Spain wines


Spanish wines (Spanish: vino español) are wines produced in the southwestern European country of Spain. Located on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain has over 2.9 million acres (over 1.17 million hectares) planted—making it the most widely planted wine producing nation[1] but it is the third largest producer of wine in the world, the largest being France followed by Italy.[2] This is due, in part, to the very low yields and wide spacing of the old vines planted on the dry, infertile soil found in many Spanish wine regions. The country is ninth in worldwide consumptions with Spaniards drinking, on average, 10.06 gallons (38 liters) a year. The country has an abundance of native grape varieties, with over 400 varieties planted throughout Spain though 80 percent 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 wine Sherry; 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.
The wine region DOCa Rioja


Spanish wine laws created the Denominación de Origen (DO) system in 1932 and were later revised in 1970. The system shares many similarities with the hierarchical Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) system of France, Portugal's Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC) and Italy's Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) system.
wine regions whose boundaries overlap with other autonomous communities (such as Cava, Rioja and Jumilla) are administered by the Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origen (INDO) based in Madrid. The five-tier classifications, starting from the bottom, include

    Vino de Mesa (VdM)
 - These are wines that are the equivalent of most country's table wines and are made from unclassified vineyards or grapes that have been declassified through "illegal" blending. Similar to the Italian Super Tuscans from the late 20th century, some Spanish winemakers will intentionally declassify their wines so that they have greater flexibility in blending and winemaking methods.[3]
    Vinos de la Tierra (VdlT) - This level is similar to France's vin de pays system, normally corresponding to the larger comunidad autonóma geographical regions and will appear on the label with these broader geographical designations like Andalucia, Castilla La Mancha and Levante.
    Vino de Calidad Producido en Región Determinada (VCPRD) - This level is similar to France's Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) system and is considered a stepping stone towards DO status.
    Denominación de Origen (Denominació d'Origen in Catalan - DO)- This level is for the mainstream quality-wine regions which are regulated by the Consejo Regulador who is also responsible for marketing the wines of that DO. In 2005, nearly two thirds of the total vineyard area in Spain was within the boundaries a DO region.[3]
    Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa/DOQ - Denominació d'Origen Qualificada in Catalan)- This designation, which is similar to Italy's Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation, is for regions with a track record of consistent quality and is meant to be a step above DO level. Rioja was the first region afforded this designation in 1991 and was followed by Priorat in 2003, and Ribera del Duero in 2008.[3]

Additionally there is the Denominación de Pago (DO de Pago) designation for individual single-estates with an international reputation. As of 2009, there were 9 estates with this status.

Spanish labeling laws

Spanish wines are often labeled according to the amount of ageing the wine has received. When the label says vino joven ("young wine") or sin crianza, the wines will have undergone very little, if any, wood ageing. Depending on the producer, some of these wines will be meant to be consumed very young - often within a year of their release. Others will benefit from some time ageing in the bottle. For the vintage year (vendimia or cosecha) to appear on the label, a minimum of 85% of the grapes must be from that year's harvest. The three most common ageing designations on Spanish wine labels are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.[5]

    Crianza red wines are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. Crianza whites and rosés must be aged for at least 1 year with at least 6 months in oak.[5]
    Reserva red wines are aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak. Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.[5]
    Gran Reserva wines typically appear in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years ageing, 18 months of which in oak and a minimum of 36 months in the bottle. Gran Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 4 years with at least 6 months in oak.

Sherry has many categories:

    Fino Sherry is a very light and delicate Sherry. These wines are characterized by flor. It often contains 15 to 18% of alcohol.
    Manzanilla Sherry comes from the Sanlucar district along the sea coast. The sea air leads the Sherry to develop a salty taste. These wines also have flor. This wine is produced using exactly the same process than Fino, but as weather conditions are very different in Sanlucar district it develops into a slightly different kind of wine. It often contains 15 to 19% of alcohol.
    Amontillado Sherry is similar to Fino. However, it does not have as much flor development.It is deeper in colour and drier than Fino and is left in the barrel longer. It often contains 16 to 22% of alcohol.
    Oloroso Sherry is deeper/darker in color and has more residual sugar. It is more fortified, and often contains 17 to 22% of alcohol.
    Cream Sherry is very rich and can be a good dessert-style wine. It often contains 15.5 to 22% of alcohol.
    Pedro Ximénez Sherry is very rich and is a popular dessert-style wine. It's made from raisins of Pedro Ximenez grapes dried in the sun. It often contains around 18% of alcohol.
    Palo Cortado Sherry is very rare, as it is an Oloroso wine that ages in a different, natural way not achievable by human intervention. It often contains 17 to 22% of alcohol.

Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine made in the traditional method of the French sparkling wine Champagne. The definition of Cava is Vino Espumoso de Calidad Producido en una Región Determinada (VECPRD). It originated in the Catalonia region at the Codorníu Winery in the late 19th century. The wine was originally known as Champaña until Spanish producers officially adopted the term "Cava" (cellar) in 1970 in reference to the underground cellars in which the wines ferment and age in the bottle. The early Cava industry was nurtured by the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century, which caused the destruction and uprooting of vineyards planted with red grape varieties. Inspired by the success of Champagne, Codorníu and others encouraged vineyard owners to replant with white grape varieties like Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo to use for sparkling wine production. These grapes are still the primary grapes of Cava today though some producers are experimenting with the use of the Champagne wine grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot noir.



  All three Rioja districts produce a variety of wines varying from the fine vintage kind to what might be called "seconds" or even thirds. This wine-growing region is situated in Northern Spain along the banks of river Ebro. This region is named after tributary of Ebro, Rio oja. It is the Spain's best table wine vineyard. The Rioja is divided in three areas
i Rioja Alta
i Rioja Alavesa
iii Rioja Baja

The first two make better wines. The hotter drier Rioja Baja makes heavier wine, not so good individually, but often useful to add body in a blend with others. The better areas are on either side of the river Ebro and the character of soil is influenced by alluvial deposits of the river, also has calcareous clay. The climate is temperate. Many of Rioja wines have alcoholic content ranging from 14% to 22%. Rioja is famous for red wines although white wine is also produced in this region.
Famous wines of Rioja are
1.    Castle Pomal (Vina Pomal) — Red wine — fruity rich in colour, smooth wine.
2.    Villa Paceta — Red wine
3.    Villa Zaco — White wine.

The vintage year is marked on the labels of Rioja wines as Cosecha. The grape varieties used for making Rioja wines are
i.    Tempranillo
ii.    Garnacha
Quality classification of Rioja wines are
a)    Gran Reserva — The wine which has been aged in wood for 3 years and in bottle for2 years.
b)    Reserva — The wine which has been aged in wood for 2 years and 1 j'ears in bottle.
c)    Sin Crianza — Wines not wood aged, are light fruity, red, crispy rose or zippy white.
d)    Vino De Crianza — Wine aged for minimum of one year in wood and few months in bottle.
e)    Garantia De Origen — No age guarentee is provided. The only guarantee is that it is from Rioja.

Bordeaux and Burgundy type bottles are used for bottling and best had when young i.e. white wine. The red wines are matured for 10 years or more.

II. LA Mancha : 

La Mancha, the home of Don Quixote, is situated in South East of Madrid. It produces white and red DO wines but chiefly known for its red wines. The best known red wine of this region is Valdepenas, which is very often Carafe wine in restaurants, particularly in the South of Spain. It is made light and thin and drunk young, like Beaujolais, although it has none of Beaujolais charm, perfume and taste of grape. Valdepanas means valley of rocks indicating nature of soil. This great plateau provides wine for blending and spirit for making Spanish brandy.
Valdepenas is used for making summer drink called Sangria in Andalucia i.e. Valdepenas with ice and a squeeze of lemon or orange juice some cut up oranges and a handful of white sugar.


 Catalonia produces excellent wines. The Catalonian region includes the province of Tarragona. The most important wine of this district is Priorato, a wine which may be either sweet or dry, golden or deeply red.

the method of making in Tarragonia is very interesting and different, the dry red wine is put into demijohns (large bulbous bottle in wiccker basket) of two gallons capacity, half buried in very fine sand outdoors. a small hole is made in the cork to allow oxygenation to take place and left during spring and summer month in the sun. in this period wine deposit a great deal of colouring matter and mineral salts and when emptied into Bocoyes (casks of about 140 gallons) it attains tawny colour. The wine is kept till next spring and process is process is repeated over three years or more.

Another wine from Catalan district is Alella, and exquisite wine from the Yalleys of Alella in province of Barcelona. Alellas can be white or red, generally white is superior quality. They are rather sweet, go very well with shellfish. Some of the best Barcelona's fish restaurants serve it with bread ass part of cover.

Also from Catalona district is Panades. Panades is dry or sweet white wine. Most of Spain's quality sparkling wines are produced in this region.

IV, Montilla 

Moriles is demarcated area named after two towns south of Cordoba. This area has chalky soil and produces wines similar to Sherries. The wines of this region are fermented in earthenware—Tinajas. Whereas all Sherries are vinified in wood

V. Valencia

 in east is another famous wine growing region—having peculiarity i.e. vintage is only for 3 months i.e. from August to October due to vineyards being near the sea. The white wines of this place are famous and go very well with a local dish called Paella a la Valencia; rice preparation with assorted meat, chicken, fish and seafood.

Vi Navarre

 is located south of Pyrenees. Rose wines are specialty of this place. The best wines come from the Vincola Navarra in Pamplona. The wines of this place are not yet widely distributed outside Spain.

VII. Andalucia

 is famous for Sherry. Sherry is a blend of wines of various years and styles. Blending is designed to ensure uniformity year after year. Since Sherry is a blended wine there are no vintage years. The best Sherry in the world comes from Andalucia in SouthWest Spain. Jerez de la Frontera is the main town. Sanlucar De Barrameda and Puerto de Santa Maria are also important'nearer to the coast. The wine produced in this region can not be duplicated anywhere. Sherry, the name being corruption of Vino De Jerez is strictly, the fortified wine produced in a district in a region Jerez de la Frontera.

Para Los Gustos, Dios Hizo Los Colores (To please our taste, God created colours) say the Andalucians, a proverb which applies to wines of Jerez. For in Sherry as in a rainbow, almost any shade of colour and taste may be found.

The soil in Jerez district plays an important role in determining characteristics of wine. There are three types of soil in the district.
1. Albariza — This is the best soil containing 60 - 80% chalk, clay, magnesium and lime,
2.  Barros — This soil has more clay, contains about 10% chalk, in.
3.Arenas — This soil is sandy, also contains 10% chalk.
In a U-shaped area stretching from Sanlucar De Barrameda at the mouth of river Guadalquivir going up to Guadalette round the coast is a belt of clays and sands. Part of area enclosed in U shape contains best soil Albariza.
The principal grapes used for making Sherry are ;
Pedro Ximenez — is used for making sweet Sherries and blending purpose.
Mantuo Castellano
Mantuo De Pila

Phylloxera Vastatrix destroyed all the vineyards at end of 19th century, since then traditional varieties (local scions) are grafted on American stocks as a protection.
The climate in Jerez la frontera is the hottest in Europe. During the summer months there is hardly any rain, although there are about 20 inches of rainfall in the year.

Manufacturing Process

The vintage starts in about the second week of September. In order to increase the concentrate of juice grapes bunches are put in the sun on Esparto grass mats. The Pedro Ximenez grapes which are used for making sweet sherry and blending are dried for about a fortnight while Palomino grapes for just a day or so.
The, grapes for making sherry are trodden in style not mechanically pressed. They are put in troughs of 2ft deep called Lagares. The treaders (Pisadores) wear cowhide boots with nails for treading. The juice is allowed to flow into butt. The Palomino grapes contain cream of tartar, which is broken down by gypsum or calcium sulphate to form tartaric acid, thus increasing acidity and natural sweetness. The gypsum is sprinkled on grapes in troughs itself.
In the centre of each lagare is a screw press, The crushed grapes and gypsum are shovelled into a pile and covered with esparto grass straps. The men bind their wrists with levers of screw, screwing down the press and squeezing out remaining juice from centre. The juice flows into butts (Casks).
Without delay butts are transported to "Bodega" (above ground wine stores) where they are placed in the open until the first fermentation is completed. This is followed by slow fermentation, which takes about 10 weeks to one year, thus resulting in completion of conversion of sugar into alcohol.
Wine is allowed to remain in casks for three or four year and classified. After that it is racked off the lees into butts that are cleaned, sterilized with sulphur. Now it if ready to be fortified with alcohol.
The development of flor is one of interesting phenomena in Sherry making. It is a pale film on surface of wine even before it is racked off lees.
The appearance of flor prevents oxidation of wine. The flor can be prevented to develop by addition of too much alcohol. If allowed to grow on the wine for years, converts some of alcohols into aldehyde giving a characteristic flavour to Sherry called Fino ,

"blending of Sherry (The Solera System)


Solera is a unique and fractional system of blending. This is the system of blending Sherry whereby old wine is constantly refreshed by addition of younger wine of the same type. This procedure is followed because the wines vary so much from year to year and cask to cask. The casks, which make up solera, were first placed in position in 1872 about more than 120 years ago. During this time casks have remainesinm portion and no cask has ever been allowed to be less than 2/3 full. The earlier criaderas and wine in the final stage of maturity are called soleras. the youngest wine remains in topmost criadera and oldest in the bottom criadera called solera

the number of criaderas or scales in solera will vary from shipper to shipper. the number of tiers in solera may be 7 or 5 or 3 rows high. the word solera comes from suelo (ground) and means butts near the ground.

When sherry is drawn off from the solera, this cask is topped from the number one criadera, which is the next cask back in system. This in turn is topped up from criadera number 2 and so on up the scale until criadera number 7. This is topped up with new wine. The new wine, Vino d'Ananda (single year wine) usually about two years old - is added to a suitable solera.
Never more than half or 1/3", the wine in the oldest tier is ever withdrawn in one single year by law once a solera is started, it can go on forever.
Although all the casks are stacked up high in bodegas, the criaderas do not have to be stacked one above other. It is the order of replenishment that matters, not height. Wines having flor require extra care while being transferred form one stage to other. Occasionally solera is dated such as "solera 1870", it indicates when solera started not vintage.

Vino De Color:

 may be added to make Sherry darker. This is done by boiling Mosto (unfermented grape juice from Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grapes down to l/5th or 1/3  of its original volume.
Vino Dulce : To make the Sherry sweeter vino dulce (PX) may be added. This is made by fermenting Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel juice to 5% abv. then arresting the fermentation by addition of grape brandy.
Dulce Pasa: is made-by adding grape brandy to current pressings of Palomino grape juice and is used to sweeten Sherry.
PX : Pedro Ximenez grapes are dried in the sun till very little moisture is left in them, but they are very sweet and brown. These grapes are then pressed and the resultant juice known as PX is used to sweeten Sherry and darken particularly brown Sherries.
Carmel is also used by some shippers to colour their Sherries.
Fining : The Sherry is fined with egg whites and white Spanish earth called yeso.
Before bottling the wine is tasted in a special cup Venencia from a sherry butt through a bunghole. It was originally made from whalebone with a narrow silver cup fixed to the bottom. The copita is ideal Sherry glass.
Bottling is carried out on bright clear day the wines must have rested quietly for a month after fining.
Sherries like wine are also indigenous to South Africa. Australia and cyprus also produce good quality sherry-like wines.   


Sherries are classified into Finos and Olorosos, i.e. from dry to sweet.


A. Manzanilla: The driest of all is from Sanlucar De Barrameda. This has characteristic flavour, which is attributed to the sea air (where the salt air of Atlantic Ocean has a very definite influence and contributes to wine's fragrance, lightness and slightly bitter tonic undertone. It is paler than Jerez Finos, very dry and very light. If at all butt of Manzanilla is moved to Jerez it will become Fino due to absence of salt air and also because flor being able to grow throughout the year due to mild temperature.
B.Fino : The finos are pale, dry and delicate, but they are not thin (having medium body). It is an elegant wine of Jerez. The Finos develop after appearance of an unusual phenomenon. It is flor, yeast crust which forms on the surface of wine in some casks. The flor has the effect of excluding oxygen from the wine keeping it pale in colour.
C.Amontillado : It is medium dry, full bodied, nutty flavoured. Finos having dark colour with age. The term Amontillado is used somewhat loosely in England to cover blends of Sherry, which generally conform these characteristics.


These are Sherries where flor has not occurred.
A.Amoroso: It is a medium dry golden wine of full body and nuttiness. It may be considered as intermediate all purpose Sherry.
B.Oloroso: A deeper golden wine which can be quite dry but generally fairly sweet,it has full body and is nutty. It has more body and less aroma than Finos.
C. Cream : A rich golden sweet, soft wine of full body.
D. Brown :This is a dark walnut brown, very sweet of full bodied nuttiness.
E.Palo Cortado: These are quite rare and much sought after. They are made from wine which attracted flor originally but which died off early, instead of becoming Fino it becomes an oloroso. These wines are very expensive.
F.Raya : is a lower quality wine and is used to produce cheaper brands. They are made by adding, sweetening or colouring wine. These are often sold as Cream Sherries.


These are old original style dry unblended Sherries. Almacenista means storekeeper. These are Anada Sherry in matured stage. They are being bottled and sold, also exported.

These are wines produced near Cordoba, in Montilla mountains but not shipped as Sherries as per Spanish laws. It is made in similar way as the wine in Jerez except that it is matured in earthenware jars called Tinajas instead of oak butts. It is shipped without additional fortification.

1). Pale dry Sherries like Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado are ideal appetizers before meals or with hors oeuvre or soup.
2)The richer Olorosos can be served after dinner.
3)It can be used in mixed drink like cooler, cobbler or flip.
4)It is an economical wine, as bottle once opened does not deteriorate, can be kept and served some other time.
5)It is used as an accompaniment with shellfish based soups like green turtle soup.

Sherry often deposits a fairly substantial sediment. This is cream of tartar, which is natural to wine. Allow the bottle to stand up for an hour, sediment falls to bottom.


Apart from sherry. Malaga is probably Spain's best known fortified wine. Malaga is a dessert wine from the area of that name on Andalusian coast. It is light or dark brown in colour, very- sweet and delicate, moderately priced. Malaga is made somewhat like sherry, sometimes but not always, blended on a solera system. To the fermented grape juice 5% alcohol is added and it is then enriched with Vino Tierno (a wine made from grapes that have been sun dried) or Vino Maestro (a wine to which alcohol has been added to stop fennatation). Vino De Color is added to increase the body. The wine is racked, fined and blended.


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