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Spain and Portugal.

This chapter identifies the major wine regions of Spain and Portugal and describes the different types of wine produced in each region. It covers the various microclimates and soil types of the Iberian Peninsula, in addition to the importance of the role played by governmental agencies in the production, promotion, and marketing of wine. Finally, the chapter discusses the position of Spanish and Portuguese wines in the U.S. market today and in the future.



Vinifera grapes first reached the region of Spain in Portugal between 4000 and 3000 B.C., and by the time of the Roman Empire wine has been produced and exported from the two countries in what was once known as Iberia. (The Latin word for the Ebro River in the northeast section of the peninsula was Iberus.) These countries remain important wine producers to this day, Spain ranking third in the world for total production and Portugal eleventh.

Both countries have suffered through natural disasters and political upheaval, all of which adversely affected wine production. By the 1960s and 1970s, the image of wine from the Iberian Peninsula was not one of quality. Spain was known for overoaked reds and oxidized whites, and the production of its most popular wine, the fortified Sherry, was in turmoil. Outside its own borders, Portugal was known only for sweet rose, exported in large quantities by Mateus and Lancer's, and at the other end of the price spectrum, the fortified wine, Port. In the past 30 years both countries have made extraordinary progress in modernizing the production of wine, in upgrading the quality of their table wines, and in increasing penetration into foreign markets. In both countries these improvements have been the result of close collaboration between the private sector and government agencies. The close cooperation among property owners, vintners' groups, national and regional governments, and the European Union will continue to reap impressive results. The story of wine from Spain and Portugal, begun so many thousands of years ago, is still unfolding.


The Phoenicians did not introduce grapevines to the Iberian Peninsula; the vines were already growing there when they arrived around 1100 BC. It was the Phoenicians, however, who engaged in the first commercial winemaking on this vast peninsula. The Carthaginians (named for their home city of Carthage in North Africa) invaded Iberia around 250 BC. They ruled for 200 years, coexisting with the Romans, who had possessions east of the Ebro River. The Carthaginians greatly expanded the production of wine. At one point they were shipping wine to all parts of the extensive Roman Empire. The Romans wrested control of Iberia from the Carthaginians and colonized the whole peninsula under Emperor Augustus in the first century BC. Wine production continued, and Iberian wines were sent as far away as Normandy, England, and even the Roman frontier in Germany. The Roman Empire began its fall in the second century AD. Germanic tribes invaded the peninsula. In the fifth century AD, the Visigoth tribe came to control most of what is now western Spain and Portugal, and established a kingdom there. Records are scarce from this period, but enough have survived to offer proof that viticulture continued under the Goths.

In AD 711 the Visigoth kingdom was overthrown by the Moors, an Islamic tribe from North Africa. The Moors ruled peacefully for over 600 years and did not demand the cessation of viticulture. Even though the Prophet Mohammed forbade the consumption of wine (or any alcohol), the Moors did not impose their ways on the local culture. Wine was taxed, and perhaps the conquerors were wise enough to recognize the need for these revenues. At any rate, Christians and Jews were allowed to continue making and consuming wines under the Moors.


In the early twelfth century, Christians began to rise against the Moors to drive them from the peninsula. During this time, Navarra, Aragon, Castilla y Leon, and Barcelona in Spain were under Christian rule, and in 1136 Portugal declared itself a Christian kingdom. By 1320, Christians were largely successful in their efforts to reconquer Iberia. Only Granada in southern Spain remained under Moorish rule. Between 1300 and 1500, trade with the rest of Europe increased considerably.


In January 1492, Spain became a united Christian country under one crown when the Spanish Army drove the Moors from Granada. In October of that same year, Christopher Columbus discovered the West Indies, opening up a new world for Spanish and Portuguese trade, including wines (Figure 8.1). In 1494, under the arbitration of Pope Alexander VI, the whole of the New World was divided between Portugal and Spain. The entire continent of South America became Spanish, except for Brazil, which became a colony of Portugal.

In 1492 there was yet another historic (albeit very unfortunate) event that affected the wine trade. The Spanish government decreed that all Jews who refused to be baptized as Christians must leave the country. The Spanish Inquisition, although condemned by other Europeans, did open the way for English, Dutch, and French merchants to come into Spain and build up the wine trade. The Spanish wine that attracted the most attention from these foreign traders was Sherry. By the late sixteenth century it was the best selling wine in England. Trade with other parts of Europe also greatly expanded at this time, partly because Spain, through a fortuitous royal marriage, became closely aligned with the Hapsburg Empire. This alignment gave Spanish wine producers access to Holland's exporters and their ships.

Unfortunately, the period of peaceful commercial enterprise did not last. Relations between Spain and England began to deteriorate after Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon in 1533. Tensions escalated into war within a few decades. Trade declined and remained sporadic even after the English defeated the Spanish Navy in 1588. The English imposed heavy excise taxes on Spanish wine, so the Spaniards concentrated on building their wine business elsewhere in Europe and in the New World, while the Portuguese stepped in as primary supplier of wine to England. Unfortunately for the Spanish, their colonies in South America turned out to be a less lucrative market than hoped. Peru and Chile were so successful at viticulture that they were soon meeting all domestic demand for wine themselves and imported very little from Spain.

Demand for wine did pick up throughout Europe during the seventeenth century as the population increased during a time of relative peace. Gradually wine became an integral part of daily life for many Europeans, especially in cities. The increase in sales of Spanish wines into other parts of Europe continued into the eighteenth century. A small portion of Spanish wine was also exported to the British colonies in the New World. By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the Spanish wine trade was well established, both to the domestic market and to export markets. By 1825, for instance, two-thirds of wine imported into England was Spanish, most of it Sherry (Phillips, 2000). During the early nineteenth century, vineyard acreage in Spain increased fourfold. By 1850, wine constituted fully one-third of all Spanish exports.

The lucrative expansion of wine production in Spain was dealt a severe blow with the arrival of the devastating phylloxera. The vine-destroying louse made its first appearance on the Iberian Peninsula in 1878, and by 1901 had spread to the vineyards of Rioja. From there the infestation moved across Spain, and the wine business was decimated. The only positive aspect is that after phylloxera was controlled many inferior vineyards were not replanted to grapevines. Moreover, on the advice of French vintners who had come to Spain after French wine regions were destroyed by phylloxera, many vineyards were replanted, not to the lesser grapes that had been there, but to higher quality varietals.

Spain was unable to continue the improvement of its wine production and its expansion into foreign markets because of the political turmoil created by the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 and the isolation resulting from the dictatorial regime of General Francisco Franco, who ruled the country from the end of the Civil War until his death in November 1975. In the years since Franco's death, Spain has recovered remarkably and is now a thoroughly modern and prosperous nation. As the nation has progressed into the twenty-first century so has its wine trade. The revitalization of the wine industry was due in part to government controls, which were instigated as early as 1926 with the demarcation of Rioja and continued with a nationwide system of quality control laws in 1972. Another factor in the recovery was the introduction of modern technology such as stainless steel fermentation tanks. Spain is now producing a range of table wines, sparkling wines, and fortified wines for which the demand around the world is steadily growing.


The contemporary governments of both Spain and Portugal have been actively involved with bringing their respective country's wine trade into the increasingly competitive international marketplace. The support of the Portuguese and Spanish governments takes three forms.

1. Quality control laws that spell out boundaries of regions, regulate the production and naming of wines, and create regional agencies to oversee production and enforce regulations.

2. With assistance from the European Union, research and development of improved viticultural and enological technologies, and monetary investment in training and physical equipment.

3. National marketing programs that promote their countries as world-class wine regions and assist individual producers to devise sophisticated marketing strategies for foreign markets.

Wine Laws of Spain


As with other countries, Spain has laws controlling wine production. Spain's efforts to control the production of wines and wine regions began in 1926 with the official demarcation of the Rioja region. The process was completed for the rest of the country in 1972 with the passage of legislation that created the Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origen (INDO) and established a system of Denomination de Origen (deh-naw-mee-nah-THYON deh aw-REE-hen), the equivalent of France's appellations d'origines. There are presently 63 DOs in Spain (Figure 8.2). Each of the DOs has its own consejo regulador, the local authority that oversees viticulture, production, labeling, and distribution of wine for that region. The activities of the 63 local consejos reguladores are coordinated by the INDO. The regulations overseen by INDO include boundaries of wine regions, allowed varietals, yield per hectare, pruning and trellising methods, vinification and aging requirements, minimum alcohol content, and labeling information. Furthermore, since joining the European Union in 1986, Spain has had to conform to all regulations of that body that mandate continent-wide standards for winemaking, land use, and marketing and distribution of alcoholic beverages.

Quality Designations of the INDO

Within the Spanish system, all wine regions are designated at one of four levels of quality, and all wines coming from each region carry that same designation. In ascending order of quality the designations are vino de mesa, vino de la tierra, Vinos de Calidad con Indication Geografica (VCIG), and quality wines, which are further subdivided into different levels of quality.

Vino de Mesa

Vino de mesa is basic table wine, the equivalent of France's vin de table. These wines are often blends of various grape varietals, and may come from several different regions. No vintage date is shown, nor may any region of origin be mentioned on the label. Production of vino de mesa is decreasing steadily. However, by 2008 simple table wine made up 54.1 percent of Spain's total production.

Vino de la Tierra (VT)

Vino de la tierra (VT) is a regional wine designation, similar to France's vin de pays, or Italy's Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) designation. There are currently 46 VT-designated regions in Spain, all of them quite large, with diverse growing conditions. Wines at this level must be made from varietals approved for that region and they must reflect the terrior of the region. There are few additional regulations, such as yield, vineyard practices, or aging. Although this category is growing rapidly, as of 2008 still only 7.54 percent of Spain's wine production consisted of VT wines.

Vinos de Calidad con Indicacion Geografica (VCIG)

The designation Vinos de Calidad con Indicacion Geografica (VCIG) was added in 2003, and is similar to France's vin delimite de qualite superieure (VDQS) or essentially a stepping stone from lowly VT status to the highest designation. There are currently six VCIG regions. The wines are made entirely from authorized grape varietals. The grapes are grown within one district and exhibit the character of that district. Once a region has spent at least five years in the VCIG designation, producers of wine in that region can apply for DO status.

Quality Wines

Quality wines are wines from official Denominacion de Origen, made from authorized varietals and vinified and aged according to the regulations of that DO. An additional level of quality was created by law in 1988, when Spain passed a law specifying that the most prestigious wine districts would be designated as Denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOCa), calificado being Spanish for "eminent" or "distinguished." Initially only Rioja was designated DOCa. In 2003 Priorat was also elevated to this prestigious status.

Currently 38.6 percent of Spain's total wine production is at the VCIG or above, that is, DO and DOCa (

The quality level of a DO or DOCa wine is indicated on its label by a term that is based primarily on the amount of aging the wine received. The requirements for aging are spelled out separately for each district. The terms used are Joven, Vino de Cosecha, Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. These terms, especially the latter two, are most frequently seen on bottles from Rioja. It is not unusual to see Spanish wines with no indicating of aging on the label.

* Vino de Cosecha: Vintage wine. At least 85 percent of the grapes used must have been harvested in the year shown. These young wines are offered for sale as early as the spring after harvest. The style is soft and fruity.

* Joven: Joven means "young" in Spanish, and this term refers to wines that are typically less than a year old, and which are given littler or no oak aging.

* Crianza: From the Spanish word for a child's room or nursery, a crianza (kree-AHN-zah) wine is released in its third year, after spending at least 6 months in small oak barrels and an additional two years in the bottle. Some districts specify even more aging. For instance, in Rioja a Crianza wine must receive a full year of oak aging plus the two years in bottle. (Figure 8.2 shows a Crianza wine from the Ribera del Duero region.)

* Reserva: Red wines aged at least three years, with one of those years spent in oak barrels. Most producers of fine reds will exceed the minimum requirements for their reserva (reh-SEHR-vah) wines. There are also stipulations for white wines at the reserva level; however, few of these wines are exported because most consumers outside Spain do not like the oxidized character of these aged whites.

* Gran Reserva: Produced only in the finest years and only with the approval of the local consejo regulador, gran reserva (grahn reh-SEHR-vah) wines must be aged for a minimum of three years in barrels and an additional two years in bottle. Most producers exceed these minimums to give their wines more richness and smoothness. Some Gran Reservas are not released until eight or more years after the vintage year. These reds are wonderfully complex and subtle. Figure 8.3 shows an example of a gran reserva label.

Wine Regions of Spain

The Iberian Peninsula is the westernmost outpost of continental Europe. Its climate is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean Sea to the east and by the Atlantic to the north and west. Four of Iberia's five major rivers, including the Duero/Douro (the Duero is called the Douro once it crosses into Portugal), flow westward and drain into the Atlantic; the fifth, the Ebro, flows southeast to the Mediterranean. Iberia is a large and diverse area, with numerous climatic and cultural differences.

Spain encompasses most of the Iberian Peninsula. This country has 3.5 million acres (1.4 million hectares) of grapevines, more than any other country in the world. Because of a very arid climate in most of the country and a ban on irrigation, yields are very low, averaging 1.4 tons per acre (22 hectoliters/hectare). In the vast central plain and in the southernmost sections, rainfall is minimal and temperatures are high during the long growing season. Only in the north, at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains that separate Spain from France and in Galicia on the northwestern coast, are temperatures more moderate and rainfall adequate. In these cooler regions, the primary grape varietals for white wines are Viura (also called Macabeo), Albarino (ahl-bah-REE-n'yoh), especially prominent in Galicia, and Verdejo. For red wines the most important varietals are Tempranillo (temprah-NEE-yoh), in some regions called Tinto Fino, which is the most widely planted of the quality wine-producing varietals, and Garnacha (gahr-NAH-chah), the Grenache of southern France, the second most planted red varietal. As we move inland and south, conditions are less suited to the early ripening varietals. In the sun-baked Central Plain the drought-resistant white grape, Airen (ahr-yehn), is widely planted, covering three times the acreage of any other varietal. Also widely planted in the Central Plain and even further south is the red grape Monestrell (the Mourvedre of France's Rhone valley). In Spain's warmest and driest section, the southern Andalucfa province, most vineyards are planted to the grapes from which Sherry is made--Palomino and Pedro Ximenez.

Spain is divided into 17 autonomfas, or "autonomous communities," analogous to the 50 states in the United States. Most of these regions have demarcated wine zones, or DOs, within their boundaries (see the map of Spain). The majority of DOs are in the cooler, more humid northern regions. Next, we cover in some detail the most important DOs of the north, then touch briefly on the large central plain before moving to the south, where Spain's famous fortified wine, Sherry, is made.
Figure 8.3

Gran reserva wines from Bodega Montecillo are made from 95 percent
Tempranillo and often receive more than the required three years
of aging in oak.

Reading a Spanish Wine Label

This is the name of the
winery (bodega in Spanish)
that made the wine.
Montecillo is one of the
oldest (founded 1874) and
most respected bodegas in
Rioja. In Portugal the word
for winery or estate is

Gran Reserva: Indicates that this wine
received additional aging. Each DO
region has its own requirements for the
gran reserva and reserva designations.
In Rioja the requirements for gran
reserva are 5 additional years of aging,
3 in oak and 2 in bottle.
Portugal has comparable terms:
Garrafeira signifies a wine with 2 1/2
years in oak casks and 1 year in bottle.
The term reserva on a Portuguese wine
shows that the wine is a garrafeira from
an exceptional vintage.

Seal: The official seal of the local
Consejo Regulador, the agency that
oversees wine production in that
region. The presence of such a seal
from any DO guarantees that the
wine conforms to the regulations of
that region.

Vintage Year: The

Spanish DO laws require
that at least 85 percent of
the grapes be harvested
in that year.

Appellation: Designated
wine region, in this case,

Denomination de Origen (DO):
Spanish term for a defined region that
produces quality wine. Note that in this
case the label says Denomination de
Origen Califacada (DOCa). This is the
highest classification for a wine region.
Rioja is the only region to be granted
this designation thus far.
In Portugal the comparable term for a
designated wine region is
Denominacao de Origem Controlada

Galicia: Rias Baixas, Ribeiro, and Beirzo

The northwest region of Galicia is Spain's coolest and most humid section. The Atlantic Ocean's damp breezes ensure moderate temperatures and plentiful rainfall. As mentioned earlier, the white grape Albarino flourishes in these conditions. Rias Baixas, a DO located on Galicia's coast and named for the oft-flooded, deep coastal valleys (rfas) that extend inland for miles, produces one of Spain's most-sought-after white wines from this grape. Albarino covers 90 percent of vineyard acreage throughout Rias Baixas, even though the DO law allows 11 different varietals. Although Galicians had been making and exporting wine for centuries, after the phylloxera devastation in the late 1900s many of Rfas Baixas's vineyards were torn out. Those that were replanted went to inferior hybrid vines that produced mediocre wine. Fortunately, with advice and financial support from the European Union, many property owners upgraded their vineyards and equipment, and replanted their land to the Albarino grape.

Rias Baixas is divided into three sections. The two southern sections stretch along the river Mino, which separates them from the Portuguese wine region Vinho Verde. The third section is a little farther north and centers on the town of Cambandos on the coast. All three sections concentrate on producing dry white wine from Albarino. The varietal name is usually shown on the label. With bracing acidity, distinctive floral, mineral, and fresh peach aromas, and intense fruit, these are excellent food wines. The wines can be quite expensive because Albarino is such a low-yielding varietal that demand is starting to exceed supply, thus driving up the price. Nonetheless, Albarinos are rapidly gaining favor in the American market.

The DO Ribeiro extends along the Mino River (ribeiro means "riverbank" in Spanish). It also concentrates on white wine. The small quantities of light-bodied red wine (primarily Garnacha) are mostly consumed locally. After phylloxera wiped out Ribeiro's vineyards, most farmers chose to replant with Palomino, a grape from the south used to make Sherry. It was totally unsuited to the cool maritime climate of northwest Iberia. Ribeiro was granted DO status in 1957, and with assistance from the INDO, landowners began to replant, using two white varietals better suited to their climate, Torrontes and Treixadura. Both can be made into dry, crisp wine, which, though lacking the fragrance and complexity of Albarino, can make an appealing match for shellfish and other seafood.

Bierzo, which was recognized as DOC in 1989, has two different mesoclimates, as the mountainous section is made up of many low valleys that are relatively cool, while the lower section is one wide plain with plenty of sun and warmer temperatures. The name is derived from the pre-Roman city of Bergidium. Viticulture thrived throughout Bierzo for centuries, but suffered a serious setback in the nineteenth century due to phylloxera. Fortunately, the replanting on American rootstock was successful, and Bierzo is now one of Spain's most exciting wine regions, producing dry, crisp whites (mostly Palomino and Malvasia) and ripe, fruity reds.

Castilla y Leon: Ribera del Duero, Rueda, and Toro

The region of Castilla y Leon, Spain's largest, is a historic place to visit. Two of the most important of the five DOs in the region are near the ancient city of Valladolid. Located on opposite sides of the Duero River, they are Ribera del Duero and Rueda. The third important region, Toro, is located west of Rueda, near the historic city of Zamora. Wine has been made in these regions for over 1,000 years, but fortunately wine producers here are thoroughly ensconced in the twenty-first century, as Ribera del Duero acquires an international reputation for its big but elegant reds, and demand for Rueda's stunning fresh whites and Toro's soft, fruity reds continues to grow.

Ribera del Duero straddles the wide valley of the Duero River east of Valladolid. The vineyards lie on the slopes of the hills rising from the river, in places reaching a height of 2,600 feet (792 meters) above sea level. At this altitude there is considerable temperature fluctuation, with temperatures in daytime summer reaching well over 100[degrees]F (38[degrees]C) but plummeting at night, and cold weather posing a threat of frost far into spring. Although such conditions make viticulture arduous and risky, the reward is in the excellent acidity level maintained in the grapes as they ripen. The principal grape here is Tinta Roriz (also called Tempranillo), which has adapted well to the climate and is made into a single-varietal wine of deep color, intense flavor, and firm structure. In the opinion of some experts, Ribera del Duero now rivals Rioja as Iberia's premier red wine region.

Ribera del Duero was granted DO status only in 1982, but the now-famous winery Vega Sicilia in the western edge of the region had been producing great wines for 100 years by then. Another pioneer emerged in the 1980s. Alejandro Fernandez first released his red wine, Pesquera (named for a nearby village), in that decade. It was immediately praised by critics and continues to be eagerly sought by wine lovers in Spain, the rest of Europe, and the New World. This success encouraged his neighbors to upgrade their vineyards and winemaking facilities, and to concentrate on quality rather than quantity in their wines. Several properties have succeeded in producing wine very close in quality to Vega Sicilia and Pesquera, helped considerably by the elevation of the vineyards, which produces lower temperatures and a longer growing season. This fact allows the grapes to get riper, thus giving richer fruit flavors and better structure to the wines.

Extending south from the Duero River, on a bleak flat plain, is the DO Rueda, not far from Valladolid. Although wine has been produced here since the Middle Ages, Rueda fell into mediocrity after phylloxera wiped out its vineyards. When some property owners did start to replant in the early years of the twentieth century, they made the same mistake as vintners in Galicia's Ribeiro district: They planted the Palomino grape from the southern autonomfa of Andalucfa and used it to make undistinguished fortified wine.

Ironically, it was a vintner from the Rioja region who rescued Rueda from mediocrity. The Marques de Riscal recognized the potential of the sunny but moderate region to produce attractive dry white wines. He released his first fresh, crisp white made from the Verdejo grape in the mid-1970s to wide acclaim. Rueda was granted DO status in 1980, and ever since the local Consejo Regulado has been urging landowners to plant more of this low-yielding, high-acid varietal. Fortunately, the region now produces good quantities of fresh, crisp, citrusy Verdejo, fermented in stainless steel tanks and released young. Another varietal introduced by the Marques de Riscal more recently also shows great promise. Sauvignon Blanc does very well in sunny Rueda, where the sand and clay in the soil and the abundant sunshine seem to bring out its best characteristics.

The wines of Toro were very popular with the French in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but the region retreated into obscurity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Fortunately, since obtaining DOC status in 1987, Toro has evolved into one of Spain's leading wine regions. The principle grapes for the light clean whites are the Malvasia and the Verdejo. The many reds of Toro are made primarily from the Tinto de Toro, which many experts think is an acclimatized local clone of Tempranillo. Tinto de Toro is an early-ripening varietal, and is often put through carbonic maceration that results in soft, fruity Beaujolais-style wines. The grapes from the best vineyards are macerated for a lengthy period before and after fermentation, and then are aged in oak barrels. This full-bodied intense style of Tinto de Toro red can age beautifully.

Northern Spain (Pias Vasco) : Rioja, Navarra


Rioja is Spain's best-known and most prestigious wine region. In 1991, a ministerial decree granted Rioja the status of Denomination de Origen Calificada, the first wine region to be granted this ranking. Rioja is located in the northernmost part of the country, near the Pyrenees separating Spain from France. The majority of Rioja's 140,800 acres (57,000 hectares) of vineyards are in the autonomfa, or autonomous community, of La Rioja, but small portions of it extend into the neighboring autonomfas of Navarra and Pais Vasco (Basque Country) (Figure 8.4). Flowing the length of Rioja is the Ebro River and its tributaries, including Rio Oja, from which the region's name is derived.

Although small, Rioja is divided into three subzones each with a distinct microclimate and terroir. The northwest zone is called Rioja Alta. The soil is a combination of clay and limestone, and the climate is cool because of elevation at the foot of the Pyrenees and remnants of the Atlantic's damp breezes that work their way inland. The bustling small city of Haro is located in Rioja Alta. The center zone, Rioja Alavesa, surrounds the provincial capital, Logrono. Rioja Alavesa has a climate that mixes Atlantic influences with warmer dryer air that flows up the Ebro River from the Mediterranean Sea. The soil is similar to the limestone and clay of Rioja Alta, with some ferrous clay. The eastern zone is Rioja Baja (lower Rioja). This low-lying zone is influenced by the warmer, dryer weather patterns of the Mediterranean, and its soil, especially along the Ebro, is mostly alluvial.



Eighty-five percent of the wine produced in Rioja is red (Figure 8.5). The principal grape is Tempranillo, which is believed to be indigenous to Rioja and ripens well in the clay and limestone soil and moderate temperatures of Rioja Alta and Alavesa. Three other red grape varieties are authorized. Garnacha does better in the dry, hot climate of Rioja Baja. It is often added to Tempranillo for additional body. Garnacha on its own does not produce impressive reds but is often used to make charming, dry but fruity rose. The other two red varietals, Mazuelo (the Carignan of southern France) and Graciano, are blended into red wine in small quantities, the Mazuelo contributing color and the Graciano attractive ripe aromas.

There are three authorized white varietals--Viura, Malvasia, and Garnacha Blanca. In the past, Malvasia was the favored grape. It produced big alcoholic wines that oxidized easily, and received prolonged aging in oak barrels. Tastes have changed, however, and mature, oxidized, heavy whites have fallen from favor, especially in foreign markets. Since the 1980s, demand is for fresh, cool-fermented dry whites with clean flavors. The current favorite is Viura (called Macabeo in other parts of Spain), which has lively acidity, low alcohol, and pleasant fruit. It now accounts for 90 percent of white Rioja. Garnacha Blanca is light bodied and low in acids. It contributes little, and is rarely used.

Rioja wines are classified according to aging guidelines. Forty percent of Rioja's wines fall into the three oak-aged classifications of crianza, reserva, and gran reserva. (The rest are sold, usually locally, as Joven, young wine to be consumed early, or are white or rose.) With so much wine aging at any one time, Rioja vintners need large quantities of barrels, as many as tens of thousands. Wineries are so dependent on a steady supply of aging barrels that some, like Bodega Montecillo, have their own resident coopers who, on the premises, make all the barrels needed (Figure 8.6). Bodega (boh-DEH-gah) is the Spanish term for cellar or winery. Rioja producers favor American oak because the hint of spice it imparts to wine blends nicely with the flavors of Tempranillo. It is also less expensive than French oak.


Nestled next to Rioja in the foothills of the Pyrenees is the DO of Navarra, a beautiful mountainous area that has been producing wine since Roman times. Gracefully arched aqueducts and imposing stone bridges built by the Romans are still in use today. Although overshadowed by its neighbor Rioja, Navarra is producing increasingly attractive red wines. Fully 95 percent of Navarra's vineyards are planted to red varietals, primarily Tempranillo (36 percent) and Garnacha (32 percent). Under proper conditions, these two grapes can be blended into soft, fruity, and aromatic reds. Navarrans also make large quantities of pleasant dry rose based on Garnacha. White wines account for only 10 percent of Navarra's production, but this is changing as more white grapes are planted, primarily Viura. Visiting French vintners introduced Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay during the replanting that followed the devastation of phylloxera. These varietals did well, and are now authorized by the local Consejo Regulado. This agency in 1981 established an impressive station for viticultural and enological research in the town of Olite, where they continue research into suitable varietals and improved techniques. As the local agency and the handful of innovative private producers continue to experiment and cooperate on research, there is great promise for the future of Navarra's wines.


Cataluna: Penedes, Priorato

Cataluna on the Mediterranean Sea in northeast Spain is surely one of the most beautiful sections of this country, and its capital, Barcelona, is a busy commercial center for Cataluna's wine trade. A short drive inland from Barcelona lie the vineyards and bodegas of several exciting DOs.

Penedes has been described by British wine writer Tony Lord as the "heartland" of the Spanish viticultural revolution. He says, "the science of modern winemaking came to Spain via the Penedes" (Lord, 1988). One family has been particularly active in moving the revolution along. The Torres family became active in wine (and brandy) production in Penedes in 1870 when Jaime Torres built a winery at Vilafranca del Penedes, and swiftly made it and his shipping business, into large and successful enterprises. Jaime's heir was his nephew, Juan Torres, who continued expanding the production and exporting of wine. Juan's son, Miguel, rebuilt the businesses after the disruption of the Civil War, and by the 1950s, the winery was back to its former level of production. He sent his son, Miguel, to study viticulture and enology in France.

It is difficult to overestimate the contribution to winemaking in Penedes that Miguel Jr. brought back with him after his years of study. He experimented with French and German varietals new to the region, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer, and grew them successfully alongside indigenous varietals. He introduced the vine trellis system and other viticultural improvements. Most of Miguel Torres' innovations have now been adopted throughout the country.

Despite the increasing number of fine varietal red wines coming from Penedes, as well as some balanced and fresh varietal whites, the wine most associated with Penedes is its sparkling wine. Sparkling wine made in the methode champenoise was first produced in Penedes in 1872 when Jose Raventos, whose family owned the Codornfu firm, returned from a trip to France, fascinated with the festive wine of the Champagne region. He emulated the labor-intensive method of a second sugar-to-alcohol fermentation in the bottle to trap the side product, carbon dioxide, thus giving the wine its effervescence (see Chapter 3).

The term Cava (KAH-vah), from the Catalan word for "cellar" (Figure 8.7), was adopted by the Spanish government in 1970, as an official denomination. Unlike other Spanish DOs, Cava did not signify a single delimited zone. European Union laws, however, stipulate that an official denomination refer to a specific geographic region. Therefore, the government of Spain has limited the use of the term Cava to sparkling wine made using the methode champenoise technique from grapes grown in certain municipalities in Cataluna, Valencia, Aragon, La Rioja, Navarra, and Pais Vascos. However, Penedes remains the principal source for Cava, producing 90 percent of the country's sparkling wine. The allowed grapes are the traditional high-acid Viura, which accounts for half the makeup of most Cavas, Parellada, which adds body to the lighter Viura, and Xarel-lo, which performs particularly well in higher-altitude vineyards and contributes the earthy aromas connoisseurs now associate with Cava. Some major Cava houses are blending in more of the French transplant, Chardonnay Total production of Cava is now over 12.5 million cases per year. Major producers include Codornfu, Freixenet (Figure 8.8), Paul Cheneau, and Segura Viudas (owned by Freixenet). Cava is popular in markets around the world for its fresh, fruity flavors, delicate mousse, and very affordable price tag.



Priorato is the second region of Spain to attain DOCa status. It was elevated to this august level only in 2004. Priorato is a small region (only 4,300 acres [1,740 hectares] under vine) surrounded by the large DO of Tarragona. It is in the rugged mountains at the western edge of Tarragona. The soil is volcanic, full of flecks of mica that catch the sun's heat and reflect it onto the ripening grapes. The region has cold winters but long, hot, and very dry summers. The grapes, mostly Garnacha and Carinena (called Mazuelo elsewhere in Spain), get very ripe in these conditions. The result is a very full-bodied, intense red wine with high alcohol levels (the legal minimum is 13.5 percent but the wine usually goes higher). Winemaking has changed little here since the Carthusian monks began making it at their priory (which gave the region its name) in the twelfth century. However, several producers, among them the Penedes firm of Rene Barbier and the local vintner Alvaro Palacios, are experimenting with modern technology such as cool fermentation and aging in French oak barrels, and careful blending with French vinifera grapes, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Some of the new reds coming out of Priorato are so good that they are putting this DO in contention with Ribera del Duero as the region most likely to topple Rioja from its traditional position as Spain's premier wine region.

La Mancha

The Central Plain of Spain is unimaginably vast and incredibly flat. The DO La Mancha covers most of the autonomfa of Castilla-La Mancha. Vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see, broken only occasionally by small groves of olive trees and fields of cereal grains. There are almost a half a million acres (191,700 hectares) of vineyards in this very large DO. La Mancha produces as much as one-third of Spain's total wine production each year. Most of the wine is sold in bulk, distilled into brandy, or used to make vinegar. Over 80 percent of the acreage is devoted to one grape, the white Airen, a varietal of little character and barely adequate acidity. However, it is one of the few varietals able to survive in the barren plain, where winters are long and bleak, and summers are short, arid, and relentlessly sunny and hot. Even with improved modern technology such as cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks, it is impossible, with such a harsh climate and an inferior varietal, to produce much wine that rises above the level of a solid low-alcohol everyday quaffer--light, clean, with a touch of pleasant fruit.

The local Consejo Regulado is encouraging growers to pull out Airen and replace it with the other allowed varietals including Tempranillo, which in this part of Spain is referred to as Cencibel, that can, with carbonic maceration, be made into decent soft red wines. However, most growers are choosing to stay with the tried-and-true, so it appears that for the immediate future, La Mancha will continue to be the source of a seemingly endless supply of bulk white wine.

Andalucia: Jerez (Sherry)

The great fortified wine, Sherry, made in the small Jerez section of Andalucfa in southern Spain (Figure 8.9), is a wine misunderstood and underappreciated in the American market. (The word "Sherry" is an English corruption of Jerez.) Few consumers here realize that Sherry can be a crisp, bone-dry aperitif (fino [FEE-noh]) or a luscious, deeply flavored dessert wine (oloroso [oh-loh-ROH-soh]), with a range of styles in between. With governmental promotional efforts such as "Wines from Spain," a program organized under the aegis of the Commercial Office of Spain to educate foreign consumers, more Americans are discovering how versatile and delicious Sherry can be.

Sherry-making is a time-honored tradition in Jerez. Today the viticulture and winemaking, although adhering to tradition, are thoroughly modern. The grapes used, Palomino and Pedro Ximenez, are well adapted to the dry, warm climate. Very little rain falls during the long summers, and the porous chalky soils allow vines to push deep to find the retained ground water.

Once harvested, usually in early September, the grapes are brought to the huge wineries owned by the major Sherry houses, where they go through a normal first fermentation until all natural sugars are converted. The new wine is run off into casks that are taken down to the cellars of the bodegas, where they are left as the flor (FLAWR), yeast forms on the surface of the wine (Figure 8.10; see also Chapter 3). Wines are normally produced using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which grows using the sugar in grape juice anaerobically (without oxygen) to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. Flor yeast will continue to grow after the sugar has been consumed by using the alcohol in the wine as an energy source. To do this they must be exposed to oxygen, which is why they only form on the surface of the wine.



The flor yeast is the key to what style of Sherry will result. Casks that are aged with flor yeast will become Fino Sherry. The wine remains in the casks for several years, the flor receiving new nutrients upon which to feed as young wine is added each year. This is the basis of Jerez's solera (soh-LEH-rah) system, an ongoing, rotating form of aging Sherry depicted in Figure 8.11. At the end of the aging period, Fino is removed from the older casks in the solera and fortified sparingly with additional alcohol. Amontillado, a style of Fino, is left longer in the solera. It is, accordingly, darker in color, richer, but dry, and nutty in flavor. It serves as a very good aperitif, excellent with salty nuts or briny olives.

In other casks, minimal flor will grow, thus exposing the wine to air inside the cask. These casks will be classified as oloroso, and fortified with brandy to 18 percent alcohol, killing any remaining active yeast cells and thus leaving unfermented sugars. Oloroso Sherries spend longer in the solera, acquiring a deep color and richly concentrated, sweetly raisined flavors. Some olorosos are further sweetened through the addition of juice from sun-dried Pedro Ximenez grapes. The greatest of the sweet-style Sherries are made exclusively of dried Pedro Ximenez grapes. After years in solera, they are labeled as Pedro Ximenez, a thick, syrupy, very sweet treat with deep chocolate and raisin flavors.

A few Sherry houses own vineyards, but the majority of grapes are grown by small landowners and sold either to the major private producers or to one of the seven cooperatives. Among the most respected producers of Sherry are Sandeman, Domecq, Croft, Harvey, and Lustau.

Noteworthy wines are also being made in many other of Spain's DOs. Among the more exciting emerging regions are Toro, Cigales, and Bierzo in Castilla y Leon; Tarragona and Terra Alta in Cataluna; Somontona in Aragon; and Jumilla in the Levante.



Portugal's King Alphonse established the country's first Parliament in 1249, thereby reducing territorial disputes and opening the way for this small, seafaring nation to build commercial relationships with other European countries. England was a particularly important trading partner, shipping grain, salt cod, and other commodities to Portugal in exchange for wine. In 1386, the two countries ratified the Treaty of Windsor, which strengthened the commercial and political ties between them. When England and France went to war in the seventeenth century and French wine became unattainable, the natural beneficiary was Portugal. Wine shipments to England increased dramatically. Many English wine merchants went to Portugal seeking alternative sources of wine. In the Douro region of inland Portugal, the merchants found very deeply colored, intensely tannic red wines. To ensure that these wines would make the sea crossing to England unspoiled, the English began fortifying these red wines with additional brandy. Legend has it that it was a wine merchant from Liverpool who, in 1678, first fortified his wine during fermentation rather than after fermentation was completed, thus leaving the touch of natural sweetness for which Port is now famous. In 1703, England and Portugal further strengthened their trading partnership with the Treaty of Methuen, which gave tariff advantages to wines imported from Portugal. By that time, a thriving community of English and German merchants had established itself in the city of Oporto, on the coast of the Douro region, from where they controlled the production and shipping of the increasingly popular Port.

The Treaty of Methuen gave protection to another, very new industry in Portugal--the cork industry. In the late 1600s English shippers of wine discovered that cork stoppers provided an airtight closure that greatly reduced spoilage of wine. The invention of glass bottles and cork stoppers made long-term storage of wine possible. Cork stoppers are made from the bark of cork trees, most of which grow in Spain and Portugal. The Treaty of Methuen gave Portugal's wines further protection against tariffs in England in exchange for Portugal promising English merchants a supply of corks for their shipments of wine to foreign countries.

During the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century, conflicts between France and England continued to benefit the Portuguese wine trade. The island of Madeira, a Portuguese colony off the coast of Africa, became an important trading post for passing ships. That island began shipping its own fortified wine to England and its colonies. The British colonies in North America were also an important and growing market for the wines of Portugal, especially its fortified wines.

In the late nineteenth century, Portugal's vineyards were struck by the same natural disaster as those in the rest of Europe--phylloxera. Some wine regions have never recovered. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Portugal turned its back on the rest of the world, operating in relative isolation during a 20-year period of political and economic disruption. The king was assassinated in 1908, and the monarchy was eliminated shortly thereafter. The last king of Portugal, Manuel II, started the process of developing a system of quality control laws for wine production. Manuel II was able to obtain international agreement in 1916 granting Portugal the sole right to use the terms Port and Madeira shortly before he was deposed.

Stability began to return when Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, the son of a small vineyard owner, stepped forward in 1926 to take the position of Finance Minister. He became prime minister in 1932. Salazar's regime lasted for 40 years during which time his centralized one-party system of government encouraged the modernization of Portugal's economy. Salazar completely reorganized his country's disorderly and anarchic wine business, creating the Junta Nacional do Vinho in 1937 to oversee wine production. The JNV encouraged grape growers and small producers to work together. In the next 20 years over 100 cooperatives were built, mostly in northern Portugal, to produce wine and sell it domestically and abroad. The system imposed by the central government was very inflexible, not conducive to experimentation or improvement of techniques. With little incentive to improve their wine, vintners allowed their standards to deteriorate, resulting in mediocre wine.

In 1974 Portugal once again descended into chaos, with a military-led revolution that lasted for two years. In 1976 Portugal held a successful democratic election and began its ascent into modern Europe, and in 1986 it was admitted to the European Union, which greatly benefited the wine industry. The EU gave generously of its expertise and capital to help elevate the standards of wine production in Portugal. The improvement in the quality of table wines--red, white, and rose--can be attributed to improved technology such as stainless steel tanks and controlled fermentation, and to the innovative leadership and vision of younger winemakers. One group of these younger winemakers, the G7, is made up of seven vintners from seven different regions working together since 1993 to promote awareness of Portuguese table wines in foreign markets. These leading winemakers are indicative of the trend throughout Portugal to improve the overall quality of wines and to incorporate modern, farsighted marketing strategies to move the Portuguese wine business forward.

Wine Laws of Portugal

Portugal created the world's first demarcated wine region in 1756. At that time demand for Port from Portugal's Douro region was so strong in England that some unscrupulous producers and shippers began stretching the supply by adulterating the wine, either by adding elderberry juice or by bringing in inferior grapes from outside Douro. The Portuguese government realized that these fraudulent practices could badly damage the reputation of their valuable export. Therefore, officials reacted quickly and created a body to oversee the Port trade. Exact boundaries of the Douro region were confirmed, and the government authorized the new agency to supervise each step in the production of Port. Between 1908 and 1929 further work on regulating the wine trade was done with official geographic demarcations being drawn up for other major regions, such as Vinho Verde, Dao, Madeira, and Setubal.

Because of political upheaval, Portugal did not finalize the creation of quality control laws for its wine trade until its admittance into the European Union in 1986. The system of laws for Portugal's Denominacao de Origem Controlada (DOC) (deh-naw-mee-nah-THYON deh aw-REE-hen con-traw-LAH-tah) is based on France's Appellation d'Origine Controlee system. The regulations spell out boundaries for wine regions, viticultural practices (including allowed grape varietals and yields per hectare), vinification techniques (including minimum and maximum alcohol content), labeling requirements, and distribution practices. All laws are overseen by the Instituto da Vinha e Vinho (IVV) (Institute of Viticulture and Wines), which works closely with local authorities in each province. The only local agency that does not report to the IVV is the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, which supervises the production and selling of Port.

Within Portugal's DOC system, wine regions (and their wines) are classified as vinho de mesa, vinho regional, Indicacao de Proveniencia Regulamentada (IPR), and Denominacao de Origem Controlada (DOC).

* Vinho de Mesa: Table wines are the lowest level of quality and are produced with minimal regulations and oversight. No vintage year may be stated. Most of these wines are consumed locally.

* Vinho Regional: There are 11 regional wine areas. Moving from north to south, these VRs are Minho, Duriense, Trasmontano, Beiras, Dao, Ribatejo, Lisboa, Tejo, Terras de Sado, Alentejano, and Algarve. (The Azores Islands and the island of Madiera, both Portuguese territories, are also regional wine areas.) At least 85 percent of the grapes that go into a wine at this level must be grown in the region shown on the label. The grape varietals used must be authorized for that region.

* Indicacao de Proveniencia Regulamentada (IPR): Wine of controlled origin. This designation is similar to France's VDQS. There are more regulations than in the two previous levels, but the region is not deemed worthy of DOC status yet. There are currently 28 IPR regions. After several years at the IPR status, a region can be considered for elevation to the highest classification.

* Denominacao de Origem Controlada (DOC): Quality wines made under specific requirements and high standards from authorized grapes grown entirely within the DOC specified. Currently there are 19 DOCs. At this highest level of quality, additional information on the wine is found in the terms on the label. For instance, garrafeira signifies a red wine aged a minimum of two and a half years, including a year in the bottle. For whites and roses, the aging requirement is a minimum of one year. For all wines, a minimum alcohol content of 11.5 percent is required. The term reserva is used for high-quality wines from superior vintage years. The alcohol content must be 0.5 percent above the minimum stipulated for that DOC. Colheita selecionada (cuhl-YAY-tah SEP-see-a-nod-a) signifies a very high-quality wine, from excellent vintages and often from prime vineyards. The alcohol content must be 1 percent above the requirement for that DOC.

Wine Regions of Portugal

Portugal occupies the western flank of the Iberian Peninsula. The culture and the climate of this seagoing country are strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Portugal is a small country--only 360 miles (581 km) long and 120 miles (194 km) wide, approximately the size of the state of Indiana. However, within that space is an amazing diversity of soils and microclimates, so it is not surprising that Portugal has a considerable range of varietals and wine styles. In the north's flat littoral areas along the Atlantic coast, the temperate maritime climate produces warm summers and wet, cool winters. Rainfall is plentiful, over 100 inches (256 cm) a year in parts of Vinho Verde. As one moves inland or to the south, rainfall is considerably lower and temperatures more extreme. In the southern plains it is not unusual for summer daytime temperatures to average 95[degrees]F (35[degrees]C).

Portugal developed its viticulture in virtual isolation. Very few grapevines were brought in from other European countries. Among the wide variety of indigenous grapes, the most important are Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesca, and Tinta Roriz (the Tempranillo of Spain). In the cool, damp north, the white grape Alvarinho (same as Spain's Albarino) is prominent, especially in Vinho Verde. In the warmer, dryer south, a red grape that thrives is Castelao Frances, also known as Periquita. There has been very little experimentation in Portugal with internationally famous varietals such as Chardonnay and Merlot. Rather, the Portuguese vintners and the government agencies that support them, such as Comercio e Tourismo de Portugal (ICEP), concentrate their marketing efforts on promoting the unique character of Portugal's indigenous varietals.

There is a total of 600,000 acres (243,000 hectares) of vineyards planted in Portugal's 11 Vinho Regional areas. Within those VRs are 19 DOCs. The most important are as follows:

Vinho Verde

The best-known DOC is Vinho Verde in the northwest section of the country, famous for its bright, acidic, very dry white wines. (The literal translation for Vinho Verde is "green wine," despite the fact that half the production of this area is very dry, acidic, and slightly fizzy red wine, rarely exported.) Vinho Verde is Portugal's largest demarcated wine region, extending from the city of Oporto north to the border with Spain. It produces nearly 15 percent of Portugal's total wine production. The warm, humid climate encourages intensive cultivation of vines despite the fact that north of Oporto is the most heavily populated part of rural Iberia. To get maximum use from the open land that remains, vintners here employ high trellises, allowing a second crop, usually vegetables, to be grown under the vines. The high trellises serve a second purpose: they discourage the growth of bunch (botrytis) rot, a real danger in such damp conditions. The principal white grape is Alvarinho (ahl-vah-REEN-yoh), that is made into a very popular, sprightly wine with truly distinctive flavors.


This region is named for the Douro River that begins as the Duero in Spain and flows across Portugal to empty into the Atlantic. Famous for its great fortified wine, Port, the Douro region is rapidly acquiring an international reputation for solid, balanced red wines of considerable complexity. Table wines now make up half the production of Douro.

The vineyards for both Port and table wines are located inland, in the rocky, rugged hills of Tras-os-Montes ("behind the mountains") (Figure 8.12). The soil is primarily Precambrian schist, a very hard, mineral-laden rock that retains heat and is very difficult for roots to penetrate in their search for ground water. There are almost 90 approved varietals for Douro, but the favored grapes for both types of wine are Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (the regional name for Tempranillo). These grapes impart to Douro table wine the same spicy, rich flavor, full body, and firm tannins found in a young ruby Port. In table wines Touriga Nacional contributes distinctive aromas of violet, berry, and smoked meat. Tinta Roriz is a hearty, early-ripening grape that likes lots of sunshine and thrives in minerally soil. Its yield is much higher than that of Touriga Nacional. Tinta Roriz has good acidity and tannic structure, allowing wines to age well. Its array of aromas revolve around its distinctive leather and floral components. The names of these two noble red varietals are showing up on labels more often.


For white Port, the favored varietals are Malvasia Fina and Gouveio (thought to be the Verdelho of Madeira.)


Unquestionably the most famous wine coming out of the Douro is still Port. As it has been for centuries, Port remains the world's best known and most revered fortified wine (see Chapter 3). Fortified with clear grape brandy whose high alcohol content (77 percent) kills the yeast cells before fermentation is completed, Port has a natural sweetness from the sugars that were prevented from fermenting. The final product is between 18 and 20 percent alcohol and about 10% sugar.


Since the fermentation is arrested (stopped) with brandy when it is only halfway completed; the amount of time the juice stays in contact with the skins is relatively brief. To extract maximum color and tannins in the short time available the juice and skins are mixed together vigorously and often. Traditionally this was done by treading the skins by foot in shallow stone fermenters called lagares, but today the maceration is done primarily by mechanical means.When it has fermented down to about 13[degrees]Brix, the must is pressed, fortified with brandy, and then pumped into barrels where it rests through the winter in the quintas located in the Douro valley near the vineyards. A quinta "(KEEN-tah)" is a small winery. The following spring the wine is shipped to the coastal city of Oporto where the Douro River spills into the Atlantic (Figure 8.13). Here the major Port companies, such as Croft, Fonseca, and Dow, have their caves or aging facilities. In these facilities, under the watchful eye of the inspectors from the Instituto do Vinho do Porto, the wine is classified, aged, bottled, and eventually shipped to markets throughout Europe and the New World. Many of these companies have British names as they were founded by British families, originally as export houses. By law no more than one-third of a company's stock can be released for sale in any year.

Bairrada and Dao

The Vinho Regional Beiras is a large region that stretches the width of Portugal, south of Vinho Verde and Douro, from the Atlantic Coast inland to the mountains that separate Portugal and Spain. There are two noteworthy DOCs in Beiras.

Bairrada runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean, several miles inland from the coast. Bairrada extends from the city of Aveira south to the historic village of Coimbra. Wine had been produced in this region for centuries before the Marquis de Pombal, Portugal's powerful Prime Minister, in 1756 ordered all the vines in Bairrada ripped out as part of his effort to eliminate the fraudulent adulteration of Port. It took Bairrada 200 years to recover, but after strenuous efforts on the part of its many small property owners, it was recognized as an official wine region in 1979, and now carries Denominacao de Origem Controlada status.

The soils of Bairrada are primarily heavy but fertile clay. Over 70 percent of the vineyards are planted to one varietal, the hearty Baga (Parode, 2008), which produces the stout, dark, tannic red wine for which the region is famous. When Bairrada was elevated to DOC status, the law required that all red wines must contain at least 50 percent Baga. That law was changed in 2003 to say that only the wines with the "Bairrado Classico" designation need to be 50 percent Baga. There are seven other red grapes also allowed. Some of the more traditionalist vintners reject the "international varietals" like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon that have been planted here over the past two decades. They prefer to still adhere to the old method and use a majority of Baga for their big, tannic full-bodied red wines.

Most growers sell their grapes to one of the six cooperatives. However, larger private estates, such as that owned by Luis Pato, are emerging, where efforts are under way to produce Baga-based reds of more refinement. Two large corporations based in Bairrada, Sogrape and Alianca, are also using modern vinification methods to make wines that are less rustic and more approachable.

Dao lies inland to the east of Bairrada. Surrounded on three sides by high, graniteladen hills, Dao is protected from the winds and moisture of the Atlantic. It has the reputation of producing some of Portugal's finest red table wines. Unfortunately, the region was ill served by the Salazar government's efforts to assist wine production by forcing the creation of many cooperatives and then restricting the sale of grapes to private producers. Standards fell as individual involvement was stifled. Such monopolistic practices were deemed inappropriate by the European Union and were discontinued upon Portugal's admission to that group in 1986. Now, with many talented individual vintners, Dao has reemerged as a producer of fine table wines, with a strong adherence to traditional grapes. As one wine writer has said about the Dao, "This is one of the last places where tradition remains simply a way of life" (Voss, 2009).

Red grapes thrive in the granite-based soils, and 80 percent of the region's wine production is red. Many of the vineyards are on steep, terraced vineyards in the hills. There are nine red grapes authorized, the most important being Touriga Nacional. According to a recently passed law, all Dao reds must now be at least 30 percent Touriga Nacional. These reds spend several months in oak barrels, and when released they are mellow, with vanilla tones mingling with natural red-berry and black pepper flavors.

White grapes are planted in the sandier, flatter area at the western edge of Dao. Most prominent of these is the Encruzado, a top grape with nice fruit and good acidity. It is unfortunately a low-yielding varietal. Other white grapes, such as Malvasia Fina (here called Arinto do Dao) and the ominously named Borrado das Moscas ("flydroppings") are blended in. Dao whites, when not overly oaked or oxidized, can be fresh, crisp, and fragrant.


The Setubal Peninsula, south of Lisbon, Portugal's capital city, protrudes into the Atlantic between the estuaries of the Sado and Tagus Rivers. The ocean and rivers provide moderating influences on the climate, and the warm temperatures and regular rainfall are excellent for growing grapes. The fishing town of Setubal lends its name to the peninsula, and Terras do Sado is the regional name for the wide range of table wines made on the peninsula. The most famous wine, though, is a sweet fortified wine that also carries the name Setubal, now a DOC. In 1907, the region was demarcated as Moscatel de Setubal for the principal grape, Moscatel (Muscat). However, EU regulations state that to include the name of a varietal, a wine must be made at least 85 percent from that grape, and local customs allow as much as 30 percent of other grapes. Accordingly, since 1986 the DOC has been simply Setubal.

Moscatel de Setubal is made in the same manner as other fortified, naturally sweet wine, that is, fermentation is arrested with extra grape spirits before all natural sugars have a chance to ferment. The wine then has an extended maceration period with the Muscat skins, which gives a pronounced taste of fresh grapes to the wine. After as many as five months of maceration, the wine spends four to five years in large wooden casks. By the end of that time, the wine is deep gold in color, smooth and rich, and intensely flavored. The lively acidity prevents Setubal from being cloying. A glass of this ambrosial wine, full of spice, caramel, honey, walnut, and dried apricot flavors, is a dessert unto itself.

Near the Setubal Peninsula is the DOC of Bucelas, just east of Lisbon, Bucelas is one of the few Portuguese wine regions more famous for its whites than its reds. The cool climate and slate-filled soil are perfect for the Arinto grape. The resulting wines are a greenish-straw color, have a perfumed nose, and are very dry and clean.


Alentejo is a huge agricultural region, stretching from the Tagus River east to the border with Spain and encompassing one-third of Portugal's land mass. It is known as the country's breadbasket, covered as it is with grain farms. Portugal provides one half the world's cork, and Alentejo contains the majority of the country's cork forests.

After a period of disarray following the military-led uprisings of 1974 and 1975, Alentejo is again emerging as an important source of good table wines, with considerable help from the EU in the form of financial investment and technical advice. The climate is not conducive to growing quality grapes, with very limited rainfall (as low as 23 inches [59 cm] a year) and extreme temperatures that often soar to over 100[degrees]F (38[degrees]C) in summer. Careful vinification with modern technology such as temperature-controlled fermentation tanks compensates for nature's extremes. Red wines are made mostly from Aragonez (local name for Tinta Roriz or Tempranillo), which lends elegance, Periquita with its blackberry and licorice aromas, and Trincadeira Preta which lends body and structure. After months in French oak barrels, the red wines emerge as complex, approachable, and long-lived, perfect accompaniments for the roasted meats and pungent cheeses of the local cuisine.

Seven villages within Alentejo have been granted DOC status, including Borba and Redondo. The small rural village of Evora, better known for the breeding farms that produce the proud animals for Spain's bull-fighting rings, is currently an IPR and under consideration as a DOC. There are also excellent wines coming out of other regions of Portugal, including Ribatejo, and Estremadura, as well as the small Terras do Sado south of Lisbon.


The small island of Madeira (only 36 miles [58 km] long and 15 miles [24 km] wide) lies off the coast of Africa, a short plane ride from Lisbon. Its sparkling sunshine and white beaches make it a favorite vacation spot for European tourists. Claimed by Prince Henry of Portugal in 1420, the island was soon the site of vineyards. The soil is mineral-rich clay atop volcanic rock, sunshine and rainfall are abundant, and the terraced slopes of the southeastern facing hills were soon producing high-quality wine. With the help of British merchants, Madeira wines were soon shipped to the Continent and the New World. By 1768, Madeira was demarcated as an official wine region.

In the mid-1800s shippers began to fortify the wine with additional alcohol so it could better withstand the long sea voyages. It was further discovered that the heat in the ships' holds gave the wine additional smoothness and richness. Today modern equipment is used, but the winemaking process is essentially the same. After vinification, during which brandy is added to arrest fermentation, the wine is placed for three to four months in an estufa, a heated vat that emulates the sun and shipboard heat of yore and imparts comparable qualities, including the distinctive nutty flavor. (A small percentage is heated naturally by being put in wood barrels and stored for up to 20 years in hot attics.) After the aging and heating are complete, sweetening in the form of caramel will be added to various degrees, depending on the style of Madeira being made. The whole process is carefully regulated by Madeira's quality control agency, Insituto do Vinho da Madeira, or IVM.

Even though 85 percent of the island's vineyards are planted to the lesser red grape, Tinta Negra Mole, quality Madeira is made from four premium white grapes. In accordance with EU regulations, each style of Madeira contains at least 85 percent of the grape for which it is named. In ascending order of sweetness, the styles of Madeira are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malmsey.

Sercial: The most delicate and lightest, with naturally high acidity, this dry, assertively flavored wine makes an excellent aperitif, especially good when matched with hors d'oeuvres of smoked fish or pate de foie gras.

Verdelho: With higher sugar content and lower acidity than Sercial, Verdelho is made in an off-dry style. It, too, is very good as an aperitif.

Bual (Boal): A heavier, richer wine, made in a sweet or semisweet style. The dark deep Bual with its intense raisin flavors can be served with caramel or coffeeflavored dessert. The Bual grape is the vinifera, Semillon.

Malmsey: This is the sweetest and longest lived of the Madeiras. It is made from Malvasia grapes grown in the warmest, sunniest vineyards where they achieve maximum ripeness and sugar levels. Additional richness and concentration of flavors are acquired during several years in wooden casks. The rich flavors and high sugar content are never cloying because the acidity levels remain high. These extraordinary wines can retain their beautiful complex flavors for as long as 100 years.










Denominacao de Origem Controlada (DOC)

Denominacion de Origen (DO)




gran reserva



Pedro Ximenez




ruby Port



tawny Port



The progress made in the wine trade in both Spain and Portugal in the last half of the twentieth century, especially in the 24 years since both joined the European Union in 1986, is truly remarkable. A number of factors including: innovation in the vineyard, modernization of facilities, utilization of computers to streamline vinification, investing in research and teaching facilities, and cooperation between governments and private companies all worked together to improve the quality of the wine. The progress in the vineyard and the winery was matched by sophisticated marketing strategies and aggressive promotional programs that were aided by close cooperation between the government and businesspeople. All of these efforts were made possible by investment at the continental (EU), national, provincial, and local levels. All of these factors combined have helped move Spain's and Portugal's many wines into competitive and constantly improving positions within the worldwide marketplace.


1. Define the term gran reserva in Spanish wine law.

2. List some of the responsibilities of the two government agencies, Spain's INDO and Portugal's IW.

3. What is the winemaking process that is used to make Cava? Describe how Cava differs from Champagne.

4. How has membership in the European Union affected the quality and marketing of wines produced in Portugal and Spain?


1. What is the principal red grape of Rioja?

3. What is the most widely planted grape in Navarra?

4. What is the highest level of classification within Portugal's quality control laws?

5. Sherry is produced in what region of Spain?

6. Name the 11 vinho regional areas in Portugal.

7. Why is ruby Port still red while tawny Port is a golden color?

Types of Sherry

Fino (Manzanilla)

Aged in partially filled barrels under a surface layer of flor yeast. Pale yellow in color with a distinctive nutty aroma, it is dry and served slightly chilled. Alcohol 15.5 to 18%


A mature fino Sherry that is allowed to oxidize as it ages in partially filled barrels after the flor yeast is removed. Darker than fino Sherry, it has a rich flavor and nutty aroma, dry with alcohol from 16 to 22%


Fortified before aging to prevent flor yeast growth, and aged in partially filled barrels. Dark amber in color and dry to slightly sweet (1 to 3% sugar), alcohol from 17 to 22%

Cream Sherry

Fortified before aging to prevent flor yeast growth, aged in partially filled barrels. Sweetened before bottling it is dark amber in color and usually sweet (7 to 10% sugar), alcohol from 17 to 22%


The aging process determines a Port's style, and there are two basic categories. Wood-matured Ports are left for a short time in large wooden casks to age and are ready to be drunk when, after fining, filtering, and bottling, they are released. Bottle-aged Ports, on the other hand, are intended to be aged further upon release. They are aged a short time in wood in the caves, then without filtration, are put into the bottles in which they may take up to 20 to 30 years to fully mature. Within these broad categories there are several different styles.


This is the youngest and simplest style of Port (Figure 8.14). Named for the deep red color it retains upon release, ruby Port is meant to be consumed early. The berry flavors are robust and aggressive. In the making of ruby, wine from several vintages are blended together and aged briefly in large casks or perhaps steel tanks before being filtered and bottled.


This term can be applied loosely to cover a variety of styles. One would assume that the amber color has evolved over years of barrel aging. However, most commercial tawnys are not much older than rubies, but without the fresh fruit flavors. The light color of tawny Port is not attained through patient aging in wood barrels thus allowing deliberate oxidation. Rather, the amber color of tawnys is achieved either by fermenting inferior, lighter-colored grapes or by blending in, after fermentation, some white Port. Approximately 80 percent of Port is simple ruby or commercial tawny.


Aged Tawny

This style of tawny Port comes by its color legitimately, as it must be aged in wood casks for six years or more. Aging not only imparts the golden color, but also gives the wine a smooth, soft texture as tannins polymerize. Aged tawny carries an indication of age, either 10, 20, 30, or over 40 years, which is an average of the ages of the various vintages of wines blended together in that bottling. Aged tawnys are made from high-quality grapes, and must pass a taste test by the IVP before being bottled. The best Tawnys have delicate flavors of roasted nuts, honey, and dried fruit. The older the wine, the more subtle and profuse the flavors. Needless to say, as the age increases, so does the price.

Vintage Port

Occasionally an unusually warm and sunny summer will produce grapes of extraordinary character and ripeness. When this occurs, a Port maker will hold the resulting wine apart, rather than blending it in with the wine already aging in his cellars. After a year of careful aging, the winemaker will assess the wine again to determine if it is of a high enough quality to make into a vintage Port. If so, the company will send a sample to the IVP, along with a statement of its intent. If the wine passes the analysis of the IVP, the Port maker can declare a vintage. The single-vintage wine is then aged a further two to three years in wood barrels before being bottled and released. Thereafter the buyer takes over the aging, often holding the vintage Port for an additional 20 to 30 years. During this time the wine will throw considerable sediment, and it will need to be decanted before serving.

Port producers consider their vintage Port to be their flagship bottling. These are the rarest and most expensive of Ports. Only 1 percent of Port sold is from this category. Producers use only the best grapes from their finest vineyards. The greatest vintage Ports are velvety smooth and incredibly rich with deep but delicate flavors. Outstanding recent vintages for Port include 1977, 1982, 1985, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2007.


Fine vintage Port, from quality producers such as Delaforce, Croft, Warre, Fonseca, Dow's, Osborne, Gonzalez-Byass, and Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman, are in high demand in the United States as well as in Great Britain and continental Europe. Vintage Port is usually served as the culmination of a fine meal, accompanied by sharply flavored cheeses such as Stilton or aged cheddar, and walnuts or dried fruits.

LBV Port

Late-bottled vintage (LBV) Port is a single-vintage wine bottled between the fourth and sixth year after harvest. Most of these wines have been filtered and cold stabilized before bottling, so they throw less sediment than vintage Port. Unfortunately, too often the filtration is excessive, stripping the wine of much of its character. Traditional-style LBV is bottled without filtration, and must be decanted before serving. LBV wines are made in good years that were not good enough to be declared a vintage. They need less time to mature than a vintage Port, and can be consumed within five years after bottling (Figure 8.15).

Vintage Character

These are based on ruby Ports that are blended from several vintages and aged 4 to 5 years in oak casks before bottling. Good quality wine but it does not have the intense flavors found in vintage Port. Usually sold under proprietary names by major Port Houses, they are meant to be consumed soon after bottling.

White Port

White Port is made in essentially the same method as red, except that the degree of maceration is much less. Brandy is added to arrest fermentation at the same stage, leaving residual (or unfermented) sugars. White Ports, therefore, are medium-sweet, with fat, grapelike flavors. Alcohol content is between 16.5 and 17 percent as opposed to the 19 to 20 percent common in red Port. White Ports are usually aged no longer than 18 months, primarily in stainless steel tanks. White Port that does spend some time in wood has a golden color and nutty flavor. It is usually served chilled as an aperitif.



gazpacho (a tomato-based rawvegetable soup served chilled)


Fresh white, light in body: Albarino from Rias Biaxas second course

tortilla espanola (potato omelette)


Rosada: fruity, clean rose made from the Garnarcha grape

main course

valencian paella (casserole of rice, duck, and green beans flavored with saffron)


A red from Navarra, medium bodied, very flavorful, and well structured


arroz con leche (rice pudding)


Small glass of oloroso Sherry, very rich and sweet


Lord, T. (1988). The New Wines of Spain. San Francisco: The Wine Appreciation Guild. Spain, France, USA, Chile and Argentina. Madrid, Spain: Universidad Rey Juan Carlos Press.

Parode, N. (2008, November). Bairrada: Home to the Baga grape. Retrieved from

Phillips, R. (2000). A Short History of Wine. New York: HarperCollins.

Voss, R. (2009, August). Portugal's changing center. Wine Enthusiast, 41-43.

Caption: FIGURE 8.1

This old engraving depicts Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain as they send Columbus off on his trip that led to the discovery of a whole new world outside Europe for Spanish and Portuguese trade.

[C] The Art Gallery Collectlon/Alamy

Caption: FIGURE 8.2

A typical Spanish label under the Denominacion de Origen laws. Ribera del Duero is one of the 63 DOs. Crianza refers to aging requirements for that DO.

Grupo Osborne, permission granted by Janet Kafka and Associates

Caption: FIGURE 8.4

A typical winding road through Rioja's hillside vineyards, with a stunning view of the Pyrenees Mountains in the background.

[C] Jaime Gonzalez/Shutterstock

Caption: FIGURE 8.5

Tempranillo grapes ripening during a warm Rioja summer.

[C] Jaime Gonzaiez/Shutterstock

Caption: FIGURE 8.6

A typical aging "cave" in Rioja bodega with row after row of oak barrels full of wine that ages for years before being bottled and released.

[C] Richard Langs/Shutterstock

Caption: FIGURE 8.7

The gyropalette was developed in Cataluna in the 1970s as a substitute for the far more labor-intensive process of riddling in the production of Cava.

Grupo Osborne, permission granted by Janet Kafka and Associates

Caption: FIGURE 8.8

Freixenet is one of Spain's largest producers of Cava.

Grupo Osborne, permission granted by Janet Kafka and Associates

Caption: FIGURE 8.9

A view of Andalucia's beautiful sunny coast.

[C] Mila Petkova/Shutterstock

Caption: FIGURE 8.10

Large bodegas in Jerez, such as the one pictured, usually have several solera systems for aging and blending the different styles of Sherry.

Grupo Osborne, permission granted by Janet Kafka and Associates

Caption: FIGURE 8.11

The solera system is the key to making Sherry. Each year, wine is siphoned from the bottom, or oldest, barrels to be bottled and released for sale. Wine is then racked from the next level of barrels, that is, the first criadera, to replenish the bottom level, although barrels are never completely filled. Next, some wine is racked from the second criadera to replenish the first criadera, and so on. The current year's wine is placed in the top, or youngest, level to begin its slow journey through the system.

Grupo Osborne, permission granted by Janet Kafka and Associates

Caption: FIGURE 8.12

A terraced vineyard in the Douro region. Note the hard rock (schist) exposed at the edge of each laboriously constructed terrace.

[C] Joe Gough/Shutterstock

Caption: FIGURE 8.13

For centuries, flat boats like these were used to transport casks of young Port wine from the wineries in the Upper Douro down the Douro River to blending and aging facilities in the city of Oporto. However, since the river was dammed in the 1960s, this method of transport has disappeared in favor of other types of transport such as trailer truck.

[C] Alan Smillie/Shutterstock

Caption: FIGURE 8.14

Ruby Port is rich, smooth, and full of ripe berry flavors. From reliable producers like Osborne, Ruby Port represents very good value.

Grupo Osborne, permission granted by Janet Kafka and Associates

Caption: FIGURE 8.15

This 1999 vintage Port was bottled four years after the harvest and is ready to be consumed, although it will improve for many years to come.

Grupo Osborne, permission granted by Janet Kafka and Associates
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Title Annotation:SECTION II: Wine Regions of Europe
Publication:About Wine, 2nd ed.
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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Next Article:Germany.

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