Wines produced in Spain have long been known around the world, although not all have enjoyed a good reputation throughout recent years. Spain has more than 1.17 million hectares of vineyards and this has earned it to the honour of being the nation which has the most widely planted wine producing areas, however in terms of production, it only ranks 3rd in the world following France and Italy. The main reason for this is because the old vines are widely spaced and only produce low yields due to the infertile and dry soil which is found in so many of Spain’s wine producing regions.
Spain has many native varieties of grape, and there are more than 400 different grape varieties planted across the country. Despite this, 80% of wine produced here comes from just 20 different types of grape including the well known red Garnacha, Monastrell and Tempranillo varieties and white Albarino, Palomino, Macabeo and Airen varieties. There are also three types of grape used to make cava – Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo.
The best known Spanish regions for wine production include Ribera del Duero and Rioja, both of which are famous for Tempranillo varieties. Rias Baixas to the north west of Galicia is also known for producing fine white wine from the Albarino grape.
The most prevalent grape variety in Spain is the airen, which is known for its resistance to drop and its hardiness. The wines made using this grape are very high in alcohol and are also prone to oxidation. The next most frequently seen grape is the Tempranillo which comes under a number of local names.
Today’s Spanish wine industry is becoming more modern and this has led to more international varieties of grape being introduced to blends including the ever-popular Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes.