Spain has a long winemaking history and produces many diverse styles of wine, but they can often be overlooked here in the UK where we have so many other options to choose from!
Much of what we drink now comes from the famous Rioja region. Here as in much of Spain the Tempranillo grape variety is king, and comes in many different forms. Some of the reasons for this are Tempranillo’s ability to adapt to different terroirs and the different aging categories found. Spain is unique in terms of wine labelling as producers able to use 1 of 4 legally defined categories to indicate the maturity of the wine – Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. These each have minimum criteria in terms of aging in oak and bottle so can be useful in understanding the style of a wine. You will find these terms used across many other regions of Spain, although the climate and grape varieties may differ, giving you slightly different expressions.
There are many different regions in Spain, each producing wines with unique characteristics. Some produce wines made from Tempranillo (although they may call it something different!) but the climate means the wines are quite different – Ribera del Duero is a great example of this – as a region that is further inland than Rioja it is warmer but with cold nights adding to the concentration and power of the wine. In other parts of Spain other varieties become more important such as Garnacha in Priorat, Mencia in Bierzo or Monastrell in Valencia. And that’s just the reds! You may have heard of Spain’s increasingly fashionable Albarino, but what about Verdejo, Godello or Viura? White winemaking has advanced considerably in the last few year giving us a range of fresh and fruity wines which are immediately appealing.
And while we’re on the topic of recent changes, we can also mention Portugal – long famed for it’s delicious fortified wines but now gaining reputation for it’s unfortified wines too. Portugal has it’s own plethora of regions and grape varieties which deserve attention. From the fresh whites of Vinho Verde and the native varieties such as Viosinho, Arinto, Rabigato; to the intensely flavoured reds of the Douro or the varieties of Touriga Nacional, Baga, Alicante Bouschet; and everything in between, Portugal will definitely surprise you with the range of styles available.
And of course we can’t talk about these countries without a mention of fortified wines. Portugal of course famous for Port wines, all too often relegated to the winter months (port is for life, not just for Christmas folks), and then Spain produces the fabulous Sherry! Although it isn’t as fashionable now as it once was, there are still many type of Sherry available including dry and sweet, fresh and aged styles, which are all at the best when enjoyed with food!
So really there is something for everyone across these two countries, and this is something I am hoping to prove with the 4 Week Spain and Portugal course. If you want to find out what all the fuss is about come and join us!