In recent years there has been major
investment in Spanish vineyards and wineries, and the country's best
wines are now world class. Its reputation has been carved by red wines,
particularly those from Rioja. Several growers have identified and
recognized the importance of old vines, and today these are partly
responsible for the super-concentrated and very expensive premium reds.
Spain has more land under vine than any
other country. The most important Spanish variety is Tempranillo,
closely followed by Garnacha. For white wines, Viura and the 'workhorse'
Airén are grown widely, with the fashionable Albariño taking centre
stage in Rias Baixas. Not surprisingly, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon,
and Merlot are planted in the majority of Spanish wine regions, except
The best Spanish wines are quality graded
at DO (Denominacionde Origen), the equivalent of the French AC, and DOCa,
a higher-quality grade introduced in 1991, initially for the wines of
Rioja. Although DOCa applies only to Rioja, regions such as Ribera del
Duero, Navarra, Penedes and Priorato are also producing some excellent
In Rioja the wines are made in three
distinct sub-regions: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta in the highlands and the
hot and dry Rioja Baja. Rioja styles include Joven (young and unoaked),
Crianza (twelve months in oak, released in the third years in bottle or
barrica combined, released in the fourth year after vintage) and Gran
Reserva (minimum two years in barrels and three in bottle, may be
released in their sixth year) which is produced in the very best years.
Ribero del Duero, situated at high
altitude, is purely a red wine area. It is home to some of Spain's most
sought-after and expensive wines made from the Tempranillo grape,
locally known as Tinta Fino. Navarra, a neighboring region to Rioja, is
home to experimentation with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot often blended
with indigenous grapes such as Garnacha and Tempranillo.
Spanish and international grapes are
planted in the Mediterranean climate of Penedes. Many of the best Cava
vineyards are found in this region. Mostly red wines from Garnacha and
Cariñena are grown in the mountainous setting of Priorato. These
high-quality, structured wines can be truly exciting!
Portugal is a country concentrating on its
amazing range of indigenous grape varieties, especially Touriga Nacional,
Tinta Roriz, Trincadeira and Periquita. The regions of the Douro,
Ribatejo, Alentejo, and Bairrada set the pace. For the wine consumer
willing to try something different, Portugal can hold many a pleasant