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Spain is definitely one of the new-world players to keep an eye on. It is the land of old-vines, american oak and sherry! The main varieties grown in Spain are Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache) in the reds, and Airén, Viura/Macabeo, Verdejo and Albarino for the whites. Lesser grown whites include Palomino. Other reds successfully cultivated include Carignan, Mourvedre and Mencia.
Although Spain can be quite a warm country, the vast majority of vineyards are 600m or so above sea level, so the cooler nights allow the grapes to develop full colour and acidity.
Rioja is undoubtedly the long-standing king of all the Spanish wine regions, where Tempranillo and Garnacha are commonly blended. However more recently many more regions have come to the forefront of interest. Ribera Del Duero is producing excellent Tempranillo blends rivalling those coming out of Rioja. Jerez in the South is the home of the fortified wine Sherry.
Spanish wine laws created the Denominación de Origen (DO) system in 1932 and were later revised in 1970. These include:
- Denominación de Origen Calificada (formerly called DOCa) Priorat calls itself DOQ for Denominació d'Origen Qualificada in Catalan and has a track record of consistent quality and is meant to be a step above DO level.
- Denominación de Origen (DO)- Used for mainstream-quality wine regions. Nearly two thirds of the total vineyard area in Spain is within the boundaries of a DO region.
- Vino de Calidad Producido en Región Determinada (VCPRD) - This is somewhat of a stepping stone to DO status.
- Vinos de la Tierra (VdIT) - A level similar to France's vin de pays system, where the regions are much larger.
- Vino de Mesa (VdM)- The equivalent of 'table wines' from France or Italy
Toro is a Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP) – protected designation of origin – for wines in the Zamora province in northwestern Castilla y Léon in Spain. The famed Duero River runs through the DOP. Well inland and at elevations ranging from approximately 620 to 750 metres above sea level, Toro enjoys a continental climate, with hot summers, cold winters, and a high diurnal range, with night-time temperatures cooling enough so that grapes retain their natural acidity. A lack of moderating influences, however, means that the area can be susceptible to spring frosts. In the early 1900s, the Phylloxera louse decimated many wine regions in Spain; however, with its sandy soils, Toro managed to avoid this fate and as a result, some plantings are on very old, ungrafted vines, whereas many vines throughout other regions of Spain have since been grafted onto Phylloxera-resistant rootstocks. Toro is primarily a red-wine appellation, and grapes grown here are key to some of Spain’s most prestigious and high-priced wines. The primary grape variety is Tinta de Toro. Some experts believe this grape is a modified form of Tempranillo that has adjusted to the local climate, while others consider it a stand-alone native grape variety of Toro. Toro wines range in style from Joven to Gran Reserva, but no matter the style, by law they must contain at least 75% Tinta de Toro. Generally, however, the best reds are single-varietal, 100% Tinta de Toro; these wines are well-structured and robust with great fruit concentration.
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