Although best known for its Sherry and Rioja, Spain is currently at the cutting edge of European winemaking. Thanks partly to EU investment, new and exciting regions are now jostling for the lion's share of wine exports ... and Spain's surprisingly crisp, modern dry whites are winning us over too.
Spain has been making wine for over 7000 years and has the world's largest area of land under vine. Importantly, most of these vines are old and generally lower-yielding than those of France and Italy so it produces less wine than either country. Low yields also account for the intense flavors of many Spanish wines.
Rioja still reigns supreme in terms of red wine but other names are coming to the fore. Ribera del Duero is hot on Rioja's heels with juicy, Tempranillo-based wines; while areas such as La Mancha and Jumilla are now producing some of the most exciting and affordable red wines on the market.
Reserva has at least three years' ageing, including a year in oak (six months for white), and Gran Reserva (from top vintages) spends a minimum of two years in barrel and three years maturing in bottle. These are the classic and often the most traditional Riojas, ranking amongst the finest wines in the world.
Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, Viura, Pedro Ximémez, Albariño
Martinez Bujanda, Lustau, Bodegas Primicia, Luis Cañas, Bodegas Muriel
Rioja, La Mancha, Jumilla, Ribera del Duero, Yecla
- Irrigation in wine-growing regions of the EU is not generally permitted, but a 2003 wine law in Spain allowed it on a 'case by case' basis to help winemakers in drought-stricken areas.
- A Reserva is a wine aged for at least three years of which one is in oak barrels, and one in bottle.
- A Gran Reserva is a selected wine aged for at least 5 years - at least two in oak and three in bottle.