Guide to the Wines of Spain
While Spain’s wine history dates back thousands of years, traces of chronological events started with the Phoenicians, who arrived on the coast of Spain in 1100 BC. Fast forwarding to the 18th century, it was the French who generated the turning point in the “modern era” of Spanish winemaking. Due to the arrival of Phylloxera in France, many French wine merchants immigrated to Spain, settling predominantly in Rioja and Penèdes.
Today, Spain has more vineyard area (over four million acres) than any other country, and places third behind Italy and France in terms of volume of wine produced. Since the land is extremely arid, many areas are unable to be planted with vines because they would not receive enough moisture.
Traditionally the wines of Spain were known best within its own borders. Over the past decade steps have been taken to update the appeal of Spanish wine to the rest of the world including renovations of winemaking techniques and the tightening of controls surrounding the wine classification system.
Spain’s four-tier wine classifications include: Vino de Mesa (table wine); Vino de la Tierra (equivalent to France’s Vin de Pays); Denominacion de Origin, or DO (a designated quality-wine region); and DOCa (a classification given only to three regions that are considered to produce the highest quality wines: Rioja in 1991 and Priorat in 2003). Ribera del Duero became DOCa in 2008. In addition to the quality classifications, both DO and DOCa wines distinguish the amount of aging each wine receives before release: Joven, a young wine with little or no barrel aging and Crianza, aged for a minimum of two years, at least six months to one year must be in barrel and one in bottle. Reserva, aged for a minimum of three years, at least one year in barrel and one in bottle and Grand Reserva, aged for five years, at least two years in barrel and three in the bottle.
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