Rioja is dominated by the Tempranillo grape (Source: Getty)
Spain is the third largest wine producing country in the world and has more area under vine than France and Italy. Cadiz has seen vines cultivated since 3,000 BC.
Since Spain joined the European Union in 1986, it has undergone a huge wine revolution. Spain’s classification system is similar to Italy, labelling wines as Vino de Mesa, Vino de La Tierra, Denominacion de Origen (DO), which represents good quality wines from over 60 indicated Spanish Wine regions. Denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOC) represents the highest quality wines offered from Spain
Rioja is located inland along the River Ebru 200 hundred miles North-West of Barcelona and 150 miles North of Madrid. 75 per cent of the region’s wine is red and is dominated by the Tempranillo grape, which is also known by the names Tinto Fino, Cencibel, Tinto Del Pais, Ull de Liebre in other wine producing regions of Spain. Rioja has some of the most historic and famous bodegas (producers) in the region, including Lopez de Heredia and La Rioja Alta, although modern bodegas have multiplied in recent years.
To the west of Rioja is el Ribero del Duero which uses Tempranillo for its wines (but calls it Tinto Fino). Ribero del Duero is along the Duero River, it has a higher elevation than Rioja and soil very rich in limestone. There is a huge diurnal variance in day and night temperatures. Famous bodegas from this region include Pingus and Vega Sicilia.
Further west is Rueda, which has chalky soil, a continental climate with very cool nights, this keeps the fresh acidity and encourages more intense aromatics. The major grape variety here is Verdejo. Rueda requires a minimum of 50% Verdejo in the blend.
Catalunya or Cataluña is on the Northeast coast of Spain and is home to Priorat/Priorato, which are some of the world’s most collectable wines. The soil in Priorat is called Licorella, composed of slate with lines of quartz. Slate is great for collecting heat and the quartz sparkles in the sun reflecting the heat onto the vine.
The most collectable wines, such as Clos Mogador, Clos Erasmus, and L’Ermita, are full-bodied and juicy, retaining an overt minerality and capable of very long-term aging.