Spanish wines

It is not clear when vines were first cultivated in Spain or who brought winemaking techniques to the Iberian Peninsula. The most likely theory seems to be that vineyards were first cultivated on the southwest coast of Andalusia, which may also have been the entrance point for the first vines reaching the peninsula. This is particularly plausible since the presence of the Phoenicians dates back some 3,000 years and they were well-known for their deeply rooted commercial spirit. By the early Christian era, Spanish wines were one of the most frequently traded products in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Nowadays Spain is one of the greatest producers of wine in the world: It is the world’s biggest country in terms of planted vineyard area, but in terms of production, it is only the 3rd biggest producer. This is due to the very low yields and wide spacing of the old vines planted on the dry, infertile soil found in many Spanish wine regions. When it comes to climate, Spain’s vineyards are characterized by their often extreme climatic conditions. Vines may be found growing in desert or volcanic regions or in landscapes blanketed by snow. They can grow successfully in places with very low annual rainfall, like the central and south-eastern dry regions, or in extremely damp areas like those of north-western Spain, influenced by Atlantic weather. In fact, in some areas the strength of the winemaking tradition is encouraged by the grapevine being the only plant capable of surviving and flourishing in extreme temperatures. Nonetheless, in general terms, vineyard development benefits from a warm and relatively dry environment with plenty of sunlight, long summers, and winters that are not too harsh. But besides these climatic conditions, Spain possesses many vine-growing regions that enjoy special microclimates such as O Rosal, Priorato or Ribera del Duero. These microclimates, together with particular aspects of physical geography grant each area special growing conditions and therefore the resulting wines are marked by a regional or subregional character. The country has an abundance of native grape varieties, with over 600 varieties planted throughout Spain though 80% of the country’s wine production is from only 20 grapes, including Tempranillo, Albariño, Garnacha, Palomino, Airen, Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel•lo, Cariñena and Monastrell. Major Spanish wine regions include the Rioja and Ribera del Duero which is known for their Tempranillo production; Jerez, the home of the fortified Sherry wine. Rías Baixas in the northwest region of Galicia that is known for its white wines made from Albariño and Catalonia which includes the Cava and still wine producing regions of the Penedès as well the Priorat region.