Rueda has a similar name for white wines to that established by Toro for its reds. The area of 5,700 hectares has become famous since 1980 for its superb white Spanish wines. The area is situated between Valladolid, Seville, and Avila.
The climate here is very continental with treacherous frosts which naturally reduce the output of the vines. The ground is very infertile chalky soil and the vineyards are sited at heights of between 2,296-2,624 feet (700-800 metres). Excellent Spanish wine has been made here for centuries but the arrival of the famous Rioja house of Marqués de Riscal has caused Rueda to make a breakthrough in the international wine market.
Rioja soil and climate
The underlying ground of La Rioja consists largely of a mixture of calciferous and ferruginous clay. There are also alluvial deposits along the banks of the Ebro, while in Rioja Baja there is also sand. The best vineyards are situated at a height of 984- 1,968 feet (300- 600 metres), particularly in the northwestern part of Rioja Alavesa (País Vasco) and Rioja Alta (La Rioja and a small enclave of the province of Burgos). With its heavier soil and lower altitude (a maximum of 2000 feet), which does not provide as much cooling for the grapes, the wine from Rioja Baja is less refined than from the other two Rioja areas. Consequently this Spanish wines from this latter area are ready to drink earlier, therefore more quickly consumed, helped by a relatively cheaper price.
The system is simplicity itself: three rows of casks are piled up on top of each other in each criadera. The name solera is derived from suelo for the wine in the bottom row, which is the oldest of the three. The top row houses the youngest Spanish wine.
As wine is drawn of for bottling this is done from the lowest casks and the space created is then filled by wine from a cask that is one row higher. The space created in this cask is then filled by wine from the next row above.
Somontano is the most surprising part of Aragon for connoisseurs. The Spanish vineyards of Somontano are barely 31 miles (50 km) from the Pyrenees in the province of Huesca. These Spanish wines have been made here for many years for creative French wine traders. No- one had heard of Somontano thirty years ago but today the wines are to be found everywhere with quality ranging from honest and pleasing to superb. The wine-growers of Somontano are not held back by old-fashioned and stifling traditions in wine-making so that they try all manner of experiments. The terroir and climate of Somontano offer excellent prospects for the persistent among the Spanish wine-growers. The best results are achieved with a combination of traditional grape varieties and methods with newer varieties and modern vinification techniques.
The Conquistadors also introduced vines into Argentina in the sixteenth century. The resulting wines were used by Spanish Jesuits for both religious and medicinal purposes.
The industry only acquired its present form in the nineteenth century as a result of a flood of European immigrants who brought better vines with them such as Cabemet, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Syrah, Barbera, and Sangiovese for red wines and Chenin, Riesling, and Torrontés for whites.
The first independent wine houses were established by German, Italian, Spanish, and French immigrants. Argentina's vineyards lie at the foot of the Andes, far removed from the pollution of industrial cities. The climate is continental, being very dry and very hot, verging on desert.
Irrigation with water from pure mountain streams has created the ideal conditions for wine-growing.
In recent years there has been major investment in Spanish vineyards and wineries, and the country’s best wines are now world class. Its reputation has been carved by red wines, perticularly those from Rioja.
Several growers have identified and recognised the importance of old vines, and today these are partly responsible for the super-concentrated and very expresive premium reds.
Spain has more land under vine than any other country. The most important Spanish variety is Tempranillo, closely followed by Garnacha. For white wines, Viura and the ‘workhorse’ Airén are grown widely, whith the fashionable Albariño taking centre stage in Rias Baixas. Not surprisingly, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are planted in the majority of Spanish wine regions, except Rioja. The best Spanish wines are quality graded at Denominacionde Origen, the equivalent of the French ACm and DOCa, a higher-quality grade introduced in 1991, initialy for the wines of Rioja. Although DOCa applies onli to Rioja, regions such as Ribera del Duero, Navarra, Penedes and Priorato are also producing some excellent wines.
In Rioja the wines are made in three districts sub-regions: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta in the highlands and the hot and dry Rijoa Baja. Rioja styles include Joven, Crianza, Reseva and Gran Reserva which is produced in the very best years. Ribera fel Duero, situated at high altitude, is purely a red wine area. It is home to some of Spain’s most sought-after and expresive wines made from the Tempranillo grape, locally known as Tinta Fino.
Navarra, a neighbouring region to Rioja, is home to experimentation with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot often blended with indigenous grapes such as Garnacha and Tempranillo. Spanish and international grapes are planted in the Mediterranean climate of Penedes, Many of the best Cava vineyards are found in this region.
Mostly red wines from Garnacha and Cariñena are grown in the mountainous setting of Priorato. These high-quality, structured wines can be truly exciting.
Portugal is a country concentrating on its amazing range of indigenous grape varieties, especially Toutiga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Trincadeira and Periquta, The regions of the Douro, Ribatejo, Alentjo, and Bairrada set the pace. For the wine consumer willing to try something different, Portugal can hold many a pleasant discovery.
The grape harvest begins each year around 10 September. The grapes are picked by hand because the vines are pruned low to the ground and also because the grapes need careful handling in view of the extreme heat. The pickers therefore use small plastic crates that can each hold 39.683205 pound (18 kg) to bring the grapes undamaged to the press. Some bodegas still use the traditional arroba baskets that hold only 24.250847 pound (11.5 kg). Pedro Ximenez and Muscatel grapes are use for the sweet Spanish wines.
This was the first official DO of the Canary Islands. The territory is situated on the north-western slopes of the extinct volcano of Mount Teide or Pico de Teide (12,198 feet /3,718 metres), where the vineyards are sited on terraces at heights of 656-2,624 feet (200-800 metres).
The climate is sub-tropical but with strong maritime influences. The vineyards in this area received much more water relative to other parts of the Canaries. The soil consists of underlying volcanic layers covered with a red loam interspersed with some chalk.
The winters are mild in the valley but harsher higher up where an almost continental climate rules. The major white grapes of Tarragona are the white Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Parellada, and Garnacha Blanca, with blue Garnacha, Mazuelo (Cariñena), and Ull de Liebre (Tempranillo). Tarragona too is busy experimenting with new varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. The vineyards of Comarca de Falset are restricted exclusively to Cariñena and Garnacha. Six different types of wine are made here. El Camp Blanco and Rosado are dry, fruity wines for every day consumption and these have little to offer except when they are young.J6WAGX3X62Z8
The region of Terra Alta is unfortunately mainly known for the production of wine in bulk. The area seems comparable with Tarragona and the circumstances for wine-growing of Terra Alta are particular suitable for wine-growing. The soil in this fairly inaccessible mountainous area consists of underlying chalk and clay with a deep top layer of poor soil. This Spanish vineyards are situated at an average height of 1,312 feet (400 metres), on ground which is porous and well drained. The climate is continental with slight Mediterranean influences: long hot summers and cold to very cold winters. While the rest of Cataluña is experimenting with new ways and achieving greater awareness of its wines abroad, Terra Alta appears to lag behind. Perhaps the difficult access and remoteness from Barcelona is the cause. Whatever the reason, a substantial start has recently been made to remedy the situation. J6WAGX3X62Z8
We have already dealt with one of the DO regions of Castilla y León with Bierzo. Bierzo is officially one of the five wine areas that form Castilla-León. Our website, seven-wines.com has separated Bierzo (León) from the other areas for both geographical and climatalogical reasons.
The other areas are all situated in Castilla. These remaining four DO areas are sited on the banks of the Duero river (which is known in Portugal as the Douro). The Toro and Rueda DO areas are situated south of Valladolid in a rectangle formed by the towns of Zamora, Salamanca, Segovia, and Valladolid. The Cigales and Ribera del Duero DO areas are found to the north and north east of Valladolid.
This is a DO of the autonomia of Valencia which is situated furthest from the coast. In common with the other two DO areas of Valencia, Utiel-Requena also specialised for centuries in producing bulk wine for the trade. Vast quantities of wine disappeared anonymously into Switzerland, Russia, or central Africa. The Spanish wine of Utiel-Requena (especially the famous Doble Pasta) was sturdy and alcoholic. It was of great service in giving other rather thin European wines some strength and body.
This Spanish wine area lies mainly inland on the border with Castilla y Leon. Most of this Spanish vineyards are in the valley of the Sil. Until recently a heavy dark wine was made here that disappeared anonymously on draught through the local bars. The grape varieties of Godello (white) and Mencía (red) are gradually being restored to their true position of honour and increasing amounts of quality Spanish wine are now being made. The Spanish wine-making installations are greatly improved and the wine-making itself is now far more hygienic.
A quick glance at a wine map of Spain will reveal that Valdepeñas is actually an enclave in the southern part of La Mancha. The traditional trading centre of Valdepeñas lies at the heart of the wine-growing area that bears its name. Valdepeñas is situated somewhat lower than the rest of the Meseta in a broad valley encircled by small hills on the boundary between the Meseta en Andalucía.
The Spanish wine from Valdepeñas, in common with much of the Meseta, was thick, sticky, and very alcoholic. It was as if time had stood still with the same type of wine being produced at the start of the nineteenth century that had been made in Roman times. The wine was stored in huge earthenware jugs or tinajas, often covered by nothing more than a couple of straw mats. When the railway reached Valdepeñas in 1861 it was decided to improve the quality of the Spanish wines. Less wine was made but of better quality and it was sold to wealthy consumers in Madrid, on the coast, and even as far afield as the Americas and the Philippines.
Valencia DO is mainly dependent on export of its wines, chiefly in bulk. The trade is dominated by huge concerns which have specialised in this trade. Medium-sized and small businesses are not important in either their numbers or their volume. Yet a change in affairs seems on the hand now that increasing numbers of bottles of Valencia wine are to be found on the shelves of Spanish supermarkets. This will probably never change the export-led attitude of the big Valencian wine producers, to the sorrow of both the Spanish government and European authorities. There is still far too much mediocre wine produced in Valencia.
The region is subdivided into four sub-areas: Alto Turia (in the north-west of Valencia province), Clariano (in the south of Valencia province), Moscatel de Valencia (in the centre), and Valentino (also in the centre). So far as the geology of the four sub-areas, this is dependent on the contours on which they stand. Alto Turia is the highest and most hilly of the four and its vineyards are situated between 1,312 and 2,296 feet (400 and 700 metres).
Alto Turia Blancos are fresh, light wines made wholly with Mersequera. Valencia and Valentino Blancos are produced from a mixture of Merseguera, Planta Fina, Pedro Ximénez, and Malvasía and are available in seco (dry), semi-seco (medium dry) and dulce (sweet) forms. Clariano Blanco Seco is produced from Merseguera, Tortosi and Malvasía. Drink the dry Spanish wines as an aperitif or with fish and shellfish. The slightly sweeter wine can be drunk as an aperitif if you like that kind of thing. The sweet types are best avoided, or if this is not possible then serve with a fresh fruit salad. You can drink this Spanish wine 46.4- 50.0°F (8-10°C) for seco/semi-seco and 42.8-46.4°F(6-8°C) for dulce wines. Valencia, Valentino and Clariano Rosados are fresh and light and have little to say for themselves. These rosados main contribution to a meal is their discretion. Drink this Spanish wine 50-53.6°F (10-12°C).
Yecla is a relatively small DO surrounding the town of the same name but it is actually an enclave in the much larger area of Jumilla. The smaller bodegas have been busy now for several decades with a policy of change and radical renewal.
The lack of success is not due to either the soil or the climate for these are comparable with neigh-bouring Valdepeñas: chalk with underlying clay and thick surface layer plus the same continental climate with hot summers and cold winters with large temperature range between night and day. The blue grapes used are Monastrell (80%) and Garnacha. Trials are also being carried out with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
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