What makes Spanish wine special?
Spain is a big wine-producing country. In terms of pure numbers, it’s got more hectares of vine than any other country in the world – close to 1 million at the last count. That means every year it can churn out about 44 million hectoliters of wine – that’s about 6,000 million bottles to you and me.
But beyond the stats, what is it about Spain that makes it special?
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For us, one of the key things is diversity.
First of all there is diversity of landscape. Remember, Spain is a very high country. It’s average altitude of 600 metres above sea level makes it the second highest country in Europe just behind Switzerland. That means you’ll find grapes growing in all sorts of different places and different types of soil: from high up at above 1,500 metres in the Canary Islands, to right down by the seashore in Galicia.
With the challenge of climate change, altitude in winemaking is a good thing. As the temperature drops the higher up you go, planting grapes at higher altitude helps ensure a longer ripening season, which in turn can help make fresher more balanced wines.
Those changes in altitude mean Spanish vineyards can have very diverse climates. From the wet, damp north-west where fighting off fungal diseases like mildew and getting grapes to ripen properly can be a challenge, down to the hot, dry south-east where temperatures over 40ºC can be common in areas of La Mancha or the Levante.
The Spanish wine scene is also a pretty diverse place in terms of its people.
So one really interesting thing here is the number of younger winemakers taking over vineyards and bodegas from their parents or even sometimes their grandparents. Often this is a conscious career choice; as people reject a perhaps more stable job in the city and go back to their family’s rural roots to pursue their winemaking dream.
There are also more women winemakers on the scene now than before. Often they are fighting stereotypes and making some cracking wines, working in areas where perhaps women traditionally haven’t been involved much in winemaking.
Between them, these new winemakers are shaking up the Spanish wine scene. They might be recovering ancient vineyards and native grape varieties, or experimenting in the bodega by reworking traditional practices like fermenting whole bunches or grapes, stalks and all, to get fresher, more complex wines. Or maybe they are ageing their wines in concrete eggs or clay amphorae instead of wooden barrels, or focusing more and more on organic or biodynamic practices.
Wherever you are, there’s a huge amount going on and loads to discover. We hope you’ll join us here at Simply Spanish Wine as we explore the Spanish wine scene.
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