Spain is among the largest wine producers by volume in the world. As well as being the standard accompaniment to food, wine is also drunk as an aperitif in bars, with tapas, and is also widely used in cooking. Picnics in the countryside are frequently complemented with wine carried in the traditional leather wineskin or bota, which is often seen at popular fiestas and corridas. In certain areas in summer, ordinary red table wine is mixed with soda water or white lemonade to make a more refreshing drink.
   The wine harvest in Spain extends from September to November, and is commonly the occasion of a village fiesta. Although modern coldfermentation methods are employed in the preparation of popular white wines such as those produced by Torres in the Penedès region in Catalonia, traditional methods of vinification are still widely used in other regions, especially for reds. Most of Spain is favoured with a dry climate which protects the bloom on the grape from being washed away by rain in the period before the harvest. The vinification process lasts between ten and forty days, depending on the type and quality of wine, red wines receiving a secondary fermentation to reduce acidity.
   The wine is matured in casks and in the bottle for varying periods, depending on the final quality to be achieved. Vinos de crianza are three-year-old wines, with a minimum of one year in cask for reds and six months for whites. Vinos de reserva are wines in their fourth year, with a similar minimum period in cask, but a longer overall ageing than vinos de crianza. The superior gran reserva wines are laid down from the best vintages, with reds having a minimum age of five years, two in cask and three in the bottle, and whites matured in cask for six months, and at least four years ageing overall. Some of the more famous cellars (bodegas) keep stocks from all their vintages for an indefinite period.
   The Spanish equivalent of the Appellation Contrôlée is the Denominación de Origen (DO) or guarantee of origin, which is regulated by a Consejo Regulador (Regulatory Council), an agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Every autonomous community except Asturias and Cantabria has DO wines, and some have several famous varieties within their boundaries. Andalusia has the Condado de Huelva and Jérez (sherry) labels, as well as similar fortified wines from Málaga, Moriles and Montilla, amounting to a total of 200m litres. Cariñena, from Aragon, is known all over Spain, and the region also boasts Calatayud, Campo de Borja and Somontano. The world-famous Rioja comes from an area which historically lay within the territory of Aragon but now forms a separate autonomía, though the designated wine area overlaps the borders of the provinces of Alava and Burgos, and the autonomous region of Navarre. Northern Navarre also has a DO in its own right, producing wellregarded reds, and is particularly famous for roses. The Basque provinces produce a popular white called Chacolí. New Castile, including La Mancha, has wines of very variable quality, because of climatic differences across the region, probably the largest wine-producing area in Europe, which yields 200m litres. Valdepeñas is one of the most widely drunk wines in Spain, as well as being exported in volume; other labels are Almansa, La Mancha and Méntrida. Old Castile, producing some 12.5m litres, offers, among others, the well-known variety of Ribera del Duero.
   Catalonia, as well as producing much-appreciated wines such as Alella, Ampurdán, Cuenca del Barberá, Penedès, Priorato, Tarragona, Tierra Alta and Segre, is the home of Cava, a sparkling white wine produced by the méthode champenoise. This was formerly known as champán, until European Union regulations restricted the use of the designation. Galicia produces 20m litres, including Rías Bajas, Valdeorras and above all Ribeiro, much appreciated everywhere as an ideal accompaniment to rich Galician cooking. The heady dark red wines of the southeast include the famous Jumilla and Yecla, as well as Utiel-Requena.
   As with other wine-producing countries, the obvious categorizations are white, red (tinto) and rose (rosado or claro). The slightly confusing term clarete refers to a light red table wine. Spanish, however, has an exceptionally wide range of terms to describe different grades of sweetness and strength. A wine with less than three grams of sugar per litre is called seco (dry). The scale runs all the way to dulce (sweet), passing through, in ascending order of sweetness, generoso, generoso seco, abocado, licoroso, semiseco and semidulce. There is a special terminology for sherry: fino and manzanilla are pale, very dry sherries of an alcoholic content of about 15 percent. The stronger, more deeply coloured amontillado is produced by allowing fino to age. Oloroso has a higher alcohol content, and is rich-tasting and medium-dry to medium-sweet.
   See also: agriculture; food and drink
   Further reading
   - Read, J. (1986) The Wines of Spain, London: Faber & Faber (an excellent guide to the topic, illustrated with explanatory photographs showing aspects of vinification).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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