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Spanish Wine Academy

10 facts about Spanish wine for budding sommeliers

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From key points in history to regions, grape varieties and inspirational wine lists, here’s our quick guide to Spain for somms in training.

1. A very Old World
The history of wine in Spain dates back at least 3,000 years. In fact, it is thought that vines were growing in the country long before Cádiz was established as a trading post in 1100 BC.

2. Area under vine
Spain has the largest vineyard area of all major vine-growing countries in the world, with around 961,000ha. This is 13% of the world’s vineyards. As the numbers suggest, Spain is a great place for growing grapes, thanks to its geographical location as well as the diversity of soils and weather conditions.

3. The big three
Italy, France and Spain are the three largest wine producing countries. According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), Spain produced 40.7 mhl of wine in 2020 and along with Italy and France is responsible for 53% of world wine production.

4. The main regions
Castilla La Mancha is the region with the largest vineyard area in Spain. In fact, it also boasts the title of the largest wine-growing region in the world, with more than 700,000 ha dedicated to vine cultivation. There are several other important Spanish regions that are distinguished by their quality vineyard plantations and wine production, including Catalonia, La Rioja and Andalusia.

5. Grape varieties to try
Spain is home to around 600 grape varieties, though roughly only 20 are used in the production of the vast majority of wines. For white wines, the Airén variety is the most used in wine production but the most famous for quality wines are Verdejo and Albariño. For reds, Garnacha is one of the most used varieties and it produces quality red and rosé wines. Elsewhere, Cencibel – more widely known as Tempranillo – is popular for making full-bodied wines with a strong red colour.

6. Popular wines to taste
Thanks to the extensive knowledge of viticulture and the development of oenology in Spain, you can find some of the best wines in the world. Wines from the La Rioja region are among the most popular – and most well known. The region’s red and white wines and sparkling wines are widely available both in Spain and throughout the world, and they make up a large percentage of Spanish wine exports. This is mainly due to the excellent combination of quality and price offered by the wide range of wines made in this region. So there is something for everyone.

7. A great country for gastronomy
Spain leads the way in gastronomy and many people flock to its renowned culinary institutes, including the Basque Culinary Center and Ferrán Adriá’s elBulli Foundation. Wines play a great role in gastronomic cuisine, now more than ever. Michelin starred restaurants demonstrate this – for example, one Michelin-starred Venta Moncalvillo won Best Wine List at the International Wine Challenge Merchant Awards Spain 2020 and El Cenador de Amós, which has three Michelin stars, boasts an impressive wine list.

8. Spanish wine consumption
Spain consumed 9.6 mhl of wine in 2020. This is relatively modest in comparison to France, which consumed 24.7 mhl and Italy, where the figure is 24.5 mhl.

9. Designations of Origin
There are 139 official wine designations in Spain, including almost 70 DOs and two DOCas. The two DOCas are Rioja and Priorat.

10. Use learning resources
Bodegas Ramón Bilbao is one of the most prestigious wine brands in Spain and a key reference in Rioja winemaking. To find out more about Rioja and other Spanish regions and their wines, read more articles from Bodegas Ramón Bilbao and The Spanish Wine Academy.

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