Don Quixote. Tapas. Gaudi and Goya. Spain has left its indelible mark on the senses of our world. From Literature and architecture to artful cuisine and canvas masters, the country has explored creativity and beholden explorers to seek brave new worlds.
And oh so quietly, Spain has searched its own country – for fertile land fit for growing grapes of all varieties (there’s 146 of them.) Perhaps you’ve not noticed – as you browse the local wine shop for French, Italian and American vintages.
Spain has one of the most varied wine cultures on the planet. The Garnacha grape is the most common red grape. Among white grapes, the most popular is Airén, which is also the most commonly grown grape in the world. There are over 650,000 hectares of vines.
The country is best known for its quality reds from Rioja and “sherries” from Jerez. But just wait until you taste the fine whites from Montilla-Moriles and Cava – the Spanish equivalent of Champagne that defies classification.
One can’t just have barrels of wine in their basement, throw a label on a bottle and call it vino. That’s where the DO comes in, or Denominación de Origen. There are 64 across Spain, spanning three types of classification.
Denominación de Origen Calificada: This category originated in 1991 and is the highest quality category for Spanish wine. Only Rioja and recently the Priorat wine region received DOCa status. The wines must be bottled in the wine region.
Denominación de Origen: The second category for Spanish wine is DO. Similar to the French AOC, which includes the most well known Spanish wines, these must meet the requirements of the Consejo Regulador (Supervision of the individual wine regions), who then decides if a winemaker is entitled to use the DO label for his wine.
DO Pago: This wine is made in one property in one small area.
Rail-blazing the Trail
The Spain Wine Trail takes travelers throughout the country, but we’ll be focusing mostly on parts of the route that truly take advantage of train travel. (Which works out well for you. Don’t just swish the wine – drink up!)
In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting delicious rail trips you can take along the Spain Wine Trail. Combining high-speed trains with hot traveler spots, you’ll stop in cities and towns that are also revered for their grapes.
Here’s a taste.
Jumilla DO: Located in the southeast of Spain in the province of Murica and Albacete, the area covers 30,000 hectares. With 44 vineyards, this is primarily the land of the Monastrell grape, which is used to make delicious deep reds.
Navarra DO: This region’s intense, rich reds tend to live in the shadow of the Rioja, but can no longer be overlooked. There are over 120 vineyards producing Garnacha Tinta, Graciano and Tempranillo and even some white wines like the Garnacha Blanca.
Ribera del Duero DO: About 100 miles north of Madrid, the prominent grape is Tempranillo but called Tinto Fino or Tinto de Pais in this region. The most famous stretch of wineries is located here and often referred to as Spain’s Miracle Mile.
Montilla-Moriles DO: In the sumptuous province of Cordoba, this wine region holds over 90 vineyards, which produce over 20 million liters of wine each year. Smack dab in central Andalusia, the cultural opportunities are endless – as are the rail routes to get there.
Rioja DO: This is the king of Spanish wine, created with the Tempranillo grape. The area itself is resplendent, with wineries, architectural wonders and scenic beauty winding along the Ebro River. Rioja also makes some delicious white wines from the Viura and Malvasia grapes. There’s even a world-renowned wine museum in the small Rioja town of Briones – the Dinastia Vivanco Museo de la Cultura del Vino.
To all the oenephiles who want to experience another viticulture, we salud you.
First stop: Jumilla. Stay tuned.