A country often associated with mass tourism and Sangria on the beach can offer the curious traveller a different face, that of wine tourism: Spain
Spain and its wines are ripe for discovery
Spain boasts a myriad of breath-taking landscapes, architecture, tradition and local cuisines. It is also the country that has more vines than any other country in the world and whose vinous output is only surpassed by that of France and Italy. Its varied climate – cool and green in the north, dry and hot inland and its thousands of kilometres of sun-kissed coasts cooled by Mediterranean Sea breezes make it the ideal destination for wine tourism. Spain’s climate and landscape make for dramatic contrasts between wine regions and styles and its innovative winemakers embracing both traditional and state-of-the-art production methods are increasingly crafting world-class wines. Let’s not even mention the amazing range of stunning architecture that ambitious producers are now building to produce and store their wines. Spain is a wine tourism destination that should not be missed.
Sample iconic wines in Rioja
Spain’s arguably top wine region, Rioja, has a winemaking history stretching back, almost unbroken, to the Romans. It was the first region to be awarded DO status and then to be upgraded to the superior DOCa. It’s home to berry-scented red wines produced from Tempranillo and Garnacha, and aged in oak barriques. The preferred oak comes from the United States, which imparts distinctive notes of coconut, vanilla and sweet spice to the wines. Red Rioja comes in a range of styles from Joven and Crianza, through to the more heavily oaked Reserva or Gran Reserva.
Ribera Del Duero taking the world by storm
Long overshadowed by its more famous compatriot Rioja, wines from Ribero Del Duero are garnering increasing international praise. Tempranillo is known here as Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais and produces deeply coloured wines with firm tannic structure and complex aromas of dark berries.
Vines clinging to steep slopes of red slate
One of the most dramatic destinations for wine tourism Spain has to offer is that of Catalonian Priorat. Here old vines of Garnacha and Cariñena hug steep slopes of red llicorella, so sheer in places that it’s difficult to imagine how people could work these old, low-yielding vineyards. It is the only region other than Rioja to possess the coveted DOCa denomination. It has recently risen to fame again thanks to pioneering winemakers rediscovering old vines, but its winemaking history dates back as far as the twelfth century when Carthusian monks established the Priorato dei Scala Dei monastery, whose ruins can still be seen, and planted vines below it.
Blinding white soils and wine cathedrals
Andalusia serves up one of the most historic locations for wine tourism. Spain’s most famous vinous export, Sherry, is produced in the scorched landscape of the ‘Sherry Triangle’ formed by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda. The Palomino Fino grapes are grown in the pale albariza soils – a light-textured mixture of marl, calcium and marine fossils – which are blindingly white in summer. The area profits from the cooling effects of the Atlantic which aids acidity preservation in the grapes and provides natural air-conditioning for the local bodegas, some of which don’t resemble cellars as much as cathedrals, with their lofty, arched ceilings rising high above the soleras of precious sherry ageing in their shade. And sherry is a wine that has more human intervention than most, with some styles maturing for decades in their barrels. Sherry has a whole range of styles to discover and is a true hub for wine tourism.
Spain and its wines are awaiting. Let our local experts at Wine Paths help you discover its hidden depths.
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