Spain is a world class producer of wines both in quality and quantity. The best known reds are from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, reds and whites from Penedes and whites from Rueda. Sherries from Jerez and a sparkling wine known as Cava.
There area hundreds of native varieties of grapes and most wines are produced by mixing a variety of grapes to achieve the required characteristics of colour, alcohol content, balance, aging properties etc.
A lot of the wineries in Spain welcome visitors to look around but it is best to check before you start on a journey.
Rioja, after the area with the small River Oja, is the richest wine-growing region of Spain for table wines. According to its wines the area is divided into three parts: Rioja Baja (the Lower Rioja ) which produces heavy fruity wines with a high alcohol content; Rioja Alta (the Upper Rioja ) which is the area of the great aged and mature quality wines, with a moderate alcohol content. They are very fragrant, of different shades of red and have a balanced, unmistakable flavor.
These wines lend themselves to being aged in oak vats. Young white wines are also produced. Rioja Alavesa produces red wines, which are usually drunk young and have a pleasant trace of acidity. The wines of this Dominación are famous and develop their best as mature quality wines. The following varieties can be distinguished according to their age: Vino de crianza is the one aged for at least one year in vats and another year in bottles. It is usually a three-four- and five-year old wine. Vino de reserve is the one aged for at least two years in vats and another in bottles. Vino de gran reserve is aged in oak barrels for at least three years and another in bottles in the famous Rioja underground calaos (cellars). These wines are of the best years. All these wines are a real treasure of the Spanish cuisine and occupy a place of honour among the most famous table wines in the world because of the environment from which they come and because of the skill and technique that goes into their production.
Denominaciones de Origin are Rueda, Ribera del Duero and Toro. They produce reds and light reds with between 13 and 17% alcohol. Some of them are universally famous: those produced between Valbuena, Quintanilia de Arriba and Quintanilia de 0nésimo. They mature exceptionally, well for which Bordeaux barrels and underground wine cellars are used. These wines have a limited production and sell at very high prices. Around Rueda very pale and transparent whites of excellent quality and 11.5-14% are produced. Dry, sherry-type wines are also made there.
Its Denominación de Origin includes Rias Baixas, Ribeiro and Valdeorras. They are light, agreeably acid white and red wines with low alcohol content, excellent companions of the typical Galician cuisine.
Denominación de Origen: Navarra. The area basically produces red wines, which at times reach 14.5% alcohol and are perfectly in tune with the heavy cuisine of the region.
Denominaciones de Origin exists for Campo de Borja, Cariñena and Somontano. In this area, the wines are very red with high alcohol content. Their aroma is very concentrated and their taste is powerful, ideal for very spicy meat and heavy dishes
Here the regions with a Denominación de Origin are Ampurdán-Costa Brava, Alella, Costers del Segre, Penedés, Priorato, Tarragona and Terra Alta. There are magnificent reds, whites and light reds in the area, all of which have a long tradition. The most sought after are the Penedés and Priorato wines. The former are famous because of their whites and have an alcohol content of between 10 and 13%.
The Priorato wines are probably the ones receiving most skilled attention in the entire country, especially the dark reds which have a velvety flavor and complex aroma.
They are fairly heavy and have high alcohol content. In Tarragona , the most typical ones are white wines, which are appropriate for fish and as aperitifs. The cavas or sparkling wines from Saint Sadurní d'Anoia ( Barcelona ) have developed great quality and are widely found inside and outside Spain .
Denominaciones de Origin includes Mancha, Méntrida, Vaidepeñas and Almansa. This is the great Spanish wine reservoir, which includes the Provinces of Toledo, Ciudad Real , Cuenca and Albacete . In general the wines are very widely drunk and are of good quality: mild, dry, with almost no acidity. The most commonly known are the ones from Valdepeñas, i.e., light reds and whites. All of them tend to be drunk young, not more than one or a maximum of two years old, while the alcohol content lies between 11 and 13%.
Has the following Denominaciones de Origin: Jerez-Xèrés-Sherry, Manzanilia-Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Málaga, Montilla-Moriles and Condado de Huelva. Its wines are the most characteristic of the country and internationally the most famous. They are produced by a unique method, which has something of a miracle about it, since it is not a wine from one particular harvest, as is the rule, but the result of different mixtures made over the years.
They are aged in oak vats and have subtle differences, which are classified into ten groups, Fino: straw colored and transparent, dry, light and very fragrant; 15 to 17% alcohol. Amontillado: amber colored; 16 to 18% alcohol. Oloroso: dark gold, powerful to the taste, yet light; 18 to 20% alcohol. Palo Cortado: halfway between amontillado and oloroso. Raya: of the oloroso family, but less fragrant and less strong to the taste. Pedro Ximenez: sweet and very fragrant. Moscatel: sweet raisin wine. Cream: wine produced by adding alcohol to grape juice which has not really begun to ferment. Color: a wine produced by mixing fresh and concentrated grape juice.
Manzanilla: A wine produced in the township of Sanlúcar de Barrameda ; very pale, very dry, with an alcohol content of 15-17%. The Montilla-Moriles wines come from the Province of Córdoba and, like their neighbors of Jerez , are unmistakable, dry, very fragrant and have high alcohol content. Finally, there are the Moscatels from Málaga, which are warm to the taste and very dark coloured. They are sold under different names: Málaga, Málaga Virgen, Lácrima Christi, Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel.
THE EAST COAST
This region includes the following Denominaciones de Origin: Alicante , Valencia , Jumilia, Utiel-Requena and Yecla, which cover quite different wines. Those from Alicante are reds and rosés with a high alcohol content of between 12 and 16%. Those from Valencia are usually white, dry and very fresh. The Jumilia wines from this Murcia area are easy to distinguish because they are aged in oak barrels, although there are also young wines. In both cases the alcohol content is very high, and they are dark red and thick. Yecla has reds, rosés and light reds with between 13 and 15% alcohol and a very pleasant mild taste.
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