Spanish wines are as diverse as the country and Spain is the largest wine producer in the world. It has a varied climate from the “Green Spain” area on its northern Atlantic Ocean/Bay of Biscay coast to the desert climes of Almeria of the south-east, on the Mediterranean Coast.
There are 62 wine regions some of which are internationally famous such as Rioja, Priorat and Ribera del Duero. But there are many other good quality wines from smaller producers. From dark red hefty oak-aged wines to light dry white Fino the country is more than worthy of a vineyard exploration.
Spain has vines growing across most of its vast landscape with 2.9 million acres under the vine from Jerez de la Frontera in the south-west to the north-east Rioja region there is a wine produced to suit all pockets.
In worldwide wine consumption Spain rolls in ninth with an average of 38 litres being drunk per person per year. There are over 600 varieties of vines grown throughout Spain although but only 20 varieties figure prominently: Tempranillo, Albariño, Garnacha, Palomino, Airen, Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo, Cariñena and Monastrell.
Vines have been grown on the Iberian Peninsula from around 4000 and 3000 BC. Later the Phoenicians and Carthaginians added more vine growing areas and brought with them improved methods of production.
During the Moorish rule heavy taxes on alcohol slowed production and exports but with the Reconquest wine-making again flourished both for home consumption and export.
The not so well-known areas of Cava, Penedes, Somontano, Galicia, Rueda and Jerez are well worth a sampling visit. For a heady red wine the famous Rioja wine and area should be the destination, for a muscatel the Costa del Sol or why not try the up and coming Mallorca wines.
For a short do-it-yourself wine tour it has to be the Rioja area where several good cellars or bodegas are open to drop-in. Fly into Madrid, planning on visiting Aranda del Duero, Peñafiel, Pesquera, Soria, Logroño and Haro. A 3 or 4 night trip would be a great start for exploring the red wines of Spain
If sherry is the favourite tipple then the Palomino Fino is the grape to go for which is mostly produced in the sherry triangle around Jerez de la Frontera in Cadiz province. There are many bodegas open here, many are very commercial but nevertheless make an entertaining and enlightening visit. Some even have combined tickets for flamenco shows or Andalusian Horse Events.
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