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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
Priorat is a small wine region in Catalonia in Spain’s northeast corner. The region is known for its esteemed, intensely-flavoured red wines. This mountainside area enjoys long, hot, and dry summers with little annual rainfall. These are ideal grapegrowing conditions for the region’s primary – and late-ripening – grapes: Garnacha (or Grenache) and Cariñena (or Carignan). Almost all Priorat red wines contain some measure of these two grapes. In the best expressions of Priorat wines, expect aromas of red and black fruit, including redcurrant, red plum, black plum, black cherry, and blackcurrant. Toasty notes from new French oak are also often present. On the palate, you’ll find some minerality owing to the local licorella red-slate and mica soils, as well as saline and spice, such as cardamom and cinnamon. The wines are typically deep-coloured, with high tannin levels, moderate acidity, and high alcohol levels (usually 14% or higher ABV).
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