; Granja de Remelluri imposes the notion of castle; the winery Artadi from a cooperative operates the vineyard El Pisón; Martinez Bujanda established vineyard Finca Valpiedra; Miguel Torres had already put forward his vineyard of Mas la Plana, in Penedès.
The bright personality of these wines gives the signal of a “plot in the race” and even the creation of vineyards. Carlos Falcó gave birth to Marqués de Griñón in the mountains of Toledo, soon followed by other adventurers. During this period emerged the most exciting wine experience of the peninsula. René Barbier and his band of buddies, Palacios and others like Pérez, share a small cellar of Gratallops to regain the greatness of Priorat.
We know the success of history, all major Spanish will invest in Catalan shale. At the same time, the banks of the Duero see germinate numerous bodegas trying to compete with the local star, Vega Sicilia, which itself does not hesitate to plant the vineyard Alion.
Even outside DO appellations (denominación de origen), the notion of custom vineyard “pagos” hatched the “raw” in Spanish, able to own their own appellation. Other producers, often the most reputable, choose another path towards the future, while maintaining their role as guardians of the temple. A path based on the selection.
Marqués de Riscal sounded like a thunderclap in the sky a little stuffy in Rioja inventing the very Bordeaux style cuvee Baron Chirel; Marqués de Cáceres had aleady sought the advice of Emile Peynaud, the famous Bordeaux winemaker in the 1980’s to modernize his style. Even Michel Rolland, the most famous French wine expert delivers his advices to Palacio Marqués de Vargas.
The quality of Spanish wines comes not only from talented winemakers and their varied terroirs, but first of all from the country’s wealth in indigenous grapes. If Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah have gained ground, especially in new wine-growing areas and vinos de la tierra (the equivalent of our country wines), indigenous grape varieties are at the top of the vineyard. The tempranillo grape variety in Rioja, is capable of great delicacy, and brings his inimitable fruitiness and freshness. It becomes Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero and Tinto del país in Toro.
Grenache (Garnacha Tinta in red, Garnacha Blanca in white), originally from Aragon, soul of Cariñena, Campo de Borja or Calatayud conquered the French Mediterranean periphery (we find it in Languedoc-Roussillon and in the southern part of the Rhone vineyards) with Carignan (here called Graciano), also from these countries. In the Atlantic part, the Mencia is called into battle for a personality demonstration.
In the south, the Monastrell (Mourvèdre) who gets back to a way of quality from a forgotten time. White varieties are not left out: the Verdejo in Rueda, the Albariño and Godello in Galicia, the Viura or Macabeo (our maccabeu) in Penedès and Rioja and the Palomino, a traditional grape used to prepare Sherry, this white wine mutated with the l’eau-de-vie of wine produced in the south of Spain which ensures the reputation of the city of Jerez. Let’s take an overview of the top 6 Spanish wine regions:
6. Ribera del Duero
One hundred and fifty kilometers north from Madrid, the vineyards of the Ribera del Duero occupies an area stretching from Soria to Valladolid, passing through Burgos. It starts on a marly limestone plateau cut by the Duero and culminating at heights between 700 and 950 meters. The climate here is summarized in one sentence: nine months of winter and three months of hell. A harsh winter followed by a continental summer when water stress is common.
The native grape, Tempranillo, Tinto Fino said, provides quite tannic long-keeping wines, with a slow evolution. This variety is short in flavor and needs wooded casks to develop tertiary notes. Matured for a long time in American oak, the wines -sometimes just by maturity-, were evolving through the sweetness provided by the wood.
Today, with a new generation of producers more attentive to the vine and the maturity of the grape farms fermenting in French oak seem to produce more harmonious wines. The taste of wines from the Ribera is slowly changing. The rise of this vineyard in the 1990s was accompanied by a real transformation. First, the arrival of the Danish Peter Sissek with his famous Pingus gave impetus to the region. It has changed the flavor profile as well as its market value.
5. La Rioja
La Rioja, a unique name for multiple wines. Multiple, because they come from different regions with different climate, altitudes and varied soils. Thus, the alluvial plains are often the cause of simple wines to be drunk while they are young, when poor soils altitude plots give more complex wines destined to the guard.
However, the appellation is classified in its entirety without a hierarchy of areas… The styles of wines are also multiple since the cuvées are numerous and associated with different farms. Rioja is divided into three regions. La Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa covers the western half of the appellation and are dominated by an atlantic climate influence (freshness, humidity). “In the Rioja Alavesa, in the spring and summer, the cold air from the north maintains cool temperatures which prove to be important for tempranillo grape and because thus it matures more slowly and expresses fresher flavors,” explains Jean-François Gadeau, oenologist of the Bodega Artadi (Laguardia).
“ Unique name for multiple wines ”
La Rioja Baja is located in the eastern region of the area and it has a Mediterranean climate (sunshine, heat, drought, marked temperature ranges). Temperatures rise from Haro to Alfaro with prevailing winds from west-northwest (cierzo) and east-south-east (bochorno). Precipitations fall from west to east and the reliefs to the valleys (350 to 500 mm per year).
Altitude decreases from the Rioja Alta to the Rioja Baja with the vineyards often installed between 300 and 600 meters. It also varies from north to south according to the vicinity of the Ebro and the Sierras. So there is a great variability of terroirs, which is due to the altitude, the soils, the rainfall and the exposure to sun and wind.
The appellation is installed between the Sierras Montes Obarenes-Toloño and Cantabria in the north and the mountain ranges of the Demanda y Cameros in the south. It is marked by the Ebro River and its tributaries that draw distinct zones.
Without any doubt, Priorat continues to be one of the most advanced designations of the country and one of the most beautiful with its terraced vineyards. Fifteen years have passed since this region has begun its wine revolution. Previously it was known for its wines and rancios Grenache which offered primarily alcohol and color at the expense of fruit and freshness.
Since 1991, the “Clos revolution” (Clos Mogador, Clos Martinet Clos de l’Obac, Dofí Clos, Clos Garsed …), led by the four musketeers of Priorat, René Barbier, José Luis Pérez, Carles Pastrana and Alvaro Palacios, leads to a total change. They rely on schist soils, old vines mostly, and indigenous varieties, Grenache and Carignan (over 70% of the plantations), reinforced with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah initially, later with a little Merlot. By vinification and controlled farms they demonstrate the reality of the potential of this area to the whole world with wines that nobody could recognize.
“ The quality is not always the best ”
Intoxicated by the internationally renowned wines, potential markets and relatively high prices, the Priorat is exploding: many areas are created and the quality is not always the best, even though the prices are astronomical. Many poor wines with too many extracts “disguised” by an excess of wood, without balance or freshness break the potential. “disguised” by an excess of wood, without balance or freshness break the potential.
The best -apart from a few newcomers-, are the pioneers and the old domains. But even they have change their approach, operating a milestone in the development of their wines. Forgotten corpulence and tannin concentration of the first vintages: the search for elegance, finesse, fruit and minerality became a priority. They are still not enough to get there. Clos Mogador and Clos Manyetest are the head of this new philosophy.
The autonomous region of Valencia has 3 DO : Alicante, Utiel Requena and Valencia (75 000 hectares ). This region exports between 50% and 70 % of its production, according to the names. The rest of the bottles is mainly sold on the local market. The 2 major historical varieties of this region are Bobal and Monastrell(Mouverdre).
DO Valencia was created in 1976, it now covers 20,000 hectares and 66 municipalities. This appellation produced mostly bulk wine until late 1980’s. The label decided to modernize the vineyard to allow bodegas to make wines in bottles. From the 1990s through the 2000s, young producers are moving into the area, some are former oenologists from the most prestigious appellations. They will contribute to a qualitatively new impetus in the vineyards.
Wine distilleries appeared in the region in the 15th century. The main variety, Bobal, is known for its resistance to viruses such as phylloxera which contaminated many regions in Europe. The area lies between the Mediterranean coast and the high plateau (La Mancha) from the center of Spain, with a land rich in limestone and poor in organic matter.
The climate is continental with long, hot summers and dry and cold winters. However, the wines are well suited to this climate and there is a certain Mediterranean influence (the sea is 70 km away). The fresh wind called Solano, keeps the relatively warm temperatures. There is little rainfall, only 450 mm per year, and the wines are exposed to about 2800 hours of sunshine a year.
The variety Bobal covers over 75% of the vineyards. The authorized red varieties are Bobal, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The whites are allowed Planta Nova (or Tardana), Macabeo, Merseguera, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
The Designation of Origin Catalonia (approved in 1999) was created to protect the tradition of the development of this wine on the Catalan territory for over 2000 years. Its scope covers various cellars of some 200 Catalan municipalities that produce quality wine, but without specific Origin.
Under this heading are grouped around 4 000 hectares of vineyards spread over the territory. In general, the Mediterranean climate dominates, with many hours of sunshine and not too hot temperature. On these grounds, the vines are grown traditionally. There are 25 varieties of grapes with white grape Grenache blanc, Gewürztraminer, Macabeo and Malvasia and red grapes as Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, and Grenache.
“ The vines are grown traditionally ”
They provide white, rosé and red, but also traditional sweet wines, mistelles, old wine, and sweet. Generally, their production has a modern and innovative aspect, with attractive color, average aromatic intensity and moderate acidity. The whites are light and fruity while the reds powerful and balanced. All these wines can be discovered and tasted during the Mostra de Vins i Caves of Catalonia, held in Barcelona in mid-September.
Many vineyards of the Designation of Origin Catalonia are close to medieval monasteries, like Montserrat, Santes Creus, Poblet and Sant Pere de Rodes. This is due to the fact that often the monks were the ones who held the royal permission to produce wine.
The Roman era was already producing wine in this central part of the province of Tarragona, which enjoys a mild mediterranean climate and a limestone soil and a solid sunshine. The Denomination of Origin Tarragona distinguishes 73 municipalities in two areas of the province: the Camp de Tarragona, composed of Territories of Alt Camp, Baix Camp and Tarragonès and the Ribera d’Ebre.
In the nineteenth century the wines of this region were renamed. In fact, Tarragona Clásico was very appreciated by the English aristocracy. Today, most of the production is in white grapes, with soft and fruity wine characteristics. In general, their wines appear not moderate degree and a Low acidity.
The main grape varieties are Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello, which give very sweet wines and brilliant color. Reds are aromatics, and are essentially made from grapes Cariñena and Grenache. They have a fresh pink and cerise color. Several types of sweet wines as Mistelle, Muscatel and Vimblanc are also produced.
Thank you for joining us for this article about the top Spanish wine regions. If you want to know where else to find really good wines, feel free to check out articles about the best Portuguese, French and Italian wine regions.