Spain is proud of its wines. With a long history of production and being the country with the largest surface area of vineyards in the world, it has every right to be. The first vineyards date back to 1100 BC and after many, many changes in power since, Spain's wines have gone through numerous challenges to become recognized in today's international marketplace.
For most people, their Spanish wine knowledge ends once you go much beyond La Rioja. Yet more and more, we are seeing the fabulous wines of Spain compete on an international level with the production of newer and bolder flavors and a relative army of talented young wine makers. We wanted to shed some light on a few of the lesser known Spanish wine regions, or Denominaciones de Origen (DOs).
As of 2017, there are 68 different denominations of origin in Spain, and 2 "qualified" denominations of Origen (DOCa / DOQ), so we have our work cut out for us with regards to getting to know them! Let's look at a few of the lesser known ones.
The DO Empordà is a terrific example of a dynamic, newly developed, underappreciated Spanish wine region. The region encompasses multiple areas of northern Spain's province of Girona, hugging the French border, to the terraced outskirts of Cadaqués, to the rugged shores of the Costa Brava. Although wine making in this area dates back to the Greeks, the DO was founded in 1972 as DO Ampurdán - Costa Brava, but at the time was known only for inexpensive bulk wine destined for beach goers. It wasn't until the early 2000s that there was a notable change in the wine region and we saw many new artisan producers pop up that valued quality over quantity. Many of these new produces valued old vine wine productions and quality wine techniques recognized in other parts of the world (i.e. usage of controlled fermentation and modernized equipment). These days the Empordà is better known for high quality wines, many of which wine international awards year after year.
The DO Alella is the smallest denomination of origin in Spain and is the closest wine region to Barcelona. With only 8 producers in all, this region is increasingly making waves and producing more and more extraordinary wines. The protagonist grape varietal of this region is the native Pansa Blanca (aka Xarel.lo in the rest of Catalunya) and makes lovely whites and cavas. Alta Alella, one of the most developed and top producers in the region, has played a large role in this development as its prestigious sweet wine, Dolç Montaro, is showcased in some of the finest restaurants in the world. These restaurants include Ell Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Fat Duck in London, Alain Ducasse in Paris, Lung King Heen in Hong Kong, and The Stamford in Singapore.
Last, but not least, is a the very little known region of DO Vinos de Madrid. Many Spanish people don't even know this region exists and makes such stellar wines. Located in three subzones (Arganda, Navalcarnero, and San Martin) which surround the Spanish capital, this region contains around 50 different wineries. The first vines in Madrid date back to the 13th century and when Madrid was named the capital of Spain 200 years later, production increased rapidly. Now there is a new generation of wine makers in the area that are playing around with fantastic whites made from the local white varietal Albillo and great fruit forward reds made from both red Grenache and Tempranillo.
This post has merely scratched the surface. Spain's wines are only improving and becoming increasingly more interesting as time goes on. Now is a wonderful moment to come visit Spain's vineyards and tour around the country tasting it's great wines.