Spanish Wines

Legend has it that Spain received the vine from and ancient civilization, and the Phoenicians were drawn there to trade other goods for their wine. Recorded history, however, only goes back to Roman times. The Romans Empire was very adept at viticulture and vinification, and sought to have good wine wherever they conquered. After being introduced along the Mediterranean coast, the vine slowly made its way around the country, and like Italy, it often was cultivated along with the olive tree. Spain, like many other countries on the north shore of the Mediterranean sea, has many different climates and soils that prefer one grape over another, and over time, the regions had their favorite grapes.

Monastaries

After the Moor conquest in the 8th century, the monasteries which were tolerated for their cultivation of the vine for the production of unfermented must. When Spain was conquered again by the Catholics and the Moors were pushed out during the Middle Ages, the monasteries’ vineyards suddenly had a resurgence in importance. Wine was once again made for theriligious rites and the monasteries provided wine as well for the local taverns and pilgrims. In the 19th century, there was a greater demand for Spanish wines as the French fought phylloxera which destroyed their vineyards. This led to more wine sales abroad, but also brought French winemakers, some of their grapes, and their techniques to Spain.

A Bad Start to the 20th Century

Although the phylloxera in other countries brought more modern techniques to Spain, the disease ultimately spread to their vineyards and destroyed them as well. Since the solution of American root stock was already known as the cure, the devastation and length of recovery was much less in Spain than other European countries. The 20th century was difficult for the Spanish vineyards. Even though at the beginning of the century, more modern techniques and reforms were being introduced, the Civil War devastated the vineyards due to neglect. And as that war wound down, the Second World War brought the European wine market to a standstill and recovery wouldn’t start until the 1950s. As progress was made in reforms and winemaking, and there were increases in consumption domestically and abroad, Spain was once again was on its way to be a major force in wine around Europe and the world.

Rebirth

It was the last few decades of the 20th century when pioneers and independently-minded winemakers created a rebirth of quality wines in Spain. These pioneers started using state-of-the-art techniques from elsewhere in the world with their experience and expertise to produce wines that blend admirably the traditions of old with innovation of the new order. Spain now has not only high-quality wines, but makes them in quantity, too.
Spain has the most acreage of vineyards of any country, by a large margin. The acreage is over 14% of the total wine acreage in the world, with France a somewhat distant second at 10.9%. With regard to the amount of wine produced, Spain is third, since their yields are lower than France and Italy.