Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wines from Spain: a really, really, really short history

In the mid 19th century, Spain's wine grapes were picked unripe, and sometimes red and white grapes were mixed to ferment together. The resulting wines were tart, or "green." To soften them, the prevailing technological innovation, aging in oak barrels, was used. Since that time, the evolution of Spanish wines has grown even more focused upon the aging process.

While the French philosophy for winemaking may be reduced to "terroir" (the special characteristics that geography bestows upon particular varieties), the opposing attitude embraced by Spain has been that of aging as long as it takes to create a smooth wine that is ready to drink.

Crianza - applies to red wines aged for a minimum of 24 months, of which 6 months are spent in oak.

Reserva - red wines that are aged for a minimum of 36 months, to include at least 12 months in oak and the rest in the bottle.

Gran Reserva - red wines aged for a minimum of 60 months, to include at least 18 months in oak.

Since the European Union wines from Spain are classified into two major groups: Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions (QWPSR) and Table Wine (TW).

Top level wines are QWPSR:

Estate Wines (Vinos de Pago) DO Pago designates the estate is a producer of fine wines

Qualified Denomination of Origin Wines - QDO (Vinos de Denominación de Origen Calificada - DOCa)

Denomination of Origin Wines - DO (Vinos de Denominación de Origen - DO)

Quality Wines with a Geographical Indication - VCIG (Vinos de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica) After 5 years on VCIG one may apply for DO status.

The next lowest level of wines are classified as Table Wines:

Country Wines - CW (Vinos de la Tierra - VT)

Table Wines - VDM (Vino de Mesa)

Spains wine regions:
Green Spain
Duero River Valley
Ebro River Valley
The Meseta
The Mediterranean Coast
The Islands

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