Wine Regions

  • It is easy to think of these regions as falling into seven basic areas. The first of these is the Northwest. This is the area bordering the Atlantic, essentially from the French border near Biarritz to the Portuguese border. Here the climate is wet and relatively cool, and this area is often appropriately referred to as "Green Spain." The best known DO in this area is definitely Rías Baixas, producing its characterful Albarino, the same grape as Portugal's Alvarinho of Vinho Verde.

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  • South of this area lies the large province of Castile y León, and running through the center of this area is the Duero river, which is the Spanish end of the river that becomes the Douro in Portugal. Rueda is a region where Sauvignon Blanc was introduced to complement the white grape Verdejo. Toro and Cigales are DOs where Tempranillo dominates. All these regions lie along the Duero River.

    As grown in Ribera del Duero, the Tempranillo grape known as Tinto Fino or Tinta del Pais has mutated into a grape that produces significantly more robust, structured wines than those from Rioja. Along with Toro and Priorat, Ribera del Duero wines are some of the biggest red wines from Spain. An apt comparison in style is that Ribera wines show powerful black fruits (blackberries, black currants, black cherries) while Rioja wines express more red fruits (red cherries, wild strawberries, red raspberries) and are a bit softer; Bordeaux as compared to Burgundy. Many Ribera wines that have been exported to the U.S. in quantity have an almost “New World” style (i.e. big, forward fruit and lots of toasty French oak) that has made them easy to understand to wine buyers in the U.S.

    Our winery Numanthia's home is in Toro, a celebrated wine region situated in the North West of Spain in the Castilla y León province, close to the Portuguese border. Known for its long-standing winemaking tradition, references to Toro's vineyards go back to the Ancient Roman times, or more than 2,000 years ago, according to historians. During the Middle Ages, wines from Toro were enjoyed all over Spain. In the age of discovery beginning in the early 15th century, Toro's wines were often taken on board Spanish fleets, where its wines were shipped to Spain's colonial outposts in the New World.

    In the modern era, the Toro DO (Denominacion de Origen) was created in 1933. Toro's DO is crossed by the Río Duero, which also links such great wine-producing areas as Ribera del Duero, Rueda, and the Porto region of Portugal. Currently, almost 14,000 acres [5,500 hectares] are currently planted with vines in Toro.

    Grown since Christians re-conquered the region from the Moors in the late 11th and early 12th century, the DO's principal grape variety is Tinto de Toro (related to Tempranillo). In a climate influenced by the ocean, Toro experiences hot and arid summers and cold winters, with minimal annual rainfall of about 14-to-16 inches [350mm to 400mm]. Toro's best soils for viticulture are composed of very sandy loams on the surface, with moisture-retaining clay below.

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  • East of this region lies the Ebro River valley, made famous by the wines of Rioja. The area produces both red and white wine. The white, made from Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Bianca is much less common than the red, made from a blend dominated by the Spanish variety Tempranillo, along with Garnacha (Grenache), and small quantities of Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan).

    Rioja is divided into three sections; Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. Rioja Alavesa produces the Tempranillo with more fruit, Rioja Alta gives grapes with more structure and Rioja Baja produces mostly Garanacha but more bodegas are obtaining good results with Tempranillo.

    Most Riojas are a blend of grapes from all three subregions. These wines show broad, expressive aromas of red and black cherry fruit with spicy, earthy and leathery notes. The wines were traditionally aged in American oak, and though they sometimes show the telltale dill and coconut aromas typical of these barrels, many Spanish winemakers have noted that aging ripe, spicy Tempranillo in American oak is an excellent combination. In the last 20 years, many Rioja bodegas have introduced more powerful, modern-style wines, some blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, some aged in 100% new French Oak, some made from 100% Tempranillo and perhaps most interestingly, some from single vineyards, as in Burgundy. Other regions in this north central area of Spain include Navarra, Somontano, Calatayud and Campo de Borja. Many of the wines are also blends of Tempranillo and Garanacha.

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  • In the northeast of the country lie several wine producing regions, the best known is Priorat. Grenache is the main grape here, and fantastic wines are produced, with deep, very ripe fruit, full body, supple tannins and generous alcohol.

    In the northeast is also the Penedes region, where most of the Cava is produced in Spain, although technically it can be produced throughout the country provided that the specified winemaking methods are followed. Other regions in the northeast of note are Montsant and Ampurdan-Costa Brava.

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  • The center of Spain is referred to as the Meseta, or "the tabletop," a reference to the elevated plain formed by the area's geology. This is a very hot region, and vast vineyards are planted, especially in La Mancha, although the annual rainfall and vine density are both very low. Some quality producers are now beginning to export their wines, particularly from Valdepenas, but the majority of the wine produced is of less than thrilling quality. East of the Meseta is the Levant, and the same can be said of this vast area. Some quality wines are being made in Jumilla and Yecla, although much of the wine is relatively ordinary in character.

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  • The famous regions of Jerez, Montilla-Moriles, and Malaga are found in the southernmost part of the country. Here the Palomino grape is used for most wines and the Pedro Ximenez grape is cultivated mostly as a sweetening agent, while Moscatel is used to add a grapey character to the nose.

    In Jerez, where Sherry is made, the vineyard areas are classified into Pagos or parcels of various sizes, including Anina, Balbaina, Carrascal, Macharnudo, Martin Miguel, Miraflores, Los Tercios and Torrebreva. The grapes are planted in chalky, limestone-rich soils called albariza that provide the vines with the perfect amount of water in this arid region. Barros is another type of soil, composed mostly of clay with some chalk. These areas are not as well suited to production of fine wines. The final type of soil is called arenas. These areas are very sandy, and are usually planted to Moscatel.

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