Spanish Wine

Walking Through A Vineyard In The Sierra Nevada
Whilst on a walking holiday in Spain you might be tempted with a glass of local wine with your meal. We have collated some information on spanish wine so can drink with some knowledge!!

A Brief History

Spain is an ancient wine-producing country that vies with France and Italy as the number-one wine producer in the world. Spain’s wine heritage is at least three thousand years old; vineyards in today’s Sherry region were planted by the Phoenicians around 1,100 BC. Wines from vines grown along the sunny Mediterranean coast and the cooler Atlantic coast were traded and consumed by the Romans. But the arrival of the teetotaller Islamic Moors in 711 AD put an end to Spanish wine commerce until the Moors’ final defeat in 1492. With the Iberian Peninsula freed from Islamic rule, wine returned with a vengeance.

But with the limited exception of Sherry, only Rioja enjoyed much international awareness until the late twentieth century. Wealthy producers such as the Marqués de Riscal, Marqués de Murrieta and Vega Sicilia had the wherewithal to produce wines that brought international attention, but Spain mostly operated under the radar, ruled as it was by a military dictatorship until the mid – 1970s.
Spain’s wine heritage is at least 3,000 years old.

Until the end of the Franco regime, winemaking was sometimes typical of a pre-modern age. Grapes might be picked unripe, and red and white grapes could be thrown together into the fermenting pit. Barrels, stainless steel and even sterile wineries were innovations only sparingly used. Leading minds like Miguel Torres pushed the industry forward, but to turn the ship in another direction altogether required time and the efforts of many.

But since the re-emergence of democracy, Spain has grabbed a larger and larger share of the international spotlight. Competing on the world stage has necessitated embracing the most sophisticated techniques both in the vineyards and the wineries, but certain iconoclasts haven’t abandoned the old ways altogether. Indeed, some still produce traditional; both modernists and traditionalists are making great wines.

Spanish labelling laws
Alqueira De Morayma's Bodega

Spanish wines are often labelled according to the amount of aging 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 aging. 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 aging 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 aging designations on Spanish wine labels are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva

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.

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.

Gran Reserva wines typically appear in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years aging, 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.

Spanish Wine Classification

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.

Vino 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.
Vinos de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica (VCIG) - Introduced in 2003, this level is similar to France's defunct Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) system and is considered a stepping 
stone towards DO status. After holding VCIG status for five years a region may apply for 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.

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. In 2008 Ribera del Duero was approved to receive DOCa classification, but acquiring the status was never pursued and Ribera del Duero remains a DO today.

Vino de Pago - Additionally there is the Denominación de Pago (DO de Pago) designation for individual single-estates with an international reputation. As of 2013, there were 15 estates with this status.


Sherry is a heavily fortified wine produced in southern Spain around the towns of Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. In the 1990s, the European Union restricted the use of the name "Sherry" to the wine made from this region. It is mostly made from the Palomino grape, accounting for nearly 95% of the region's plantings, but Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez can also be used. While the wine is aging in the barrel, a naturally occurring yeast native to the region, known as flor, will develop and distinguish certain styles of Sherry. The flor needs fresh wine in order to survive and is added by the use of a solera system that also gradually blends the wines of different vintages together. Palomino wine, by itself, typically ferments to an alcohol level of around 12% with Sherry producers adding brandy to the wine in order to increase the alcohol level or kill the flor yeast which will not thrive in alcohol levels above 16%.

Sherry 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 as 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.

Myths about wine

For some of us, navigating our way around the wine section can be a daunting task.
How are we supposed to know which is the best tipple? Are screw caps a no go? Does price matter? And what about how deep the ‘dimple’ of the bottle is?
Well, luckily for us, some experts have answered all of these questions and more, and decoded some of the biggest myths about one of our most favourite drinks.

Legs = Better quality
People like to swirl their wine and look at how many droplets – or ‘legs’ – ooze down the side of the glass.
The bigger the legs, they say, the better the quality.
As Adrian Smith, a wine columnist for The Independent points out: “In actual fact it’s just a higher concentration of alcohol resulting in the leftover wine sliding down the glass at a slower pace, nothing more."

Screw caps = poor quality
Screw caps have long been looked down upon as cheap plonk.
But although nothing is quite as satisfying as that lovely ‘pop’ as the cork slides free from the bottle, it doesn’t mean the wine is of any better quality.
David Moore, who owns Michelin-starred restaurant Pied a Terre in London, says: “The one great advantage of a screw top is that the wine can’t be corked, this is when the wine is infected and takes a very mouldy smell and taste and can’t happen with a screw top.”

Big dimple = better quality
We’ve all heard it, the deeper the dimple at the bottom of the bottle, the better the quality of the tipple.
Wrong again.
The only thing the deep dimple signifies is that the manufacturer has spent more money on making the bottle.
Expert Peter Mitchell, from Jeroboams in London, says: “A deep punt just means the winery has wasted more money and resources on the glass, what the label tells you is more important than the glass it’s stuck on.”

A silver spoon keeps bubbly fresh
Rumour has it that putting a silver spoon handle first into a champagne bottle will keep it fizzy and cool.
You guessed it, that doesn’t work either.
The best method is to plug the bottle with a stopper with a vacuum seal.
Expert Robin Copestick says: “Keep it cold – it’s more likely to retain some of its fizz and will still be drinkable for a day or two.”

You get what you pay for
Supermarket plonk may not match up to bottles that cost hundreds of euros each, but it doesn’t follow that the more you pay the better the wine is.
Experts advise that spending around 10-13 euros will give you the best quality/value ratio.

Red wine is for cheese
Head sommelier at Sussex’s Gravetye Manor recently told The Independent: “The tannins in full-bodied red wines are not compatible with the protein in milk products, and strong flavoured cheeses don’t need to compete with a full-bodied red wine.
“Dry white wine is often better-suited, or sweet wines can pair beautifully with blue cheese.
“If you’re ever struggling to pair with cheese, the best bet is to go for a wine local to the area the cheese comes from.”

Old wine = better quality
Just because a wine is old, doesn’t mean it will taste good.
Expert Peter Mitchell explains: “Whilst a small percentage of wine does age well it is often not that enjoyable when it is very young, the vast majority of wine today has been made to be ready to drink on release and will not benefit from ageing. Most will keep for a few years if stored properly, but few will be as good, let alone have improved. The ageing process is a little more complicated and primarily depends on the quality of the vintage, the characteristic of the varietal and region of origin or the producer, which isn’t always reflective in the cost of the bottle.”

Sulphites cause hangovers
Sulphites don’t cause hangovers, alcohol does.
Any wine purporting to be ‘hangover free’ because it has low sulphite numbers will still give you a headache in the morning when drunk in excess.
Sulphites stabilise and preserve the wine but do little else.

Red wine doesn’t go with fish
Sure, some white wines pair beautifully with fish, but it’s not a blanket rule that red wine can’t go with the white meat.
It all depends on what fish you are eating.
Experts say a pan-fried salmon pairs wonderfully with a Californian pinot noir, while a meaty swordfish goes great with a glass of Merlot.

No white wines with meat

And while red can go perfectly with a piece of thick meat, it doesn’t mean whites cannot.


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