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Spanish Wine

Today Spain is booming in the wine world with close to 70 wine regions. Wine export from Spain has almost doubled from five years ago- possibly due to the fact that Spain is producing more new, world-class wines than ever before and also Spain has some of the best wine values around.

After the death of the repressive dictator Fransisco Franco in 1975, things changed in Spain in a big way in Spanish society. During the mid 1980's Spain invested in modern viticultural and wine-making techniques using state-of-the-art equipment and processes. Today, the quality control monitoring by Spain's regulating council is more stringent than those in other European wine-producing countries.

Rioja is the oldest wine region in Spain, with formal wine production dating back to the 12th Century. Rioja was the epitome of fine red Spanish wine for generations and can still be superb. Tempranillo is still the principal grape used in Rioja and the wines are recognised as being some of the best for cellaring. Rioja's character depends on long-ageing in American oak.

Vega Sicilia is Spain's best-known prestigious estate, producing wines since 1864. It is located in the northerly region of Ribera del Duero. It produces three wines, primarily from the Tempranillo grape.

Ribera del Duero and Rioja represented the twin peaks of Spanish wine quality until the 1990's. But other Spanish regions are now challenging their dominance in the wine world.

Wines from Priorat in Catalonia have gone from obscurity to being the most expensive wines in Spain. In this rugged mountainous area approximately 80km south-west of Barcelona, the popularity of these wines stems from their ability to deliver the power and ripeness ususally associated with Californian and Australian wines.

There are now over 150 different red and white wine varieties being vinified in Spain. The red wines are what Spain is known for best and the white wines used to be an afterthought, but have been improved dramatically in recent years. White wines made from the Albarino grape in the northwest region of the Rias Baixas offer a nice mix of ripe fruit and refreshing acidity. Sparkling wines known as 'cava' come from the Penedes region near Barcelona. Cavas made by the classic champagne method using native grapes make a good value alternative to the French champagnes. Even the Balearic Islands are now getting into the act of making sparkling wines.

Today, world-class wine-making superstars of Spain are raising the bar for accessibility by making lush, fruit-forward wines that drink beautifully upon release.

Spain has moved on from the early tourism of the 1970's when Sangria (a mix of wine, sparkling water, lemons, limes, oranges and sugar) was considered a 'cool' drink. Back in those days, it was the only wine experience most British tourists had. It was sweet and alcoholic. But nobody ever took it seriously as a wine. But now creative wine makers of Spain are working with unusual grapes and blends to produce juicy reds and delicious aromatic whites.