The Reawakening of Wine Culture in Spain

This blog post is by Jean Bache, a London-based travel agent. She loves adventure, food, history, and culture. She experiences the world with new eyes and hopes to share these experiences with anyone who is willing to listen.

Spain is a country that has been influenced by many cultures. It went through the hands of the Visigoths, Arabs, Moors, and in 1469, the Christian alliance of the kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, Navarre, and Leon. The hodgepodge of different cultures has inevitably led to Spain’s rich and diverse art, music, and food culture.

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The country is known for its culinary contributions to the world, such as its mouthwatering tapas, paella, and Iberico ham. Of course, wine lovers would know that Spain also has some of the best Merlot, Tempranillo, Bobal, and more. Read on if you want to learn more about Spanish wine’s roots, influence, and future.

Spain’s Wine History

Winemaking in Spain began around a hundred years ago with the Phoenicians in Gadir, known as Cádiz in the present day. Not much is known about this period, except that the region of Rueda started producing white wine and the region of Toro was producing red wine. When England lost access to France’s Bordeaux, they set their sights on Spain, thus boosting Spanish wine to a more prominent place in the global market. You can still visit these regions today and observe how most of them still follow aspects of old winemaking traditions, giving visitors a taste of Spain’s history and culture.

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With Spain’s position higher up in the global wine market, it took an infestation to trigger a tipping point and truly solidify the country’s influence. Spain’s place in the world of wine was furthered by the phylloxera, or aphids, that ravaged the grapes of Europe. Spain was left relatively unscathed due to their use of American rootstock combined with European vines, creating a vine immune to the aphids. This drove French winemakers to Spain, where they started to make Bordeaux-style wines. This is where Spanish winemakers learned to use oak barrel ageing and began to follow strict wine standards that improved the overall quality of the local products.

Global Impact

Today, these meticulous standards for winemaking are still in place. This is likely why Spain remains one of the biggest wine producers in the European Union (EU). In fact, Spain is the third largest exporter of wine, only a few steps behind France and Italy. A bulk of these are sent to the United Kingdom and Germany, as these two countries are the biggest importers of wine within the EU.

Spain’s influence has also reached unexpected shores. In particular, some countries in Asia have a fondness for the tapas and wine culture. For instance, Rigoletto in Japan is known for serving this pairing, making it one of the go-to places for Spanish wine in the country. In the Philippines, sangria spot Barcino has gained popularity for its wine that comes straight from Spain. This, paired with traditional Spanish food like paella, make for a complete wine and dine experience made accessible to all.

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Less traditional kinds of Spanish wine have also been making rounds across the globe. Business Insider reports that rosé has gotten younger people from different countries to dabble in the world of wine. The drink has become so popular that restaurants in the United States started running out of it in 2014, driving up demand and import from Spain.

Current State of Wine

Today, the popularity of wine is owed to less traditional varieties such as rosé, but this doesn’t mean that winemakers have ceased production of their premier wines. Producers from Spain continue their practice and have brought traditional winemaking into the modern age, which isn’t to say that they haven’t been met with significant challenges.

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The millennial market has changed the game for these winemakers. Go San Angelo reports that millennials are transforming the market thanks to their different taste. The generation is more open to trying less established wines from producers that make good quality wine for a much lower price. This trend is driving up quality in the market, while forcing prices down at the same time.

All in all, these changes contribute to the renewed success of the Spanish wine tradition. Its reawakening is only beginning, as it crosses over into the modern world.

Planning a trip soon? Make sure to check out other featured destinations here on Gophari.