Alella is a relatively small Spanish wine-growing area surrounding the town of the same name, slightly north of Barcelona. The area was threatened for many years by expansion of the Catalan capital city. It was only in 1989 that government called a halt to this threat. This Spanish wines of Alella had been granted DO status in 1956 but the area’s history as a wine-growing area date back to the time of the Roman occupation and even earlier. The original wine-growing area surrounded Alella at a height of about 295 feet (90 metres). The soil of these ancient vineyards is mainly sand on underlying granite. The vineyards of Vallès has been officially part of Alella since 1989.
Alicante is the most southerly of the Valencian DO areas. The area under cultivation by vines comprises a fairly large tract of land from the Mediterranean to the foot of the central hills of the Meseta. This region is further subdivided into two sub-areas of La Marina, around Cabo de la Nao inland from Benidorm, and Alicante, around and to he north¬west of the town of the same name. The famous beaches such as Benidorm and Villajoyosa are to be found between these two sub-areas. Oddly enough almost everyone in the world has probably heard of Benidorm but few will have heard of Alicante wine.
Here in Alicante like elsewhere the local growers have been engaged for centuries in the production of wine to trade in bulk, such as the doble pasta wine, a heavy double concentration wine for ‘cutting’ with other wines. Alicante was once famous for its rancio Spanish wine, which sold readily.
Alicante Blancos are mainly made from Merseguera, Macabeo, Planta Fina and (much less these days) Moscatel Romano. These can be dry (seco), medium dry (semi-seco) or sweet (dulce). These Spanish wine are light, fresh, and above all cheap. Alicante’s future will probably lie in the white wines currently being developed that are made with Chardonnay but most of all from Riesling. The initial results, in particular those with Riesling, are astonishing. Drink these white Alicante wines as an aperitif. Drinking temperature for this Spanish wine is 46.4- 50.0°F (8-10°C).
Alicante Rosados are made from Monastrell, Bobal, and Tempranillo. Most of them are seco, but you may also encounter the odd semi-seco rosado. Their combination of freshness coupled with fruitiness and roundness makes them ideal with all fish dishes. Drink this rosado Spanish wine at 50-53.6°F (10-12°C).
Look out for the rare wines made wholly of Chardonnay that are still in the experimental stages, but are extremely delicious. This Spanish wine Chardonnay bouquet by being kept in barrels of French oak for a short time. This adds the slightest hint of vanilla that is detectable in the background. This is a light and elegant Spanish wine that resembles a good Chardonnay from the French Catalan Limoux. Drinking temperature for this Spanish wine 53.6°F (12°C).
This is the most northerly DO of Catalonia, situated at the foot of the Pyrenees, bordering directly with France. The Catalans call this Emporda-Costa Brava. The area is delineated to the north and west by the Pyrenees and to the east and south east by the Mediterranean. Emporda-Costa Brava once produced sweet, syrupy and heavily oxidised wine such as Penedes. Because of dwindling demand for such wines a major changeover started about 25 years ago. Today Ampurdan-Costa Brava produces excellent, modern, light, and above all fresh wines, which are eagerly bought by the holiday-makers that visit the beaches of Costa Brava, but are also increasingly finding their way to wine lovers abroad. The area has held DO status since 1975.
The majority of wines from Ampurdan-Costa Brava are still rosados made with Garnatxa, frequently supplemented with Cariñena. In addition, both white and red Spanish wines are made here and some excellent Cavas. The largest local producers, the Perelada Group (Cavas del Ampurdan and Castillo de Perelada) have advanced and established the Ampurdan-Costa Brava DO over the years. It is due to this group that this DO has become an established name throughout the world. If you visit the region then in any event visit Castillo de Perelada in the the Ampurdan region. The castle of Perelada is the historical and commercial heart of Perelada and it contains very impressive wine cellars that are centuries old, together with a superb glass and wine museum, to view by appointment.
The autonomous region of Aragón is situated between Navarra and Cataluña, covering a large area from the foot of the Pyrenees through to the Sierra de Javalambre, about 31 miles (50 km) north-west of Valencia. The major towns of Aragón are Zaragoza, Huesca, and Teruel. Three of the four Spanish wine-growing areas of Aragón are situated close to each other near the town of Zaragoza; Campo de Borja lies to the west and Cariñena en Calatayud to the south-west in the province of Zaragoza.
Binissalem is relatively small DO area of just 312 hectares on the island of Majorca (Mallorca) in the Balearics, making it the first of DO to gain recognition in the Balearic Islands and moreover the first Spanish DO outside the mainland. Wine-growers have made wine for local consumption in the Balearic Islands for many years. Once these islands became home to the package holidays and Club Med in the 1960s the local wine trade went into top gear. Most of the bodegas are happy with this situation with just a few far-sighted growers believing better results were possible. Their struggle for better quality was rewarded in 1991 with the award of the highly coveted DO status.
Bullas stood waiting at the door for nomination to the elite of Spanish wine-growing as long ago as 1982. Final recognition as a DO territory was not granted though until 1994. The story in Bullas is the same as the rest of the Levante: the demand for good but cheap wine within Spain and abroad was so great that no-one felt much need to try harder. Surpluses were not a problem until the consumer turn increasingly towards quality and away from quantity. Bullas too found times very hard but the crisis now seems to be slowly receding and at least one large bodega is now engaged in the production of wine of acceptable quality.
This DO is certainly the least well-known of the four Aragonese wine-growing regions. This is unjust for although the Spanish wines of Campo de Borja and Cariñena are full and powerful, those of Calatayud exhibit greater finesse and elegance. Because the area is protected in the east by the Cordillera Ibérica and in the north by the Sierra de la Virgen, the climate is more moderate than the previous two areas. This Spanish wines therefore have a better balance between acidity and alcohol.
The Spanish wine-growing area of Campo de Borja borders in its north with the southern tip of Navarra and follows the southern bank of the Ebro in the east. The Sierra de Moncayo forms the western boundary and is also the highest point of the region. This Spanish vineyards are concentrated around the three towns of Ainzon, Albeta, and Borja. The area was only granted DO status in 1980 since when the growers have worked steadily but surely to improve both the quality and image of their Spanish wines. Campo de Borja’s soil chiefly consists of underlying beds of chalk with scattered ironstone which ensures good drainage, overlaid with brown alluvial sand.
The Canary Islands lie off the south-western coast of Morocco, to the south of the Portuguese island of Madeira. The seven large islands and six small ones form two offshore Spanish provinces named after their capital cities: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (the eastern islands of Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote) and Santa Cruz de Tenerife (the western islands of Tenerife, La Palma, Gomera, and Hierro). The largest island is Tenerife and Hierro is the smallest.
Slightly to the south east of Campo de Borja lies the wine area of Cariñena, the oldest DO of Aragón. The recognition was granted as long ago as 1960. The vineyards surround the town of Cariñena in the province of Zaragoza, chiefly in the area between the Sierra de la Virgen and the river Ebro. In common with Campo de Borja, wine-growing originated during the Roman occupation. The present-day town of Cariñena, which derives its name from the Roman settlement of Carae, has been an important centre for both wine-growing and the wine trade since ancient times. The well-known Cariñena grape (known in French as Carignan) gets its name from the town and has spread from its home town via Cataluña to French Catalonia and even to the Rhone valley.
This is an exceptionally elegant pink Cava with a sparkling colour. It has wonderful floral and fruity aromas and is full-flavoured, dry, and fruity. It makes an excellent aperitif.
This is the driest (least sweet) of all Cavas. This type contains less than 6 grams of sugar per litre.
This wine is slightly less dry than the previous one. Although quite a dry wine it is much less so than a French Champagne for example.
Cava Brut is by far the most favourite Cava with non Spanish drinkers. It has 6-15 grams per litre of sugar.
In Spain too, the grapes intended for production of Cava are carefully selected and harvested. The best grapes for making Cava are grown on very chalky soil at a height of between 656-1,476 feet (200-450 metres).
The following grapes are used for the base wine: Macabeo (fruit and freshness), Parellada (floral perfumes) and Xarel-lo (acidity and alcohol). Sometimes a little Chardonnay is also added. For Cava Rosado the grapes used are Carifiena, Garnacha Tinto (Grenache Noir), Tempranillo, and Monastrell. Inland Cavas are usually made from Viura (Macabeo) grapes. Because it can become extremely hot in Spain the grapes for Cava are usually picked early in the morning. This Spanish grapes are pressed as soon as they are brought in from the vineyards.
The juices are transferred to stainless steel tanks where fermentation takes place at a constantly controlled low temperature. After fermentation the wine is rested for a while before being sampled by the cellar master. The best cuvees are selected and blending takes place in great secrecy. This Spanish wine is then bottled and held in enormous cellars for a minimum of nine months but often for longer. During this period a second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Just as with Champagne, Saumur, or Limoux lots of tiny bubbles form.
The bottles, which are stored on racks or rotating pallets, are manually or mechanically shaken to get the floating remnants of unfermented sugars and dead yeast cells to fall to the neck of the bottle. Here too the neck of the bottle is dipped into a special salt solution to freeze the sediment. When the bottle is opened the plug of sediment is forced out of the bottle by the pressure. The wine, which is now clear, is topped up with a liqueur (see main section on sparkling wines) and provided with a cork and retaining wires and cap. The wine is now ready to be shipped to the customers.
More than 90% of all Cava originates from Catalonia, particularly from Penedes. Two major companies control about 90% of the market. Freixenet (which also owns Segura Viudas and Castell Blanch) is the undoubted leader of the export market.
The true market leader though in Spain is Codorniu. Cavas are generally somewhat less dry than French sparkling wines. They have that little bit of Spanish temperament. The price of the top quality Cavas is exceptionally low for their quality but one needs to be careful. Corners are sometimes cut, especially with the nine month 's period of maturing in the bottle.
There have been cases for many years against brands which do not stick to the minimum nine months and whose wine is therefore not permitted to be termed Cava.There are officially only two different types of Cava: white and pink. The white Cava though is subdivided into a variety of different taste types.
Only 15 bodegas bottle Cigales. The area is situated on both sides of the Pisuerga river, between Valladolid in the south and Burgos in the north, with vineyards extending to a mere 2,700 hectares. Cigales has a long history as a supplier of fine rosado wines which were served at the Castilian court in the thirteenth century but it has only enjoyed DO status since 1991. Nowadays there are also excellent red Spanish wines from Cigales.
The climate of Cigales is continental, but there is some influence from maritime winds which result in greater rainfall than the other wine areas of Castilla. The vineyards are sited both in the valley and on the slopes, at a height of 2,296-2,624 feet (700-800 metres).
This Spanish wine region is wedged between those of Tarragona and Costers del Segre. The name ‘Conca’ in this case does not mean shell but combe or cwm, a valley surrounded by mountains. Conca de Barberá and its capital of Montblanc are bordered and protected by three mountain spines: Tallat in the north, Prades to the east, and Montsant to the south. Conca de Barberá’s soil is ideal for the production of the basic grapes for Cava. In recent years more money and time has been invested ii producing both rosé and red Spanish wines. J6WAGX3X62Z8
This is the most westerly DO of Andalucía. This Spanish wine from this area was sold for generations as ‘sherry’ to unsuspecting supermarket customers but since January 1996 only wines from Jerez de la Frontera and Manzanilla de Sanlúcar de Barrameda DO regions may use the term ‘sherry’ both at home and abroad. Since then the bodegas of Condado de Huelva DO have been forced to, take action to get their area better known. The county or condado of Huelva is situated in the province of the same name to the east of Portugal. The area under cultivation by vines comprises the land between the Atlantic coast and the town of Huelva. The vineyards are sited quite low, less than 98 feet(30 metres) above sea- level, on a bed of chalk and alluvial deposits topped with red-brown sand.
The river Segre is a tributary of the Ebro which flows from the Pyrenees through the province of Lleida. The four sub-areas of the Costers del Segre DO are situated on both banks of this river. They are Artesa to the north east of the town of Lleida, Vail de Riu Corb and Les Garrigues, east of Lleida, and the smaller area of Raimat around the village of Raimat, to the west of Lleida. The ground of Costers del Segre consists almost entirely of a sandy soil with underlying chalk. The climate is continental with hot summers and cold winters.
This Canarian DO is in the hands of just one cooperative bodega which has certainly finished with the less glorious past history of wine-making on the island. Through the modernisation and replacement of their wine-making equipment and improved methods of vinification an end has been brought here to dirty, non-sterile, and heavily oxidised wine.
Now they make fine white, rosé and red Spanish wines for local consumption. Traditional wine is still blended from a variety of grapes (white: Listán Blanco (Palomino), Vermejuela, or Bermejuela and Vijariego; rosé and red: Listán Negro or Negramoll. The more modem Spanish wines though are made from a single variety or at most from two. The choice is from the varieties listed above but also includes Pedro Ximénez, Verdello, Breval, Diego, Gual, Malvasia, and Moscatel. Many of the grape varieties used have long since disappeared from the Spanish mainland but they thrive on the volcanic soil.
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