Having previously worked in a winery here in Spain, I would like to take you on a little journey through the Spanish wine country and help introduce you to some of the worldÂ´s finest, as well as most moderately priced varietals. Unfortunately in the vast world of wine, Spanish wine often is portrayed as cheap and of lower quality, often being dwarfed by regional competitors such as France, Italy, as well as others such as the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. However, this is a very misconstrued conception and if you take some time to research and perhaps even visit some the of the many wineries that are located throughout Spain, I am confident you will come to the conclusion that Spanish wines can compete with any of the aforementioned competitor countries, most often offering high quality that will not break your budget.
An interesting factor regarding Spain is that it dedicates more territorial space to planting than any other country in the world. However, this does not mean that they are the top wine producer, as they still fall behind Italy and France, as the worldÂ´s third largest producer of wine, due in part to lower crop yields and wide spacing between vines. Spanish wines are classified into two categories, which are then further subdivided, in order to reflect not only the quality of the wine, but also the adherence to strict guidelines regarding the production and processing of the wine. Namely, Spanish wine will fall under one of the following two categories: Vino de Calidad Producido en RegiÃ³n Determinada (Quality Wines Produced in a Specified Region or QWPSR) or Vino de Mesa.
Under the first category (QWPSR), you will find Spanish wines further classified as DenominaciÃ³n de Origen de Pago (DO de Pago), DenominaciÃ³n de Origen Calificada (DOC), DenominaciÃ³n de Origen (DO), and finally Vino de Calidad con IndicaciÃ³n GeogrÃ¡fica. Without complicating matters too much, all you need to know is that DO de Pago represents wines, which are produced under the strictest of guidelines and consequently such Spanish wines garner a reputation for extremely high quality. As you go down the scale, the criteria required for obtaining such a classification lessen, however all wines in this category (QWPSR) are of a much higher grade and quality than the wines classified as Vino de Mesa. Vino de Mesa and Vino de la Tierra are "table wines" and "wines of the land," which, although still enjoyable, are more generic and bulk processed, combining grapes from many different regions and thus are of a lower overall quality.
Typical grape varieties used in Spanish wines include Tempranillo, AlbariÃ±o, Garnacha, Xarel.lo, Macabeo, Parellada, Palomino, Airen, CariÃ±ena, and Monastrell. Furthermore, some of the more famous regions within Spain consist of the Priorat & PenedÃ©s regions of CataluÃ±a, Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Jerez, and RÃas Baixas. Personally, I was working in the PenedÃ©s region of CataluÃ±a and one of the unique pleasures to come out of this region is the Cava, which if you have no idea, is the Spanish version of Champagne. Cava actually tends to surprise many people, as firstly they may not have heard of it before and also because it offers a very clean, cool, crisp taste offering notes of fruit and melon, while supplying just the right balance of bubbles.
As there really is so much diversity and uniqueness to be discovered when it comes to Spanish wine, I really invite and encourage you to take a tour of some of SpainÂ´s wineries, as you will be able to discover beautiful landscapes, excellent wines, as well as listen to beautiful stories from the winemakers themselves. In addition, there is truly only one way to learn about wines and that is by tasting them. The winery where I worked for example, in La Granada del PenedÃ©s, is located less than one hour from Barcelona. So if you find yourself staying in apartments in Barcelona, while on a short term holiday getaway, taking a day trip to visit one or two wineries could very well represent an excellent idea, while still allowing you to return to your apartments in Barcelona later in the evening. One thing that you should bear in mind when discovering Spanish wine is that it is just one aspect that makes up the Spanish and Mediterranean culture. Wine is a something that is shared around the table every evening and not solely drunk on special occasions. It is as natural a part of the Spanish lifestyle as olive oil is to Italy. Good food, excellent wine, special company, and lighthearted conversation are all elements that help to form the Spanish culture and this is something, which should also become apparent after passing a brief period of time in Spain.
Finally, I would simply like to say that you shouldnÂ´t be afraid to break away from norm and try out something different. Spanish wines may very well represent exactly what you are searching for in a good quality bottle of wine and I am quite confident that if you take a little bit of time to learn about what makes Spanish wines different from the rest, you will be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Salud!