Spain is the third largest wine producer, behind Italy and France. The
Denominacion de Origen laws authorize place-names and set quality standards.
Wines from the cooler areas of Northern Spain are lighter; the warmer South
produces wines that are fuller in body. Tempranillo is the major grape for
red wines. Rioja, located North-East of Madrid is the best known table wine
exported. The wines are aged in small oak barrels and carry the following
Crianza - Young wine
Reserva - Aged over 3 years
Gran Reserva - Aged over 5 years.
Hot on Rioja's tail is the Ribeira del Duero region
North-West of Madrid. It is home to the legendary Vega Sicilia and Pesquera.
In the North-West provence of Galicia(close by Portugal) Rias Baixas
produces white wines called Albarino. South-East of Galicia is another white
wine area - Rueda.The major grape is Verdejo. Surrounding the city of
Barcelona in Eastern Spain is the Catalonia region. Penedes reds and
sparkling wines are the stars here. Just South of Barcelona is another hot
area- Priorato, for age worthy red wines. Central Spain (La Mancha) produces
wines for blending. A sub-region, Valdepenas produces red wines also.
Andalusia, in the South is the home to the famed fortified wine(see
Porto-Portugal) Sherry, and the sweet wine - Malaga. Sherries from Spain have
17-22% alcohol, the result of the addition of Brandy to fortify the wine.
Sherry is one of the world's oldest wines, produced in the Jerez de la
Frontera region in Southern Spain since 1000B.C. Sherry's name is derived
from the name of the town-Jerez. Sherry is aged in oak casks of a solera
where the casks are stacked in tiers so their contents are blended with
wines of many different vintages. That is why you rarely see vintage Sherry,
since they are blends. The two principal grape varieties are - Palomino for
dry Sherries and Pedro Ximenez for the sweet varieties. Styles of Sherry
include: Fino - dry and light; Amontillado - moderately dry, medium body;
Manzanilla - The lightest and driest Fino; Oloroso - Gently sweet and
full-bodied; Cream - Sweet and very full-bodied; Palo Cortado - a rariety with
the nose of an Amontillado and the body of an Oloroso; Pedro Ximenez - The
sweetest of the Sherries. The PX grapes are dried in the sun until they
become raisins. The resulting wine is normally used as a sweetening agent in
Crean Sherry. The wines of Montilla, 250 miles to the North-East are similar
to Sherry, except they are shipped unfortified.