Home' A Plus Magazine : Nov 2012 Contents 58 November 2012
Hearts of oak
Spanish wines are grouped
according to their ageing
process, writes Aloysius Tse
Spain is one of the most important
wine producing countries in Europe.
Its long wine history dates back to
the ancient times, when what were then the
Roman provinces of Hispania were major sup-
pliers to Rome itself. Today, Spain ranks as
the world's third largest wine producer after
France and Italy.
Although Spain can be divided geographi-
cally and climatically into a number of wine
producing regions, the most prestigious are
Rioja and Prioratio. Both regions are at the top
of the five-tier classification system adminis-
trated by the regional authorities. On top of
these, there is the designation of Vino de Pago,
which can apply to only 13 individual estates
with an international reputation.
Rioja, in northern Spain, is dominated by
plantings of Tempranillo and Gar nacha from
which the region's most prestigious red wines
are made. The character of a traditional style
Rioja is widely known to be the result of ageing
in oak barrels. In Spain, American oak rather
than the European species is predominantly
used. American oak has a pronounced aroma
that softens tannins and, with the appropriate
level of toasting, imparts sweet coconut and
vanilla flavours to the wine.
Under Spanish law, minimum periods of
ageing in barrels are imposed. It is also manda-
tory that the ageing takes place in the winery
warehouse, or bodega in Spanish. So when you
purchase a bottle of Rioja, be sure to under-
stand what the label tells you to ensure you
choose the right product to suit your palate.
Ageing requirements are briefly classified
• Joven: These wines are made for immedi-
ate consumption and have spent none or very
little time in cask.
• Crianza: Red wines must be aged for at
least two full years after the vintage, of which
a minimum period of at least six months to
a year must be in oak casks. White and rosé
wines must spend at least a year in the winery
with a minimum period of six months in oak.
• Reserva: Reds must be aged for at least
three years with a minimum period of 12
months in oak. White and rosé wines must be
aged for a minimum of two years, of which at
least six months should be in oak.
• Gran Reserva: These wines are only
allowed to be made in good vintages and must
be aged for a minimum of five years with 18
months in oak. Whites and rosé wines require
four years ageing with six months in oak.
These rules are very important and specific
to the wine industry in Spain.
With its dry, warm climate, Spain has been
traditionally known for the production of qual-
ity red wines. However, the country's most
planted variety is a white grape, Airén, which
can be found in abundance in the region of La
Mancha in the Meseta Central, the large pla-
teau in the middle of the country. Airén can be
vinified into a simple, dry white wine widely
consumed locally and is used in the production
of a local brandy.
Albariño and Verdejo are the other popu-
lar white grapes grown in Spain, and both
have gained much recognition in recent years.
Albariño produces light to medium bodied
white wines while Verdejo, which is highly sus-
ceptible to oxidation, can be made into a richer
and fuller bodied wine and is derived from
skin contact and barrel fermentation.
Another famous product is Sherry, a forti-
fied white wine made largely from the Palo-
mino grape, grown in the town of Jerez de la
Frontera in Andalusia, southwestern Spain.
Sherry can be dry, medium or sweet. Palomino
grapes are used to make dry Sherry while the
Pedro Ximénez variety is added in the produc-
tion of sweet Sherry.
Made from the local grapes of Macabeo,
Parellada and the rustic Xarel-lo, the sparkling
white Cava wine is seen as Spain's answer to
Champagne. It is produced in the same man-
ner as the traditional method of production for
Champagne and has become the most popular
and commercially successful wine produced
in the Catalonia region.
There has been a general perception, par-
ticularly in Asia, that Spanish wines are less
expensive and of a lesser quality than wines
from France and Italy. However, one only has
to look at wines from Bodegas Vega Sicilia,
produced in Valbuena de Duero, near Val-
ladolid in northern Spain, to realize that they
are as expensive and well regarded as any first
growth vintages from Bordeaux.
A bottle of value-for-money, quality red
wine from other Spanish regions can be easily
obtained for around HK$200 in Hong Kong's
Aloysius Tse is chairman of Bacchus Fine
Wines Group and a past president of the Hong
Kong Institute of CPAs.
A grape picker works at a vineyard in the O Rosal region of northwestern Spain. The Albariño
grape variety harvested in the region produces light to medium bodied white wine.
Links Archive Oct 2012 Dec 2012 Navigation Previous Page Next Page