8th June 2016 |
Oddbins, one of UK’s best known wine retailers, introduce their Spanish wine section in their online shop with a praising description: “wine is a matter of very personal taste. Over the last 50 years, as we’re sure you can imagine, here at Oddbins we’ve heard almost everything. Those who say that South African wines all taste like burnt rubber, those who aren’t keen on the bubbles in Champagne, those who find red Burgundy too thin for their tastes or those who don’t like the brashness of Australian wine. In fact we think we’ve heard people tell us that they don’t like the wines from almost every country that makes wine in our time. But one country seems almost immune to this kind of criticism…
…Spain. Spain is awesome. Fact!”
As a Spaniard this author cannot go that far but it is true that Spain’s dimensions and wide diversity in terms of climate, soil, orographic features and wine culture have historically resulted in a remarkably ample variety of wine styles. In turn, the likelihood of finding wines to please almost anybody’s palate is high.
The description continues: “we can’t think of a more trusted country or one with more winemaking swagger than Spain. Helped in no small part by the worldwide reputation of Rioja, the current fashion for Albariño and Sherry and the great value offered by Cava, a sparkling wine made in the same traditional and quality way that Champagne is but at a fraction of the price, Spain is incredibly reliable, supremely confident and happy to do their own damn thing. And you can’t help but respect that. Growing over 600 different grape varieties, they have as firm a grasp on tradition as they do on the new and adventurous and we’re not sure that anyone understands the power of a good label better than these guys. We’re pretty sure that you already love Spanish wine as much as we do, so there isn’t much more to say, other than to remember that although Rioja is King, there is so much more to Spain, so don’t miss out on its neighbour Ribera del Duero or the lesser known regions of Rueda, Mencia, Galicia, Valencia, the list goes on…”
The number of varieties may sound impressive, almost disorientating for a wine lover with a moderate will to explore. In reality, the varieties actually grown in quantities of market significance are much fewer. Diversity of Spanish wines stems to a large extent from the extraordinary differences in the fruit obtained in different areas of the country of a given type of grape. The well-known tempranillo for instance, grown in Mediterranean Valencia, central La Mancha region, or the Northern areas of Rioja or the banks of the Duero river, producing such diversity of wine styles that can easily puzzle buyers whose purchase selection pivot much around grape type.
With the world’s largest share of planted vineyards, over 4,000 wineries and very importantly, the sector’s restless search for improvement in both winemaking and international marketing, there is a still a vast universe to be explored and enjoyed.