A brief history of the vineyard
In Spain, viticulture is millenary.
It was introduced 3000 years ago by the Phoenicians on the Andalusian coast, which makes Spain the second oldest wine country in Western Europe.
Spain has known successive foreign influences on its territory.
It was the Roman Empire that first structured the Spanish vineyard and made it possible to produce quality, fruity and spicy wines. Then between the 8th and 15th centuries, the cultivation of the vine was abandoned by the Moors. But with the advent of the Catholic Monarchy, wine consumption became a real part of Spanish culture and trade intensified with the discovery of America.
Spain mastered its production four centuries later, with the arrival of Bordeaux wine techniques in La Rioja, and the use of stainless steel vats.
Also, the phylloxera crisis in France in the 20th century led many French winegrowers to find a new home in Spain. Bringing their grape varieties and techniques along.
The Spanish vineyard, affected way later than other European countries by the phylloxera crisis, was mostly saved by the already-known grafting techniques.
Since the 1950s, Spanish wines have gained much quality and a worldwide reputation due to traditional techniques combined with the innovation in winemaking methods.
Extent of the vineyard
In 2015, the Spanish vineyard represented nearly 1,100,000 hectares.
It is the largest vineyard in the world, although the volume of production only reaches 80% of the wine production of countries such as France or Italy.
The main wine regions are
- Rioja region in the Basque country: is among the two Spanish wine regions to benefit from the protected designation of origin “D.O.C.”. It is the land of tempranillo. The main grape varieties are Grenache, Mazuelo, Malvasia or Viura (reds).
- Priorat region, in Catalonia: is the second region to benefit from the “D.O.C.” designation. Located in the mountain range of Tarragona, in the south of Barcelona, this region culminates between 100 and 700 meters above the sea. Grenache and Carignan wines from the region are more concentrated.
- The Penedès region in Catalonia: is among the oldest wine regions in Spain. Cava is produced massively there and many white grape varieties are grown there.
- The Rías Baixas region, in the south of the peninsula: it benefits from an oceanic climate. Around 97% of the region’s vineyards are used to grow Albariño grapes (white).
- The Ribera Del Duero region: holder of the denominación de origen (DO) appellation, this region produces magnificent mature and tannic wines, mostly reds, with Tempranillo grapes in particular.
- Wine region of Jerez, in Andalusia: holder of the appellation denominación de origen (DO), the region produces Jerez wine, and other fortified wines.
Typical grape varieties and wines
There are about 60 recognized D.O. (designations of origin).
Plus, Spain has many indigenous grape varieties.
But the major grape varieties are Tempranillo, Grenache Noir, Graciano, Bobal and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds.
Spain produces fewer white wines, but the best ones come from palomino (Jerez), pedro ximenez (Montilla-Moriles), albarino (Galicia) and vuira (Rioja).